Ray ‘classics’ tumble out of loft

Feluda might be proud of what filmmaker Sandip Ray did during the lockdown – snoop around the attic of his Bishop Lefroy Road house in south Kolkata to discover a treasure trove of Satyajit Ray memorabilia tucked away without anyone seemingly knowing about its existence.

The priceless find includes, among other things, negatives of 100 hitherto unseen photographs clicked by Satyajit Ray, over 1,000 unseen negatives or transparencies of working stills from the sets of the master’s early movies, and letters and telegrams from stalwarts of world cinema such as Frank Capra, Arthur C Clarke, Akira Kurosawa and Richard Attenborough.

According to Sandip, who has carried the Ray legacy forward with a series of whodunits revolving around his father’s fictional sleuth Feluda, the long overdue clean-up had thrown up the perfect collection for Ray fans to feast their eyes on during his birth centenary on May 2 next year.

“We used to clear a bit of the loft once in a while, but there was never this kind of uninterrupted time to check if there was anything terribly important lying there,” Sandip said.

Till 1959, the Ray family’s address had been south Kolkata’s 31, Lake Avenue. From there, they shifted to 3, Lake Temple Road, before finally moving to their 1/1 Bishop Lefroy Road address. While shifting homes, a lot of stuff kept piling up, but throwing these away was never an option because the family didn’t want to risk disposing of something precious. But it wasn’t until Sandip decided to do some unhurried tidying that he realised what an invaluable treasure the loft held.

Some of the negatives in the collection have never seen the light of day. “I don’t remember seeing them printed. Among them are working stills from Pather Panchali,” Sandip said. When shooting for Pather Panchali began at Boral in South 24-Parganas in 1952, acclaimed photographer Nimai Ghosh hadn’t yet joined Ray’s unit.

Art director Bansi Chandragupta, who had done the production design of the Ray classic, used to shoot stills on the sets. Chances are these negatives, once printed, will add a fresh perspective on the making of the classic.

Asked to give a rough estimate of the retrieved negatives, Sandip said the count was huge. “During those days, one exposure meant 36 photos. We have retrieved at least 25 such wallets,” he said.

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