Babita recalls Satyajit Ray on his birth dayErshad Kamol
Celebrated actress Babita claims that she got international exposure early in her career in 1973, by playing Ananga in Ashoni Shanket of iconic Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray.
On Satyajit Ray’s 91st birth anniversary, celebrated on Wednesday, Babita shared her experiences working with the great filmmaker, exposure she got acting in the movie and more in an exclusive interview with New Age.
In fact, the offer of acting in Ray’s movie was a great surprise for Babita. ‘I received a letter undersigned by the then High Commissioner of India that requested me to contact Satyajit Ray, since he was thinking to cast me in his next movie. But, I did not believe it and considered it a fun made by a crazy fan. So, I did not make any immediate response. But, a few days letter I got a phone call from the Indian High Commission. This time they asked whether I was not interested at all to contact Ray. Then I believed it and left for Kolkata with my elder sister Suchanda,’ Babita told New Age.
‘My first visit with Ray in his residence was even more interesting’, said Babita, ‘I was in heavy make-up and a bit nervous. When Ray asked me the reason behind taking heavy make-up I became even more nervous and started sweating. “I called you seeing your photographs, but look a different and very shy--” he told me.’
Satyajit Ray gave Babita three types of dialogues and told her to meet him again on the following day in a shooting floor for screen test. ‘Whole night I rehearsed the dialogues and went to the shooting floor without any make-up,’ Babita recalled.
This time the legendary Bengali filmmaker had a different observation on the actress and welcomed her saying, ‘You look better without any make-up. Why do you take heavy make-up?”
‘He was very impressed at the screen test and expressed his excitement saying “Ureca I’ve got my Anago Bou for Ashani Sanket”, the protagonist of the movie, which Satyajit Ray planned to make a long ago, but had not made it considering no actress matched for the role,’ recalls Babita.
Young Babita in the major role of Satyajit Ray’s movie was warmly received by the co-actors. ‘Popular actor Sandhya Roy was selected for a minor role in the movie, however, she was not jealous at all. Rather, she helped me a lot as a well-wisher. And my opposite role was played by iconic actor Saumitra Chattaree.’
Sharing her experience of working with Satyajit Ray as a director, Babita said, ‘Actually I was too young to evaluate the great director. But, I found him completely a different type one from the directors I used to work with in Dhaka. He was very well-organised, well mannered and supportive. He used to spend a lot of time with each of the actors to get the maximum output. He never showed anger to the artistes. When he did not like acting just said, “You did well, but we will take another shot of the sequence”. When impressed, he expressed it in front of everybody.’
‘I also found him shooting when the clouds covered the sun, when most of the directors prefer to shoot in full sun,’ she added.
Satyajit Ray even took special care for the artistes. ‘I still remember there was an Eid day while shooting the movie. In my honour he [Satyajit Ray] ordered special menu to celebrate the Eid with the shooting team,’ recalls Babita.
And the movie Ashoni Sanket won Golden Bear, the best award, at the Berlin Film Festival in 1973. ‘Stayajit Ray offered me to attend the Berlin film festival. I was introduced in the festival as Ray’s youngest heroine,’ Babita says.
Satyajit Ray (May2, 1921 –April 23, 1992) made 37 movies including feature films, documentaries and shorts. He was also a fiction writer, publisher, illustrator, graphic designer and film critic. Ray's first film, Pather Panchaii (1955), won eleven international prizes, including Best Human Documentary at the Cannes film festival. He won an Academy Honorary Award in 1992. The Government of India honoured him with the Bharat Ratna in 1992. He is still remembered for his creations like Aparijita, Apur Sansar, Teen Kanya, Charulata and others.
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