Owe him everything Sharmila, Soumitra on Satyajit Ray


Fondly reminiscing their relationship with their ‘mentor’ and legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray, veteran actors Soumitra Chatterjee and Sharmila Tagore Tuesday expressed awe that every time they watch his films, there’s always something new to learn.
Privileged to have worked with the master in the early phases of their career, Chatterjee and Tagore recalled how the meticulous director ingrained in them the basic tenets of acting that guided them in their celluloid sojourns through decades and still continues to resonate long after his death.
“Every time you see his films, you discover something and it’s such a learning experience and so enhancing,” said Tagore during a session at the third Kolkata Literary Meet here.
“Watching his films is always a learning process,” said Chatterjee.
Chatterjee, who made his debut in Ray’s Apur Sansar in 1959 along with the then school-going student Tagore, stressed Ray’s clarity of vision that helped his actors to get the essence of the characters right.
“He used to read the script with us and everything was clear during that reading session. Unlike some filmmakers who try to impress their expertise on their actors, Ray never exaggerated his instructions. He was clear and precise,” Chatterjee said.
Echoing Chatterjee, Tagore added she never found it difficult to understand Ray and the ‘atmosphere of the set’ that he and his crew created helped her to step into the character with ease.
As a teacher, Ray always emphasised the importance of working ‘wholeheartedly’ and with ‘unwavering focus’ on the film, be it any director, a lesson that both inculcated during their illustrious career.
Moreover, the ‘multi-layered’ Ray was stern when it came to doing what was required of the script.
“If he did want something, he would absolutely make you do that… there was no way he would compromise,” said Tagore.
“There were a lot of skilled filmmakers, but none like Satyajit Ray. He never allowed style to override content,” explained Tagore on Ray’s editing process.
Tagore narrated how Ray enacted a soliloquy of Nayak to Uttam Kumar during filming — a testimony to his lesser-known facet as a good actor.
Indeed, both the actors owe their success to Ray.
“We grew very close in a short span of time and his vision has always been the guiding principle in my life and full of morals and I have imbibed his teachings,” said Chatterjee.
“About 99 per cent of the success was due to his direction… only one percent was due to me because I was an obedient student and could follow his instructions well,” he said.
Tagore, who went on to become one of Bollywood’s leading ladies, said though Hindi cinema gave her visibility and popularity, her being a performer is due to Satyajit Ray.
“At a personal level, most certainly I valued working with Satyajit Ray and that came early in my life. It was a privilege. He changed my life and I owe him everything,” said Sharmila.