The Man Who Spoke in Pictures: Bimal Roy, Rinki Roy Bhattacharya, Penguin Books, India, Pp 256, Rs. 499 (HB)
CINEMA is a major medium of promoting understanding among people of different cultures. With the revolution in information technology, the world has grown smaller and cinema has become an important means to help man understand his responsibilities and potentials, to identify new areas of activity and to enjoy the beauty of new relationships among the people. Art of any kind helps in creating universal kinship and cinema helps in contributing towards the cause of international understanding.
Bimal Roy, the director and producer of Hindi films apart from those in Bengali, realised this and used his creative ability to the hilt. This book, written by his daughter, presents pencil sketches after reconstructing from personal and collective memories, unconnected anecdotes and few closely guarded family secrets his life story as she was only a child when her father passed away. Bimal Roy was essentially a recluse, a man of silence, born in a family of zamindars of Suapur in Bangladesh. His father and brother spent their evenings at the kotha baari adjacent to their house as they were fond of a good life that included branded Scotch whisky flowing freely during those nocturnal mujra sermons. The author believes that her father’s “aversion to alcohol may be a reaction to this.” She points out that he never drank and it was “a taboo in our home to even mention it.” The Bimal Roy home in that sense had the least filmy ambience in the entire Bombay movie industry of the period. It is no wonder that in most of his movies, Bimal Roy threw up situations, characters and landscapes that corresponded to his life. He depicted the feudal class with its exploitative character in most of his movies.
Bimal Roy was an activist and raised funds for the Ramakrishna Mission. Rinki Bhattacharya says her father was a contented householder, not given to expressing his views vehemently or aggressively. Even when he had done well in the industry, he did not wish to purchase a house of his own as he believed that property ownership was the root of all family feuds. His view may have been coloured by the fact that he was evicted from the Suapur estate around 1930, soon after his father’s death. He lived in a rented place – a beautiful Godiwala bungalow belonging to a Parsee family who had reluctantly let out their house to a ‘fillumwala’. It was the same family who refused to sell the cottage next door to anyone but to “our Bimal Roy”. So charmed were they by him after his 16-year stay at the Godiwala that this cottage became the only immovable property that Bimal Roy possessed, quite unlike his successful counterparts.
The author has compiled this book by collecting write-ups and by talking to her father’s colleagues and juniors who had worked with him and by asking some of his acquaintances to pen their views about her father.
Collaboration among his crew members, excellent technical understanding of camera and lighting, possession of a gentle Bengali ethos, brilliant choice of actors, astute selection of good stories, exquisite taste in music and dance inspired this simple man from Suapur to weave magic through story and music and make history in Indian cinema.
(Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110017.)