This is not a book that screams for your attention but it gets it anyway. A compact pocket-sized book, it records one man’s close encounter with Satyajit Ray (also called Manikda). Nemai Ghosh is a familiar name today because of his long-time photographic association with Satyajit Ray. The accidental photographer, who picked up a camera on a whim, invites us to glance at a world that was pregnant with creative promise. The book is proof that the 60s and 70s was the golden age of film both moving and still.
Two things attracted me to this slim volume—Satyajit Ray and photography. Having grown up listening to stories of Ray, the Renaissance man and reading his books, how could I resist peeking into his life? And photography because of my obsession. The book packs in many classic black and white photographs of the filmmaker in the field as well as a pensive Ray at home. The photographs create a larger-than-life image of him contributing to the existing iconography of the man behind the movies. Holding the photographs together is an emotional tribute from a fan, which chronologically chronicles the long and fruitful association starting with the film Goopy Gyna Bagha Byne.
Ghosh hero worships Ray and that comes through in a completely transparent and unapologetic manner. The “Oriental” tendency to efface the self characterises much of the text. The text, which has been published earlier in Bengali and French is a translation from Bengali. Why in French? That’s because of Ghosh’s friendship with Henri Cartier-Bresson. The text would, however, benefit from a stronger editorial hand. A foreword by Sharmila Tagore, a Ray discovery herself, enriches the book and adds a bit of glamour.
A very small detail caught my eye. If you look with attention at the b/w photographs on the front and back covers of the book, you will notice something odd. On the front cover, Ray wears his watch on the left hand but on the back cover, it’s on the opposite hand. Watches are objects of habit, usually worn on the same hand all the time after the wearer decides which hand it sits comfortably on. So something seems amiss till I reach page 32 and see the same b/w photograph as the back cover but with one major difference: it’s flipped the opposite way. This is tiny detail, which will not interfere with your enjoyment of the book in anyway. But as a Feluda fan, I had to point it out! Pick the book up if you are a Ray fan and require some light reading for a journey.