“It is a mediocre film with good acting by the male actor. Direction is also good.” These are the words scribbled by legendary filmmaker Bimal Roy on a notepad while he was serving as a jury member in the 1st Moscow International Film Festival. The film he wrote about was Jalsaghar, the fourth film of another Indian legend, Satyajit Ray. The notepad is one of the exhibits at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya’s latest exhibition in tribute to the filmmaker titled Bimal Roy: His Life and Times.
Walking past a screen playing a documentary on Roy on loop and a wall plastered with some posters of his classic films, we entered the rather empty Curator’s Gallery to find just two septuagenarians and a middle-aged Bengali couple. The exhibition, quite elaborately, lays down the story of the filmmaker, who began his career as a cameraman in what is now called Kolkata. He later moved to Bombay and invested his time in making realistic and socialist dramas like Do Bigha Zamin, Parineeta, Biraj Bahu, and Bandini. Roy is one of those rare filmmakers who have managed to tread the thin line of being commercially viable even while saying relevant stories. Do Bigha Zameen, which won the International Prize of the Cannes Film Festival in 1953, and Sujata (1960) were two of the earliest Indian films to be nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
Apart from huge hand-painted posters and photographs from his famous and acclaimed films like Madhumati (1958), Naukri (1954) Do Bigha Zamin (1953) and Devdas (1955), there are also, on display, songbooks, letters exchanged between Roy and his brother, personal photographs, little jottings, postcards and many such memorabilia. The Arriflex camera that Roy used to shoot Bandini stands right at the centre of the gallery. A surprise in the ensemble are clothes used by Roy and costumes worn by actors in his memorable films. As we left the gallery, more and more youngsters and foreign tourists, keen to get a glimpse of Roy’s “life and times”, had poured in. The museum will also screen some of Roy’s acclaimed movies as part of the exhibition, which is on till July 20.