Monday, 7 August 2017

Satyajit Ray Presents 1 & 2

Doordarshan is India’s legacy national TV channel, owned and managed by the Government.  This was the only TV station available for my generation in our childhood and we therefore had mostly limited choice and terrible stuff to watch.
Yet, sometimes they’d get it right.

One such was when the almighty Satyajit Ray, possibly India’s greatest film director, collaborated with his Son Sandip Ray, to produce a TV series aptly named… “Satyajit Ray Presents” (SPR)  They produced another sequel a few years later named SPR2.

This series was an anthology of stories written by Satyajit Ray himself, and that was the best selling point to begin with.  The second was that this had the best acting talent pool available at that time or ever. Everyone from Smita Patil, Om Puri, Utpal Dutt, Supriya Pathak, Anupam Kher, Annu Kapoor, Amol Palekar etc. contributed to the series along with luminaries from the Bengali film world.

Satyajit Ray’s touch was unmistakable in everything from narration to how the story was presented. But for me what was special was the music.  Each series title music was developed by the great man himself and had a unique style unmatched yet in Indian television.

And then there were the stories – what can one say?  Let me admit the book of stories is not exactly the best ones or easy to read (and God, there are so many collections). They were written in Bengali and in a serialized form, and also of a different time – so it’s a little hard to appreciate or enjoy.

But in this TV series they took wing and how.

The stories spanned everything from daily life events to the mysterious, spooky ones, to romantic ones to intriguing situations – the works, as good a thaali as one get.

One of the spookiest ones post which it was difficult to sleep in the night was one where Amol Palekar visits his neighbor to request him to switch off his building light as it is bright and prevents him from sleeping. The neighbor is a painter played by veteran Utpal Dutt.  Amol slowly discovers that the painter has been doing portraits, and all of these are people who have recently passed away in disasters or un-natural incidents, and then slowly realizes the current one the painter is painting is that of Amol…

Then there was one where a new emerging talent, a puppeteer makes fun of a senior legendary magician by making a puppet that looks like the legend. Only to be cursed by the legend, and the puppet slowly starts aging and coughing during performances and passes away.

But a favourite one was the story on which Spielberg’s E.T. was based (I think Indians need to celebrate and be proud of this).  The technology available for Ray was low-brow, but boy did they do a fine job of this.

And then there were the daily situations. Smita Patil a home maker is invited to act in a film but gets scared by the studio set, in another Supriya Pathak was part of a budding romance demonstrating how typical bus rides and other interactions lead to blossoming of a relationship.

I am not sure if DoorDarshan will upload these on their youtube channel or re-telecast them, but this would be a treasure to be enjoyed.

I also do hope Ray’s Son continues the journey and shares many more stories from the collections and brings them to life like only he can.  Looking forward to another treasure...