Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ex Ray Vision

An Oscar Legend Was Scene, But Not Heard

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Watching the Oscars this week jogged my memory, while I was casting about for a post for this week's edition of ABC Wednesday. This post had to be about an F-word, so I decided on film.

Last year, in an exchange of comments with Dan, who writes Dan’s Blah Blah Blog, I noticed that he had flagged the classic movie Pather Panchali as one of his all-time favourites. I mentioned to him that I once had the honour of being at a reception with the legendary director Satyajit Ray, who directed that film and many others that are considered landmarks in the history of cinema.

Ray, you might remember, was the man who singlehandedly put India on the world cinematic map and was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Oscar.

You see, I was born and educated in Calcutta and Darjeeling. Calcutta was home to Ray (1921-1992) and many a creative genius. Fortunately, I can speak Bengali, so I can pronounce the late director’s name like a true Calcuttan: ``Shottojeet Rye.’’

I was in my late teens when this event took place. But I hasten to add a) that I was not introduced to him and b) this is not a gratuitous exercise in name-dropping.

A couple of my friends had been peripherally involved in Ray’s film Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players) which starred Sir Richard Attenborough as General Outram.

Because of this extremely tenuous link to the film, we had been invited to a special end-of-shooting reception at the Hotel Hindustan International. I clearly remember Ray’s low-key arrival, later in the evening than everyone else.

He came with family members, not with lackeys, nor with hangers-on. He was instantly recognisable, not just because of his chiselled features and quiet dignity, but by the power of his presence. He was a tall man, with an imposing aura. I'm well over six foot in my socks, but he was at least an inch taller than me.

Height was one thing, but when it came to stature, he left me for dead.

I remember a hush falling over the room. Awe? Probably. Reverence? Perhaps. Or a judicious mixture of both. As a spotty teenager, I did not think it was my place to walk up and shake hands with one of the city’s internationally-lauded giants.

But I wish I had. I so wish I had.

For a laugh at my 2007-series F post, check out Sigmund Fried.

30 comments:

Vienna for Beginners said...

I am going to comment later.

Vienna for Beginners said...

I can so empathize with your feelings of regret yet understand why you were not going ahead and introduce yourself at the time.

Vienna for Beginners said...

I should have put a smiley on that first non-comment. I suppose you know why. :-)))

leslie said...

An intriguing story and a unique take on the letter F for today. Don't we always regret things we didn't do! Sometimes we just have to take the bull by the horns and do it! Even if it doesn't turn out well, we can't regret the trying.

KaiBlueCreations said...

even when the story is simple, you have undertone of inticement that makes me want to know just that little more.
You inspire people in ways you'll never know David..
Peace, Kai

Katney said...

In the presence of greatness we are often speechless.

Sometimes I feel that way when I visit your photos.

Daryl E said...

Often we do things that later we wish we had or hadnt .. never ever regret a decision .. things happen for a reason .. or so I believe ..

Debs said...

At least you had the experience of seeing the man himself and feel his presence even if you were unable to speak to him. He sounds fascinating.

Kimberly said...

Missed opportunities are funny things. Our awareness of them can shape our lives in varied and unexpected ways.

Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

What a great memory - and a tremendous opportunity.

....Drove past Duxford the other day - that hangar is collosal near to.

C.C. said...

Thanks for visiting my blog - please drop by any time. Huntsmen spiders...glad that's not what I was facing that night! What a fascinating blog you keep - I will definitely come again!

Mona said...

I love all of Ray's films & I wish I could watch Pather Panchali.

Some of the best Indian classic movies come from Bengal.

Neva said...

but then, what is life if not to be able to look back with hindsight and see what we would have done differently and our whole life would not be what it is today? :)
Really, you know I am NOT philosophical! My new camera....which is more than I can even understand..is a Canon Rebel XTI. I will see how long it takes me to figure it out!

Akelamalu said...

A missed opportunity but at least you saw him.

Tom Foolery said...

If only but alas we cannot turn back the clock. (I rose to your challenge, green green grass of home and all that jazz etc. TFX)

VP said...

Great story!

And yay - your book's arrived today :)

Sandy Carlson said...

This is a beautifully written tribute. Thanks for an intro to someone I want to know more about!

Dirty Knees said...

Interesting memory, avid, but I agree with Daryl that it happened the way it did for a reason.

Rosie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rosie said...

It would have taken incredible confidence to approach him I would imagine, very difficult at that age. I enjoyed your post. I've realised I know so little about film!

CrazyCath said...

But you were there. That counts for something.

Thanks for stopping by mine.

Sharon said...

They say hindsight is 20/20. But it makes for a great story and a fun memory! I read the "Sigmund Fried" post and that was too Funny.

WomanHonorThyself said...

ah dont ya just love hindsight?..sometimes not so much eh?..nice nice post as always..My latest is a poem......:-)

Janice Thomson said...

Some moments come but once; it is our loss if we don't seize them. A great story David and one memory I bet you'll never forget.

Am'n2deep said...

Sounds like a neat opportunity--even if you didn't get that handshake.

Ida said...

A great memory! :)
Hold on to that. Life is too short to have (many) regrets.....

i beati said...

I know his work and it is quite spiritually beautiful I think

Crystal Jigsaw said...

That is indeed a fascinating post. How good would it feel to hold one of those in your hands and stand on the stage to give a speech!

Crystal xx

San said...

Thank you for this story, David.

The closest experience I had was when Bennie ran into Billy Bob Thornton coming out of the men's room at one of our local movie theaters. He (Bennie) came over to me and said, "Why don't you go meet him?" I'm a BIG fan of BBT's work. But I felt too intimidated, and I was no teenager!

Flassie's Fil'a said...

I am going to look for the film.

Great photo as always!

Have a God Blessed Year!!!