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|June 9, 1997||
We have sold Ray to the makers of wanton dreams
In the month of May, Satyajit Ray trivia abounds in West Bengal. Born in the sweltering heat, he was feted in the chilly west.
Calcuttans feel deep gratitude for this. This same attitude imbued our response to Ray being given the honorary Oscar for a lifetime of achievement in cinema. Every intellectual who would have willingly run down American films for their surfeit of fantasy, exploitation and kitsch was now bending backwards to thank the stars in the heavens above for this great conferment. He/she forgot all about the vanity of the west and the distortion of reality because, after all, the Oscars had come home (the only one after a dress designer from these shores had won it).
What is even more surprising is the Bengali attitude. They will push the point about the son of the soil, every conversation will come back to Satyajit Ray. But the dear Bengalis will not do a thing to preserve the films of their beloved Calcuttan of world stature.
Ray is being used, it is as simple as that. Will these great bodies do anything to preserve Manmohan Desai's films, even though his cinema is nearer the American dream than anything else? No, because they need the respectability and a certain exotica. For them, Ray is the city of joy, the giant who walked through the slush to create poetry.
You might say, it is their job to do so. Perhaps it is. But, then, we must agree to forgo our prejudices. We cannot use one standard to judge them when they felicitate our greats and another when they ignore us at international fora.
It is indeed a sad day when, instead of saying they need Satyajit Ray, we have to end up saying that Ray needs them. Specially since he is not around to comment. The least we can grant a creative man after his death is a decent requiem, rather than letting his films become beleaguered works that need a foreign crutch to stand the test of time.
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