By Shoma A. Chatterji IBNS | 2 years ago

Kolkata, Nov 16

It is in the fitness of things that she was specially invited to deliver the Satyajit Ray Memorial Address at the 19th KFF this year. The lecture held at Nandan I on Friday was followed by a Q and A session with the audience and there was a press conference too.

"Manik-da embodied the Bengali Rennaissance. Aparna and I were too young when he introduced us to cinema to understand the significance of his creative genius. His value in our hearts, as a multi-talented artist and a good human being consolidated over time," said Sharmila responding to a question.

Apur Sansar Sharmila

Elaborating on how the great director interacted with her during Apur Sansar, Tagore said, "He gave specific instructions. I had never faced a movie camera before. I did exactly as told. Somewhere along the way, there was a blurring of lines between Aparna, the character I was playing, and Sharmila Tagore. Just as Aparna in the film crossed the threshold of her husband's house, I stepped in front of the camera for the first time in my life. It was like entering a completely new world. It was a turning point. But I was too young to realize it at the time."

What did she feel about meanings of dialogue getting transformed during the sub-titling process? "One has to agree that this is a problem because meanings do tend to metamorphose differently during the process of sub-titling. But one has to cope with this and find the best option. I remember that in the original sub-titled print of Apur Sansar, a particular scene where Aparna uses the word 'kajol' was translated to 'mascara' in the sub-title. Do the two really mean the same thing? Kajol has different implications within the Bengali ambiance and mascara indicates something else. But thankfully, this was changed in subsequent editions. But sub-titling is something that cannot be avoided."


Asked to recall her experience of working in Devi, her favourite among all her Ray films, Sharmila said, "I was too little to actually understand the implications of the role. What helped was that I was very well-read even at that tender age. We were brought up within a culture of reading. There was no television, no computers or Internet, and even movie-going was doctored and censored by the elders in the family.

"Dayamoyee, the character I play in the film, was around the same age as I was when I shot for it. I still remember that when the lights were being changed on the sets, I would often fall fast asleep on the huge four-poster bed. The crew would wake me up when the shot was ready. It ended very tragically for that young girl. The fact that the character and the one who played it - me - were the same age helped because I did not have to pretend I was older than what I was."

Sharmila Tagore in Devi

Talking about Ray's way of handling his actors and interacting with them, Sharmila opined, "Manik-da never believed in conducting workshops perhaps because he wanted his actors to act as naturally as possible. He had a special relationship with his actors. He preferred newcomers and even when he worked with established actors, it was to portray the underside of heroism. He did not rehearse us before a take and discouraged us from memorizing dialogues. One outstanding quality was that he treated his child actors exactly the same way he treated the adults."

(Shoma A Chatterji is a National Award winning film writer and critic)

(Posted on 16-11-2013)