And from those who have been gifted enough to work with the ace director, actor Soumitra Chatterjee stands out because he is the only one to have worked with him in as many as 14 projects.
Launched by Ray in the third part of his masterpiece Apur Sansar, Soumitra has been in the field for over 50 years now. “It is my childhood love,” he says. “My family encouraged me and I was fascinated by Sishir Bhaduri from the first time I saw him on stage,” he adds. So having worked for so long, what are his fondest memories? “The films I shot with Satyajit Ray gave me great satisfaction,” he says. And how does he feel about Ray? “With great love, affection and respect. The one thing I remember about him is that he had complete control over the medium,” he says.
“And the two things I really admire about him are his aesthetic vision and his profound humanity and the commitment towards human beings he showed in his films,” he says. With such an illustrious body of work behind him, why did he remain limited to Bengali cinema? “When I was young, the scope of Hindi movies was limited. People like Shyam Benegal were not there,” he says. “And I was young and foolish and did not care so much about money,” he adds laughing. But he seems more than satisfied with his body of work. “People love me in Bengal. I am an icon over there,” he says. “But today, if I do get any good scripts, I would certainly consider them,” he adds.
Speaking about the current state of Bengali cinema he says, “It is reviving. It is getting out of the woods.” And where does he think it is lacking? “We need good directors and story-tellers to improve the cinema,” he says. About his interest in theatre, he says, “It has been my first love. When people ask me what I love more, acting in front of the audience or the camera, I still say both. But the most satisfaction I get is when I direct a play,” he says. “Everything I have learnt till now has been bit by bit, by working with people. And I am still learning,” he adds.
Talking about Bangalore, he says, “I have been coming here since the mid 1950s. Sometimes I come here for work but mostly it is for meeting my friends. I would say it is the best metro of the country because it has the good qualities of each of them,” he finishes.