March 9, 2009

Govt ignores rare Satyajit Ray pictures

Satyajit Ray had described him 'a sort of Boswell working with a camera rather than a pen.' The master filmmaker's ace photographer Nemai Ghosh holds a treasure no film collector can dream of. He has 90,000 photographs, negatives and transparencies of Ray.

Thanks to an indifferent government, he may have to hand them over to a foreign institution by the end of this year.

"It is impossible and unaffordable for an individual to preserve such a huge lot," says Ghosh emotionally.

Ghosh's repeated pleas to the government to help him preserve and archive the photographs have fallen on deaf ears. The photographer is now contemplating handing them over either free or in lieu of a nominal sum to some foreign film institute.

"Time and again, many organisations and collectors have approached me and I have turned down the offers thinking that Ray belonged to India and, therefore, his photographs should not be parted with. However, if the government is indifferent towards their preservation, I would rather hand the collection to an organisation intending to do justice to this rare stuff," he says.

Ghosh worked with Ray for 25 years and shared an intense bond with the director. He hasn't worked with a filmmaker after Ray passed away in 1992, Ghosh says.

While Ray was busy lending artistic expression to his thoughts behind the camera, Ghosh captured the master and his moods, immortalising him in his frame. Several exhibitions in cities across India and the world have showcased Ghosh's gems.

His camera has captured Ray writing scripts, designing sets and costumes, sketching every detail of his films. "While carrying out my duties as the still photographer, I would click at Ray's every move in my spare time. As Ray was creating history on and off the sets, I felt the onus was on me to chronicle that history through my camera," the photographer says.

"All my exhibitions have been very well received by the audience and in each of them I have been asked about the exhibits' preservation. No government authorities have ever shown that concern."

The photographer, along with Andrew Robinson, has recently put together a book, Satyajit Ray: A Vision of Cinema. The book was inaugurated on August 26 at the British Council, Kolkata, by actress Sharmila Tagore to mark the 50th anniversary of Ray's first film, Pather Panchali. The book has text and captions by Andrew Robinson, photographs by Ghosh and drawings by Ray.

"This book will enable people to catch a glimpse of the master in various moods portrayed by my camera," Ghosh says. "Even if I have to let go of my collection by this year end, I will console myself with the fact that I have kept some memories alive for posterity's sake."

by Indrani Roy Mitra
rediffnews August 31, 2005 18:06 IST

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