May 29, 2011

Dulal Dutta

Source: TOI

For 36 long years that Satyajit Ray made films, Dulal Dutta had been his constant companion. From Pather Panchali to Agantuk, Dutta edited all his films. After Ray's death, Dutta worked in Uttaran and Target that were directed by the master filmmaker's son, Sandip.

The 86-year-old passed away on Tuesday night following prolonged illness. "The Tollygunge film industry has lost a good technician," said film editor Shuvro Ray.

"The rhythm of editing, cut-point were something I learnt from his work. From the editor's perspective, two films that immediately come to my mind are Jana Aranya and Ashani Sanket. Especially, Jana Aranya. The jump-cut impressed me a lot. The editing is still so contemporary. There was a lot to learn from him. I had the opportunity to interact with him once when I was working on a film as an editor. I have tried to follow him at times," he added.

It's said that much of the credit for the famous Apu-Durga sequence in Pather Panchali where the siblings sprint across a field towards a running train in the backdrop of swaying kaash stalks should actually go to Dutta. Ray had shot a lesser number of frames than was required for the sequence and Dutta came to his rescue.

"He edited the frames brilliantly to create an illusion of motion. It turned out to be one of the high points of the film and has come to symbolize Indian cinema ever since," said film expert Sanjoy Mukhopadhyay. He edited Pather Panchali' working round the clock for two weeks to get the film ready for its premiere in

New York.

Cinematographer Soumendu Ray who was himself associated with about a dozen Ray films recalled Dutta as a quiet, humble man who was deeply immersed in his work. "I have known him since the Pather Panchali' days. Later, we worked together in several Ray films. He was an honest professional and could be ruthless to ensure that the film retained its pace. While editing Ashani Sanket', he insisted on chopping off a couple of scenes which I wanted retained. Eventually, he prevailed upon Manikda (Ray) to allow him to do it. Even though it left me disheartened, I realized that he was right. He knew his job," said Ray.

Apart from the Ray films, Dutta also worked with other directors like Tarun Mazumdar and others. He was quintessentially a Ray man. Dutta considered Aparajito his best work in the Ray oeuvre. His story didn't begin with Ray, but it did end with him.

It was in 1942 when Dutta ran off to Mumbai. The first few nights were spent below the ticket counter at Dadar railway station. As fate would have it, he met a make-up man called K L Maitra, who was then working in a Noor-Jehan and Shyam starrer, Nadaan. Dutta started off as a make-up assistant, at times doubling up as a clap-boy. But his interest was in the editing lab and he would often hang around the place. Finally, he was allowed inside.

Some years later, he returned to Kolkata and started working as an editing assistant. While working for a film called Barjatri where the art director was Bansi Chandragupta, Dutta got the offer to work in Pather Panchali. That was in 1951. The rest, as is said, is history.

Experts like Mukhopadhyay believe Dutta's brilliance lay in maintaining the film's narrative and making sure that the sequences went by in a smooth flow.

"He could get under the director's skin and know exactly what was expected of him. Dutta rarely tried anything different, but there was never a jarring note in the films edited by him. We have lost a master technician," said Mukhopadhyay.

May 26, 2011

Subrata Mitra

Born: 12 October 1930, Calcutta, India.
Died: 8 December 2001, Calcutta, India.
Education: [Architecture and Science].

Career: Started as still ph. Without ever having touched a movie camera, he ph Satyajit Ray's 'Pather Panchali'. Mitra was a pioneer of 'available light' cinematography, and he popularized the Arriflex-Nagra combination, for image and sound, respectively, in the 1950s.
Was a member of the ISC & WICA.
Appeared in the doc's 'Creative Artists of India: Satyajit Ray' [1964, B.D. Garga] & 'Satyajit Ray' [1968, James Beveridge].

Awards: Diploma Honoris Causa for High Achievement and Signal Contribution to Indian Cinema [1981]; Silver Lotus Award [1986] for 'New Delhi Times'; Hawaii IFF 'Eastman Kodak Cinematography Award' [1992]; Bombay IFF 'Award for Technical Excellence' [1999].

'Subrata Mitra is perhaps the greatest ever Indian cinematographer who revolutionized prevailing aesthetics in Indian Cinema with innovations designed to make light more realistic and poetic.
Mitra was born into a middle-class Bengali family in 1930. Even as a schoolchild he would cycle with classmates to the nearest cinema to watch British and Hollywood films. By the time he was in college, he had decided he would either become an architect or a cinematographer. Failing to find work as a camera assistant he reluctantly continued studying for his science degree.

In 1950 the great Jean Renoir came to Calcutta to shoot 'The River'. Mitra tried to get a job on the film but was turned away. With the efforts of his father he was given permission to watch the shooting. Out there he used to make extensive notes and meticulous diagrams detailing the lighting and the movements of camera and actors. In fact one day the cinematographer Claude Renoir asked for his notes to check lighting continuity before doing a retake. Also visiting the sets on Sundays and holidays to watch the shooting was a graphic designer. Mitra became friends with him and would visit him every day and describe in great detail what he had witnessed at the shooting. The other gentleman was planning a film and one day he asked Mitra to photograph the film for him. And so at the age of 21 Mitra became a director of photography. The film he was to photograph - 'Pather Panchali', and the director - Satyajit Ray. 'Pather Panchali' was shot over four years in chunks whenever Ray was able to find funds. In fact for 18 months the production shut down entirely until Ray's mother talked to a friend of a friend of the Chief Minister of West Bengal who agreed to finance the remaining part of the film. 'Pather Panchali' led to a collaboration with Ray which produced 10 films in 15 years.

When Mitra started watching films in the 1940s and 1950s much of Indian cinematography was completely under the influence of Hollywood aesthetics which mostly insisted on the 'ideal light' for the face using heavy diffusion and strong backlight. But according to Mitra Hollywood also had rebels like James Wong Howe who was able to separate the foreground and the background with careful lighting in films like 'Come Back, Little Sheba' and 'The Rose Tattoo'.

Mitra made his first technical innovation while shooting 'Aparajito'. The fear of monsoon rain had forced the art director, Bansi Chandragupta, to abandon the original plan to build the inner courtyard of a typical Benares house in the open and the set was built inside a studio in Calcutta. Mitra recalls arguing in vain with both Chandragupta and Ray about the impossibilities of simulating shadowless diffused skylight. But this led him to innovate what became subsequently his most important tool - bounce lighting. Mitra placed a framed painter white cloth over the set resembling a patch of sky and arranged studio lights below to bounce off the fake sky. Apart from his brilliant work with Ray on films like 'Charulata', Mitra also shot four films for Merchant Ivory Productions in the 1960s - 'The Householder', where he photographed most of the film with six photoflood lamps, 'Shakespeare Wallah', 'The Guru', which was the first Indian film shot entirely with halogen lamps and 'Bombay Talkie'.'

It's a strange moment. One I thought that would never see the light of day. I never thought that the light would go out of Subrata Mitra, for he in many ways showed me the light. He epitomized it, breathed it and lived for it.

Subrata Mitra became one of the greatest cinematographers of all times. A man known for his attention to obsessive detail as well as one known to terrorize actors, put the fear of god in all film laboratories and bring even the greatest directors to their knees.

In the days before instant video monitoring and digital gizmos, cinematography was the dark art and the cinematographer it's wizard; with his array of secret charms and spells he could bind you in.
Subrata was the Jedi Master, quite simply the best.

I got to know Subrata Mitra on Victor Banerjee's film 'An August Requiem' and for some unknown reason he decided to take it upon himself to draw me into his world of light and magic.
'What is the language of light?,' he asked me once. Looking at my blank face he answered, 'It's music.' 'How can a director and a cameraman really speak to one another?' Subrata proposed that the scale of seven notes correspond to seven shades of gray or seven scales of contrast. To an aspiring filmmaker like me, it suddenly made sense. He had shown me the light! Subrata also said, 'let color follow contrast,' and that's a ground rule I follow till today.

Born in 1930 Subrata Mitra wanted to become an architect or a cameraman. When Jean Renoir was making 'The River' in Calcutta Subrata tried to get a job as a camera assistant but failed. Stubborn as he was, he would tell me years later, he didn't take no for an answer, hung around and followed the unit with his little notebook in which he wrote and made meticulous sketches. This paid off, for later the cameraman Claude Renoir was asking Subrata for his notes on the film to check on his own lighting schemes. It was here that he met a young illustrator working in an advertising agency and planning his first feature film - Satyajit Ray. Ray wanted to break away from the conventional lighting styles followed in the commercial cinema of Calcutta and looked towards the 21 year old science graduate to photograph his feature 'Pather Panchali.'
Henri Cartier-Bresson was there inspiration and while the two had appreciated the light and contrast in Cartier-Bresson photographs they had never seen any of this in cinema. In 'Aparajito,' Ray's second film Subrata introduced 'bounce lighting' in cinema. He achieved his special quality of light by stretching a white cloth across the open courtyard of the set they had built in a studio. Placing studio lights below he bounced them off of the cloth to simulate a diffused daylight feel. Bounce lighting was born and people who saw those early Ray films in the 50's and 60's were shocked by the look and photography; they had never seen anything like this before!
Subrata Mitra mentioned to me that it was in nature and life around him that he found his inspiration for lighting. He'd always look for a natural source; a window, a skylight, a lamp and then use that to light up the scene. But more than lighting it was the quality of exposure, the texture of the skin, a fine eye for details that were an inescapable mark of films that he waved his wand over.

Unlike others at his time he didn't keep this a dark secret either. His passion was to share information, to draw students, his crew and anyone else into his world. He'd take pains to explain his lighting style and in moments of doubt wouldn't hesitate to turn to his assistants and say, 'what should the exposure be?'

While filming 'Split Wide Open' [1999] before we would set exposure, I would often turn to doph Sukumar Jatania [his protégé] and ask, 'what would Subrata da have done here?'
I found the Bombay Film Festival incomplete, I was missing Subrata Mitra; a permanent fixture of any film festival. I missed his presence, his kurta, the thick framed spectacles from another era, his stubby pencil, his fat address book which he stubbornly used even though we had tested all the possible digital diaries available on this planet, the way he stirred his coffee; holding his spoon in his nicotine stained fingers, stirring, pausing and then stirring again. I missed someone who was passionate about films, someone who fretted about scheduling, about which films to see, about the quality of projection, of image, of lighting and about filmmaking itself. Someone who cared about every little detail that went into filmmaking.

Subrata Mitra was obsessive about details. 'God is in the details,' he would say quoting the architect Mies van der Rohe and also echoing what Satyajit Ray said, 'It's details that make cinema.' It was the attention to detail that made Subrata what he was. On an Indian Airlines flight he took a white plastic cup cut it in half, fitted it onto his still camera converting it into an incident light meter. It was as accurate as the professional one he had which cost him over $400!
In New York, Subrata Mitra was looking at a poster of one of the Ray films when a voice boomed from behind, 'I'd love to meet the man who shot this film.' Subrata turned around and said quietly, 'that was me.' He was immediately swept up in a bear hug by a man who kissed him on both cheeks and said, 'You are truly a genius.' The man was Vittorio Storaro.
Subrata Mitra, Subrata da or just plain old 'dada' was the Master of Light.

Pather Panchali/Song of the Little Road [Satyajit Ray] b&w; filmed 1951-55; + composed add sitar music; first film in 'The Apu Trilogy'

[Right/top] with dir Satyajit Ray [1950s]
[Right] with dir Satyajit Ray & c.asst Soumendu Roy [m] - 1956

Aparajito/The Unvanquished [Satyajit Ray] b&w; second film in 'The Apu Trilogy'
Parash Pathar/The Philosopher's Stone [Satyajit Ray] b&w
Jalsaghar/The Music Room [Satyajit Ray] b&w
Apur Sansar/The World of Apu [Satyajit Ray] b&w; third film in 'The Apu Trilogy'
Devi/The Goddess [Satyajit Ray] b&w
Kanchenjungha [Satyajit Ray] c
Mahanagar/The Big City [Satyajit Ray] b&w
The Householder/Gharbar [James Ivory] b&w
Charulata/The Lonely Wife [Satyajit Ray] b&w
Akash Kusum/Up in the Clouds/House of Cards [Mrinal Sen] b&w
Shakespeare Wallah [James Ivory] b&w
Nayak/The Hero [Satyajit Ray] b&w
Teesri Kasam/The Third Oath [Basu Bhattacharya] b&w
Dong fu ren/The Arch [Shu Shuen Tong] c
The Guru [James Ivory] c
Bombay Talkie [James Ivory] c
Mahatma and the Mad Boy [Ismail Merchant] c; short/27m
Yoga - en vej til lykken/Yoga - A Road to Happiness [Hagen Hasselbalch] c; doc/90m; cph: Dirk Brüel & H. Hasselbalch
An August Requiem [Victor Banerjee] c
Jawaharlal Nehru/Pandit Nehru/Nehru [Shyam Benegal & Yuri Aldokhin] ?; doc/?m; cph: ?
New Delhi Times [Ramesh Sharma]
The River [Jean Renoir] prod asst (uncred) + played sitar title music; ph: Claude Renoir
The Delhi Way [James Ivory] co-prod asst; ph: James Ivory


May 18, 2011

Album #9

One of the four fonts designed by Ray

Ray's cover design fr his father Sukumar Ray's book on typograph-"Bornomala Tathwa o Bibidho Probondho" published from Signet Press

Ray..on the sets of his swansong AGANTUK, with Bikram Bhattacharjya who played d role of Satyaki in d film. Bikram is nw a scientist doin research at US. He hav heard his CHOT DADU's words and ahv escaped frm becoming a KUPO-MONDUK!!

Ray's cover-design for his aunt Leela Majumdar's famous book "PADI-PISHIR BORMI BAKSHO". Ray wanted to adapt this amazing story in celluloid but it didn't turn out finally. But d story was adapted into a movie by Tapan Sinha, famous Bengali director, later where eminent Bengali actress of yesteryear Chaya Devi acted in d role of PADI PISHI

Cover-design by Ray for Abanindranath Tagore's autobiography in Bengali "Apon Kotha"..published by Signet Press

Another ad-design by Ray

Satyajit Ray..the great Indian film-maker, died on this day in 1992 at 5.45 pm after a prolonged illness..lying in the hospital bed for more than 3 months

Ray's costume designs for the four main protagonists in DAYS & NIGHTS IN THE FOREST(1969)

19 yrs ago...India lost one of her greatest sons. Remembering Ray on his death anniversary

Ray's set design for General Outram's study in THE CHESS PLAYERS(1974)

Tagore in postage stamps..This stamp was brought out in 1961 on the birth centenary occasion, and was designed by Ray

"I think the truest answer would be that I make films for the love of it. I enjoy every moment of the film making process. I write my own scenario and my own dialogue. And, I find it fascinating to do so."
Remembering Ray..on his 90th birth anniversary..

Ray's title card designs for KANCHENJUNGA

Ray's cover design for Nehru's "The Discovery of India", published from the Signet Press

Sir Richard Attenborough on Ray:
He had mastery on every aspect of film making and I clearly remember he asked me to express my feelings through my eyes and one movement of the Adam’s Apple in a scene in one of the films I did with him..

Ad-design by Ray..this time, it's for Philips light!!
Indeed an ad for a ray, designed by a certain Ray!!

How can we forget this great man's contribution?

Ray's canvas: From BW to colour

Source: TOI

Last month, the Film Society of Lincoln Center showcased the second part of their Satyajit Ray retrospective.
The programme, 'Long Shadows: The Late Work of Satyajit Ray', featured the Bengali master's films — all restored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — from the 1970s, until the end of his career in early 1990s when his health was failing, and that was reflected in their quality.
Two years ago, the film society also presented a bigger retrospective of Ray's works, 'First Light: Satyajit Ray from the Apu Trilogy to the Calcutta Trilogy'.

There is a sharp contrast between films shown in the first and the second series. Ray's works in the 1950s and 1960s were defined by the stark black and white cinematography and narratives that emerge out of these images.
There are life-affirming stories and classic images that stay with us — young Durga and Apu discovering a train for the first time (Pather Panchali); Apu running through the streets of Varanasi, and Harihar's death and the flight of pigeons (Aparajito); and the countless stunning shots in Charulata.
The advent of colour in Ray's films in the 1970s changed the texture and the language of his films. I would go this far to say that barring Shatranj Ke Khilari, most of Ray's films in this second series lack the visual punch, although the filmmaker still had a strong control over his narrative technique. In fact, with films like Heerak Rajar Deshe, Sonar Kella and Joi Baba Felunath — all shown in last month's series, Ray's films had become a lot more entertaining.
It was a treat to watch Shatranj Ke Khilari again on the big screen — a grand film based on a two-layered story by Munshi Premchand. Under Ray's direction, Shatranj is a sumptuous desert, filled with delicious Urdu dialogues, brilliant — sometimes hilarious, performances across the board by a dream cast (Sanjeev Kumar, Saeed Jaffrey, Shabana Azmi, Farida Jalal, Farooq Shaikh, Amjad Khan, Victor Banerjee and even Sir Richard Attenborough), spectacular costumes (I was especially blown away by the large shawls worn by Kumar and Jaffrey), music, dances and intricately detailed production design.

May 12, 2011

Goopi Bagha Phirey Elo - Full Length Classic Bengali Movie - Tapen Chatterjee & Robi Ghosh

For more details regarding the above movie, click here
Video Source : RajshriBengali

Sonar Kella (Full Movie)

For more details regarding the above movie, click here
Video Source : RajshriBengali

Pather Panchali (Full Movie)

For more details regarding the above movie, click here
Video Source : RajshriBengali

Hirok Rajar Deshe (Full Movie, With ST)

For more details regarding the above movie, click here
Video Source : RajshriBengali

May 11, 2011

Satyajit Ray films still the most popular in Bengal

Source: TOI
KOLKATA: Nineteen years after Satyajit Ray breathed his last in 1992 at the age of 70, cine buffs in the city continue to mourn the passing away of the legendary director. Though contemporary Bengali cinema has come of age in recent years with interesting scripts and competent direction, movie-goers continue to miss Ray's midas tough.
On the sidelines of a function organized by Ekhon Satyajit—a publication dedicated on Ray's films and film-making techniques—to commemorarte Ray's 90th birth anniversary, magazine editor Somnath Roy felt Ray would be a near impossible task to beat. Ray was as popular in India as abroad with his movies winning accolades at all major film festivals including Cannes. He was conferred an honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement in cinema a month before he died.
"What sets Ray apart from other film-makers like Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen is the simplicity of narrative form, consistency of subject choice and great cinematography. His frames were so powerful that they get etched in memory. Today's movies are technically a lot improved. Some of the alternate films have good scripts. Others have sparkling cinematography. But overall, the harmony that one gets to sense in a Ray movie is missing," said Roy.
During his career as a film-maker spanning 1955-1991, Ray made 26 feature films, 5 documentaries and 2 short films. Each of them is heralded as a classic and remain as popular today with audiences never failing to attend Ray retrospectives. Among them were the Apu trilogy (Pather Panchali, Aparajito and Apur Sansar ), Devi, Kanchenjungha, Mahanagar, Charulata, Nayak, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, Aranyer Din Ratri, Seemabaddha, Asani Sanket, Sonar Kella, Jana Aranya, Shatranj Ke Khilari, Ghare Baire and Agantuk.
Ace photographer Nimai Ghosh, whom Ray had called 'a Boswell working with a camera rather than a pen' and had captured the master in action from 1967 till his death in 1992, is still in awe of the film-maker. "I was in a trance all those years and did it purely out of my admiration for Ray. I was star-struck and in awe of him till the last. I would click him relentlessly and often I would be unhappy with the frames. But I would keep taking his photos for I couldn't stop myself," recalled Ghosh.
He took more than 80,000 photographs of Ray, which almost graphically depict his life and work. Like the one in which Ray is perched on a rock during an outdoor shoot and another which shows the master in an animated discussion with his actors at a script-reading session. Such is the popularity of Ray that Ghosh's book of black & white photographs on the maestro that was released a couple of days ago, has been a sell-out.

From the Diaries of Ray - 1

For all my lovely readers here comes a new series of articles, named 'From the Diaries of Ray'.
This articles will share the great director's personal thoughts and experiences.
The extracts are taken from the books written on & by him.

Coming soon