It is unusual to come across a life so rich in varied experiences as the one that Bijoya Ray, wife and constant ornpanion to the renowned film-makerSatyajit Ray, has ved. Despite being closely related, Satyajit-'Manik' to his friends and family-and Bijoya fell in love and embarked n a life together years before Ray's groundbreaking film 'ather Panchali was made, and their long, happy married life lasted right until Ray's death in 1992.
Bijoya Ray never felt the urge to write her memoirs, but was nally persuaded to pick up the pen when she was well into her eighties. Manik and I brimsover with hitherto unknown stories of her life with Satyajit Ray, told in candid, vivid detail. What emerges through Bijoya Ray's recollections is a fascinating portrait of Ray the man, the film - maker, the auteur, the husband and the father.
Translated from the Bengali by Indrani Majumdar
Bijoya Ray, born in October 1917 in Patna, was the daughter of the noted barrister Charuchandra Das and Madhuri Devi. After her father's death in 1931,Bijoya was brought up in her uncle's joint family in Calcutta. She took lessons in music from her aunt, and mastered Rabindra Sangeet, and Indian classical and semi-classical music. After graduating in English, she appeared in a film based on Tagore's Sesbraksba, and later Rajani and Masbal in Bombay. She married Satyajit Ray in 1948. A committed social worker at Mother Teresa's 'Nirmal Hriday', she was also an occasional contributor to the journal Sandesb, after Ray revived it in 1961. After Ray's death in 1992, she became one of its editors for a brief spell. Bijoya lives in Calcutta with her son, the noted film-maker Sandip, daughter-in-law and grandson.
Indrani Majumdar lives in Delhi but has her roots firmly based in Bengali culture. Her bilingualism has helped her career as she has translated Bengali texts into English and vice versa. A keen researcher, her vocation in life has been to explore the various facets of Satyajit Ray's work. At present she works with the Programme Office, India International Centre, Delhi.
I know of no other instance when someone has been asked to turn into a writer at the age of eighty-four. I left college in 1938, and since then I've written a few letters, and maintained a regular diary after my son was born. That has been the extent of my writing. So I never felt any urge to write my own memoirs. This happened quite out of the blue, although I no longer remember how it all came about.
Once I started writing, I had to continue till the very end. There was certainly plenty to write about - I could write volumes on the person who was with me every day, from morning till night. While writing about him, it was only inevitable that I would become part of these memoirs too. I finally decided to stick to the subject I know best.
Everyone's life is made up of joy and sorrow. But the happiness I have received has far outweighed the misery I have had to face, and I never found it difficult to deal with whatever sorrow came my way.
After he left us, I never thought I would ever return to normal again.
How would I live without him? For as long as I lived, I would never get over the grief of losing him. The rest of my life would be spent mourning him. But time is such a strange thing - my son, daughter-in-law and beloved grandson gradually helped me return to normal, although I cannot say how or when this happened. Their support, care, love and warmth brought me back to a regular life. There can be few as fortunate as I! I've brought up my only child with all possible care and affection, and so it's only natural that he would be concerned and loving in return. But I'm blessed to have been given a daughter-in-law like mine. Forever cheerful, caring, loving and generous, she has taken over the responsibility of looking after our family. And as for my grandson, he is at the very centre of my life.
So many of our friends have left us, especially a few who could have helped me write this memoir. One of them in particular would have been of invaluable help, our production manager Anil Choudhury. His sharp and precise memory never failed to amaze. It's my misfortune to have lost him a few years ago. His extraordinary devotion and efficiency made him indispensable to Manik's unit. I was heavily dependent on him.
Manik's closest friend, the art director Bansi Chandragupta, died in 1981; his place was taken by Ashoke Bose. He too left us soon after Manik. Bhanu(Ghosh Dastidar), Durgadas Mitra, Sujit Sarkar (the sound recordist), Aminta Das (the make-up man), all of whom were extremely proficient in their work, also left us one by one. I also remember the cameraman, Subrata Mitra. I doubt that our country has seen a brilliant cameraman such as him.
I must mention another cameraman, Barun Raha. He worked with Manik on his last few films, and later worked with my son as well. He was young, older than Babu by only a few years, but died suddenly of a cerebral stroke while shooting for a telefilm. I was very fond of Barun and found it very hard to accept his death.
And now I am waiting for my turn to leave. I'm getting on in years, after all. Since the last three years I have been bedridden with a fractured leg. There's no lack of attention: everyone in the family looks after me. It pains me to think that Manik couldn't live to see his grandson grow. When he died, the child was just a year and five months old.
So many of Manik's special friends have gone that were I to start listing their names, it would fill an entire book. I shall only mention Shantul Babu, asManik respected his erudition and knowledge of all things greatly. If I needed clarification on something, I would always run to Manik, who would then explain it patiently; but at times he asked me to go to Shantul Babu. There were some matters that Manik needed to look up and think upon too, whileShantulbabu seemed to know everything.
I could never have written this account had a few eminent people not helped me along the way. Prominent among them is Nirendranath Chakrabarty, who took time off his busy schedule to set many facts right for me. Shri Partha Basu's untiring assistance considerably eased my workload. There was no one more adept than him when it came to editing the language, checking facts and locating the correct names of various family members and friends. He was aided and encouraged in this job by my son and daughter-in-law. Quite a few unknown readers sent encouraging letters, as well as supplied me with additional facts. It was only thanks to Badal Basu's repeated reminders that I could finally complete this book. Harsh Dutta had initially encouraged me to serialize this account in a journal. My friend Archana, daughter-in-law of Dr Bidhan Ray's brother, was of immense help in writing this book.
I end this account by recording the debt of gratitude I owe them all.
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