Four weeks ago, I had published a post about the painstaking restoration of the Apu Trilogy by Bologna’s L’Imagine Ritrovata, using negatives that had been for a good part destroyed by a July 1993 fire in London’s Henderson’s Film Laboratories where the original negatives of The Apu Trilogy were stored.
Between the lab, a duplicate negative and digital remastering, The Apu Trilogy, has been restored to its former glory.
And, this summer, we shall see the sketches, notes and scribbles that culminated in this groundbreaking trilogy. The Pather Panchali Sketchbook has been culled together from posters, sketches and on-location photographs of the 1965 release, and a scanned copy of the sketchbook Satyajit Ray had donated to the Cinematheque Francais in Paris.
Which child, who grew up in India before air travel became the norm, can forget the joy of traveling by train through India? A joy that swelled in equal measure on both sides of that barred train window, and was expressed through waves exchanged between the rural children who stared at this iron beast speeding through their fields and little passengers like me who delighted in their lush green pond-filled villages.
The Pather Panchali Sketchbook provides a glimpse of how Ray imagined his adaptation of Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s novel of the same name to be. The publication includes Ray’s original drawings that served as the visual blueprint for the screenplay, photographs of the cast and crew on location, and his illustrations from Aam Aantir Bhenpu, a children’s edition of the novel.
He did some sketches in a drawing book after he had come back from London in 1950 and illustrated a succession of pictures (in pen, brush and ink) for the sequences of frames as they would come up in the film. He used to take them to the producers and explain the sequences. The producers he approached, however, had no interest, nor could they understand the whole process.
Some of the shot divisions were scribbled on chits of paper and cigarette packs.
While most of the world’s attention stays on the The Apu Trilogy, I remember seeing his sketches in a book that came out in the 80s and has been updated since – Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye: The Biography of a Master Film-Maker, that captured not just his directorial genius, but, was an attempt to deal with a Renaissance man: a writer, composer, artist, typeface, graphic and set designer, and film maker. This particular one, of the dishevelled, crazed Doyamoyi from Debi, has always stayed in my memory.