BENGALURU: The Bengali-Kannada Film Festival, which has been bringing together the country’s two popular cultures in the city, got a huge boost this year with the presence of filmmaker Sandip Ray, the son of legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray. And true to the spirit of the event, which observed its third edition this weekend, Ray spoke about his connection with another theatre and film maestro – Girish Karnad. Remembering Karnad, he said, “My father and Girishji have always connected via letters and telephone calls, as there were no other alternatives back then.”
Ray recalled the time he worked with Karnad in 1985 for a short series for television – Satyajit Ray Presents. “He played a role in one of the stories in the series,” he said, adding, “I was nervous to direct an ace scholar and theatre personality like him. But he was obedient, affectionate, professional and at the same time, very respectful.”
The role Karnad played in Ray’s series featured a day-long timeline, but required two to three days of shoot. “There was only one costume required for Girishji. However, he asked us to keep three sets of the costume, saying that he perspires a lot, and doesn’t want that to affect the shooting,” Ray recalled. “Working with him was a pleasure, as he was a one-take-okay actor.”
Ray, who is working on a Bengali-English film that would delve into Professor Shonku, a fictional character created by Satyajit Ray, an which would be hitting the screens by December this year, also spoke about his experiences of working with his father, which also began, incidentally, with a South Indian link. It was for a documentary made on acclaimed Bharatnatyam dancer Balasaraswati that he started assisting his father, Ray revealed.
Besides Ray, the three-day festival was attended by renowned artistes, including Malayalam film director Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Kannada filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli.
The society was conceived in 2017 by Madhushree Sengupta, who has her roots in Bengal, with an aim to amalgamate Bengali and Kannada culture. “When I came to Bengaluru in 2005, I was missing my roots, and looking at the growing number of Bengali people thronging the city, I thought a film society could complete the space,” says Sengupta, adding that the film festival is an initiative by Bengalis that is supported by the Kannadigas.
The festival also organised free movie screenings for underprivileged children, who watched Kannada movies like Naanu Gandhi, Chilipili Haakigalu and Salila.
Also appreciated by film buffs was a panel discussion on the film Bhuvan Shome, remembering filmmaker Mrinal Sen, who passed away in December last year. Kasaravalli addressed the panel and talked about how his friendship with Sen grew over time.
“He would attend all my movie screenings in Kolkata and on seeing me at the events, he would always say, ‘Girish, I’m here.’ Sadly enough, when I’m making my next film now, he won’t be there at my screening.” Gopalakrishnan too talked about how filmmaking took a U-turn with Sen’s movies.