Today is the birth centenary of legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray. He is also a screenwriter, art director, music director and writer. He is considered one of the best filmmakers of the twentieth century. Ray was born in Kolkata to the Ray family, well known among the literary and art circles.
However, his ancestral home was in the village of Masua in Katiadi upazila of Kishoreganj in the then British India, which is now in Bangladesh.
Babita, the well-known actress of Bangladesh, acted in a film by this legendary filmmaker.
She has won numerous awards including national awards for her performances in Bengali films. But one of the achievements of her life was acting in Ray's film Ashani Sanket released in 1973. Soumitra Chatterjee, another legendary actor from Kolkata, starred opposite her in the film.
On 1 May, Babita shared her golden memories with Ray and her involvement in the movie Ashani Sanket in an interview with The Business Standard.
"It was late 1972 or early 1973. I only did a few movies then. I was shooting at the FDC. I noticed that someone was taking pictures of me. One said he came from India. I did not give too much importance. Then we lived in the Gandaria area of old Dhaka. A few days later, a letter came to my home address. We were surprised to read the letter. The letter said I have to go to India to meet Satyajit Ray," said Babita.
"Although I was surprised at the beginning, I laughed about it later with my sisters. We assumed that someone had written it for fun. So the next day I forgot about the letter," she added.
But a few days later Babita received a phone call at her home from the Indian Embassy in Bangladesh.
"I was told again to meet Ray. The phone call also mentioned that a letter was sent a few days ago, but you probably didn't pay attention. Hearing this, I became a little foolish. Was that letter true?"
"I was 15 or 16 then. A few days later, I went to Kolkata with Suchanda apa to meet Satyajit Ray," she said.
Nanda Bhattacharya, the producer of the film, helped them to go to Kolkata.
"That was my first trip abroad. Our meeting with Ray was also very strange. We went and stayed at a hotel. I woke up in the morning thinking that a director like him would see me, so I need to have good preparation. I did very heavy makeup," said Babita.
Ray himself opened the door when they reached his house. It was a surprise for Babita and her sister.
"He was such a tall man. I had to look up to see his face. He said, why did you put on such heavy makeup? I didn't want to see you in makeup. I was very upset to hear that. I got scared. I gave up hope of acting in his film. I kept my head down the whole time," Babita said.
"Meanwhile, Vijaya baudi (Ray's wife) came with tea and food. But I could not look at Satyajit Ray in any way. I couldn't even speak anymore. Then he said to Suchanda apa, is your sister very shy? Does she know acting?"
"Suchanda apa said, Dada, two to three of her movies have been released in Bangladesh which Bangladeshi audiences liked very much. Then, he gave me three short screenplays and asked me to memorise and come to Indrapuri Studio the next day."
"There I will check your audition, screen test and voice, Satyajit said."
"I appeared at the studio the next day without any makeup. He was very happy. He said you look very beautiful today. And told me, do not take any makeup. Then he asked me to take sindoor and tip and wear a sari in an ordinary way."
Babita said, "I did everything as he said and entered the studio from the makeup room. I saw Satyajit Babu looking through the camera. He saw me on camera a few times. Then he told me to act from the script. Some of the parts were romantic, some were serious and some were very different. I acted like me. I don't know what he understood. Probably the endeavour of me for acting and the style of acting caught his eyes."
"As soon as it was over, he got down from the camera seat and said, 'Eureka, Eureka, I've got my Ananga'," she remembered.
Ananga is the character, wife of Gangacharan, in the movie played by Babita.
After these incidents, Babita was given the full script of the movie which confirmed her role as Ananga. The shooting was done in Shanti Niketan.
Soumitra Chatterjee starred opposite of her. Babita also talked about memories with Soumitra.
She said, "I saw him dressed as Gangacharan, wearing dhuti, and round glasses. I was standing. We acted in a shot. Then he said, wow, you gave a very beautiful shot! Very beautiful!"
Babita said that Soumitra's praise gave her courage.
Ashani Sanket reached the Berlin International Film Festival before the film was released.
There, the movie was awarded 'Golden Bear' for Best Film.
Babita won the Best Actress award from the Bengal Film Journalist Association in India for her role in the movie.
But more than all the things, the best achievement for Babita's career was getting acquainted with Ray and acting in a movie directed by this great director.