Portraits of Satyajit Ray

Nemai Ghosh’s photographs of Satyajit Ray show a master filmmaker at work, both on location and at home in his study.

Satyajit Ray with actor Arjun Guha Thakurta on the sets of Pikoo (1980)Nemai Ghosh/Delhi Art Gallery

All images copyright Nemai Ghosh.

Anyone drawn to Satyajit Ray and his films owes a debt of gratitude to Nemai Ghosh, who photographed Ray at work and scenes from his films from 1968 right to the end of Ray’s life in 1992.

The master photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, certainly recognised this. Cartier-Bresson called Ghosh the “photo-biographer” of Ray, and stated with perfect truth: “He allows us to be intimate with filmmaking, and to feel with great fidelity the drive, the alertness and the profundity of this giant of cinema in all his majestic stature.” So do I, as the biographer of Ray in the 1980s. Years after Ray’s death, it was a unique privilege for me to work with Nemai on a large-format illustrated book using the finest from his tens of thousands of images. Entitled Satyajit Ray: A Vision of Cinema, the book comes closer to the mind and heart of a great filmmaker’s ‘inner eye’ than perhaps any other book on the cinema.

Ray directing Sharmila Tagore and Soumitra Chatterjee in Days and Nights in the Forest (1970)Nemai Ghosh/Delhi Art Gallery

Ray trusted Ghosh, who worked for the love of Ray’s films, not for money, until 1982; indeed, Ghosh’s obsession with Ray swallowed up the last rupee of his savings. So he was allowed to become a fly on the wall during all stages of the process of filmmaking.  As Nemai himself writes of Ray: “Afterwards, seeing the pictures, he would frequently ask: ‘When did you take it?’ Whatever he was doing – whether writing, designing, acting, directing, operating the camera, editing, composing and recording the music, or simply meditating in the middle of noise and crowds like some sage – Manikda [Ray] was preoccupied. In his eyes, I felt I could see the whole film. I tried to catch that impression.”

Ray on the set of The Home and the World (1984) with actors Soumitra Chatterjee and Swatilekha Chattopadhyay
Nemai Ghosh/Delhi Art Gallery
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