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Ray’s women were powerful, says Aparna Sen

Ray’s women were powerful, says Aparna Sen
Satyajit Ray, known for having the ‘director’s gaze’, harboured a ‘deep respect’ for women and portrayed them as having more moral strength than men in various roles other than the stereotyped idea of a ‘woman belonging to the kitchen’, say the filmmaker’s leading ladies.

Actresses Sharmila Tagore, Aparna Sen and Madhabi Mukherjee still turn euphoric while recounting their experiences of working with the Oscar-winning director, even more than 20 years after his death.

And this came out vividly during a late evening session called ‘Nayikar Bhumikay — Satyajiter Nari Charitra (Playing the Actress — Satyajit’s Women Characters), at the Kolkata Literary Meet Saturday.

‘He had deep respect for women. He had told me once that probably because women were not equal to men in terms of physical prowess, they were much powerful when it came to moral strength and his female characters showed that,’ said Aparna, who debuted as an actress in Ray’s 1961 film T
een Kanya
(Three Daughters) based on three short stories by Rabindranath Tagore.

Veteran actress Sharmila Tagore, who started her celluloid sojourn with Ray’s creation Apur Sansar — the final film in the Apu Trilogy — in 1959 at the age of thirteen, agreed.

‘He had the director’s gaze. That’s what made him famous. He did a variety of films spanning different eras and showed what women could do during that period, in the given situation and according to the time. He was true to the time,’ said Sharmila.

Ray cast Sharmila as Dayamoyee in Devi, before she went on to become a very successful actress in Hindi films. She returned to work in Ray’s films Nayak, Aranyer Din Ratri and Seemabaddha.

‘He introduced me to cinema. If it hadn’t been for him, I wouldn’t have become a film actor because I did not want to become one.

‘I was a school girl. He found me in front of the school and he changed my life. He introduced me to this wonderful world and I am sitting and talking with you,’ said a grateful Sharmila.

According to veteran Bengali actress Madhabi Mukherjee, best known for the title role in Satyajit Ray’s masterpiece Charulata, Ray’s films prescribed for women what should be done in response to the problems they faced in society.

‘There was an idea that women belonged to the kitchen, but Ray brought them out from there. His films gave an idea about what should be done about the problems they faced in society,’ said Madhabi.
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