Satyajit Ray's photographer struggles to find takers

Satyajit Ray's photographer struggles to find takers

Famously known as Satyajit Ray's photographer, lensman Nemai Ghosh, has worked in close association with him for over 25 years capturing the master filmmaker in his myriad moods.

During his 35-year career as a photographer Ghosh's lens has also photographed some of India's most haunting onscreen characters, yet for years Ghosh had found no takers for his immense collection to be archived, until just recently.

Ghosh's entire collection comprising 1,20,000 pictures of cinestars, yesteryear Bollywood starlets and shots of some famous characters from the movie sets of the country's only Academy award winning director has been acquired by the Delhi Art Gallery, which is putting a selection up for show here.

The exhibition, of limited edition archival photographic prints, attempts to bring to light his lesser-known but equally extensive documentation of cinema, both mainstream Hindi cinema from Mumbai as well as regional Bengali cinema.

"For years I had urged people to come forward and take my collection, but no one, either collectors or documentary makers on Ray's life came forward," Ghosh told PTI.

The frustration of this long struggle is evident in what Ghosh sought to do with his entire life's work.

"I had decided to immerse all the photographs in Ganga if there were no takers for them," says the octogenarian photographer whose work captures the most glorious age of Indian cinema.

Most prominent of his photographs are candid stills of Satyajit Ray caught on camera on the scenes of many of his famous directorial ventures.

Nemai Ghosh says that in his association with Satyajit Ray he barely exchanged probably about 25 words with him, but both connected and understood each other perfectly.

"One example would be the shoot from 'Ashani Sanket' where a particular sequence shows Babita being molested in the woods. Ray begins to run behind the attackers with the camera and at the same time I too began running alongside them and captured the shot I was looking for," says Ghosh.

Ghosh treasure trove also includes several iconic images of actors, scenes, sets and locations during the filming of Satyajit Ray's films as well as the filmmaker at work, as well as an array of images of regional films and actors.

The lensman, now 79, says he had several buyers and galleries in art hubs such as London, Paris and Japan interested in his photographs but he preferred to hold on to the rich piece of film heritage. He has been scouting for a suitable Indian taker for his work for the past one and half decade.

The Delhi Art Gallery acquired Ghosh's collection in 2006 and started digitising it. A total of 250 of Ghosh's work is being displayed at a solo exhibition here beginning tomorrow and scheduled till January 28.

This exhibition also marks the Gallery's exploration into the medium of photography.

"We started digitising in 2008 till mid-2010. We had our first show in 2011 and now in 2013. Ghosh, did not only click Satyajit Ray's photographs but also photographs of many other famous directors of that time," says Kishore Singh, Head of Exhibition and Publishing, Delhi Art Gallery.

The show "Nemai Ghosh: Satyajit Ray and Beyond" also marks the occasion of the centenary of Indian cinema.

"This is going to be a travelling exhibition. We are going to take it to Mumbai, Kolkata and we also have plans to tie up with foreign galleries and museum. This exhibition is going to travel all round the year," says Singh.

Meanwhile, Ghosh says he is relieved that he has "before my last days my art is going to receive its due share of recognition."