Remembering Satyajit Ray On His Birth Centenary: Shabana Azmi, Amitabh Bachchan Recalls Memories With The Filmmaker

Remembering Satyajit Ray On His Birth Centenary: Shabana Azmi, Amitabh Bachchan Recalls Memories With The Filmmaker


Bollywood artists remember iconic filmmaker Satyajit Ray on his Birth Centenary. The filmmaker made only one full-length Hindi film and a telefilm in Hindi Sadgati. He didn’t have a pleasant experience through and he vowed not to work again in Hindi.

The filmmaker wanted only Sanjeev Kumar and Saeed Mirza for the role of the two chess players in Shatranj Ke Khilari. Mirza who foreign-trained it was difficult to adjust to Manik Da’s perfection on timing while it was a nightmare for Sanjeev Kumar too. He was habituated to reaching film sets 4-5 hours.

Sanjeev’s friend and actor Shatrughan Sinha, once said, “If I had a chance to work with the great Ray, I wonder if I would have learnt to wake up at 5 am. Probably not. Hats off to Sanjeev Kumar. What happens happens for the best. Hats off to Sanjeev Kumar.”

Shabana Azmi who played Sanjeev Kumar’s neglected wife in the film was quoted as saying, “Manikda had praised me for my performance in Ankur. That for me was the ultimate compliment. If Manikda had asked me to take a broom and sweep the set from one corner to another, I would have happily done it. Here I was getting to play the main female lead. I knew this was Haribhai and Saeed Jaffrey’s film. But my character Khurshid had her moments. I kept asking Manikda when he would cast me again. But he would laugh and say, only if he made another Hindi film. That was not meant to be.”

Victor Bannerjee who was also the part of the film shared, “Tom Alter and I worked together in my very first film Satyajit Ray’s only Hindi film Shatranj Ke Khiladi. For years, there was a comedy of errors amongst cinegoers who were confused over our parts and I often received accolades for his role, and he for mine”. Victor who much later did the far better-received Ghaire Bhaire with Ray remembers him fondly as the Master storyteller. “Ghaire Bhaire was not an easy film to shoot. There were many problems. But we managed to make our way through it.”

The best performance in Shatranj Ke Khilari came from Amjad Khan, he played the role of an ineffectual Nawab Wajid Ali Khan.

Amitabh Bachchan who was the narrator of the film was quoted as saying, “I regret not getting an opportunity to work with the legend as an actor. But just a mention as a voice -over in his film is a moment of great pride for me. Also artistically, my association for the Rabindranath album and in another ballet by Tanushree Shankar has been extremely rewarding. Several films, documentaries where I have contributed my voice are forgotten now. But they are a sizable number. The most rewarding voice-overs have been the son et lumiere renditions for some prestigious and important national monuments for the Government of India… Khajuraho, Golconda Fort, Gwalior Fort, Tirupati, presentation for the Punjab Museum under construction, several religious institutions.I am also vocally associated with the son et lumiere at Ajmer Fort in Jaipur for the Rajasthan Government. But the experience of having my voice used in Shatranj Ke Khiladi remains unique. It was the closest I came to working with the greatest filmmaker of India.”

Ace filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali also remembered the Manik Da as said, “I think Manikda will remain as relevant a hundred years from now as he is today. Look at his oeuvre. It shines as bright today as it did 50 years ago. There is a sense of constant renewal about his work. Devi for example, which is about blind faith remains as relevant today as it was when Manikda made it 60 years ago”.

Mumbai-based artist and short-filmmaker, Aniket Mitra reimagined 10 of Ray’s iconic films amid Covid time and created his own version to remember him.







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