Through many eyes

Through many eyes

From musical blockbusters to baroque tragedy to art-house neo-realism, he could shift genres effortlessly, wooing masses and critics alike, setting gold standards in whatever he did, as his filmmaker grandson Aditya Bhattacharya puts it.

It was Roy’s innate sense of cinematography (he began as a cinematographer), his understanding of social nuances, his ear for music and superb grasp on story-telling that made him a brilliant filmmaker who has inspired generations of filmmakers. All this and much more have been captured in The Man Who Spoke in Pictures — Bimal Roy, a collection of essays on the man and his cinema.

Edited by Rinki Roy Bhattacharya, the auteur’s daughter, the book, divided into three sections — ‘Bengal’, ‘Bombay’ and ‘Beyond Borders’ — looks at Roy as a human being and as a filmmaker through the eyes of a vast range of people who knew him, worked with him or got influenced by his films. Some of the people whose writings adorn the pages of the book are legends themselves, whether it is author Mahasweta Devi or the late filmmaking genius Ritwik Ghatak.

The book’s success lies in the fact that the set of authors who have contributed to it  have given an almost complete picture of the maestro, some written specially for the tome and some reproductions of earlier published pieces. Some of the most interesting facets of Roy the filmmaker come alive in the book through people who were groomed by him (Tapan Sinha, Ritwik Ghatak, Nabendu Ghosh, Gulzar, etc). Then there are actors like Shashi Kapoor and Nutan whose memories of working with Roy are part of the book, throwing light on how he utilised their talent and how he worked as a director. There are also people from the filmmaking world — Shyam Benegal, Jahnu Barua, A K Bir, Prasoon Joshi, Shantanu Moitra, Naseeruddin Shah — and several film scholars from abroad who analyse Roy’s cinema, each one throwing light on some interesting aspect of it.

But there are a few pieces that look hurriedly-written and less-researched, slightly diminishing the book’s luster. For example, in her otherwise interesting analysis of Roy’s work, Manju Seal makes the sweeping comment that apart from Roy, only a few other filmmakers had used their art as a tool to raise questions in the audience’s mind, completely negating the socially-conscious filmmaking of a huge number of other directors over the years, including stalwarts like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Girish Kasaravalli, G Aravindan, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Ritwik Ghatak, Ketan Mehta et al.

And yes, the book would have more complete had there been contributions from Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who was among those mentored by Roy, and Dilip Kumar, who partnered with the stalwart so successfully in Madhumati.

This is not the first book analysing the work of Roy, but is important for being able to see his life and work through so many eyes.

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