Bimal Roy – Memories
I was 23 years old when my father passed away. Being the eldest child, I shared that special bonding with my father, to a much greater extent than my siblings, including my brother and two sisters.
I remember my father very distinctly. Though he was such a famous man, he never neglected his duties as a father or as a family member. Another remarkable thing about my father, was that he made sure that unlike many star houses, the atmosphere of our home was very normal. As a child, I had seen other star homes and interacted with star children, who were around our age. And I was amazed at how different their upbringing was!
My father was basically a very strict person, by nature. He was very conservative in his thinking, especially when it came to our dress code. We sisters were expected to wear sarees as soon as we grew up. He was strictly against parties. It was only after we came to Mumbai, that we were taken to film premieres. As children, we were only allowed to watch Walt Disney films and mythologicals.
My father was a very good looking man. As a result, many people suggested that he give acting a try. Eventually he did, but I believe he was very uncomfortable and unhappy being in front of the camera. Basically, he was a very shy person and gave too many retakes! I wonder if we could ever lay our hands on any footage of that film! Nevertheless, after doing publicity camera work for New Theatres in Calcutta, he took up cinematography and later switched to direction, with a few Bengali films to his credit.
I am his greatest admirer, as a film I maker! Recently, we held a screening of Bandini at our workshop. Everyone present, including some of today’s directors, were moved to tears. Such was the impact! I wish distributors would come forward and undertake the task of bringing these classics back to the big screen!
Frankly speaking, I wasn’t quite aware of my father’s identity. It became apparent only after I got married because that was the time I moved in my own society, and not among my father’s circle of friends. The kind of respect and awe people held my father in, was simply amazing. The moment they learnt that I was Bimal Roy’s daughter, they wouldn’t stop raving about him!
Every time people ask me to point out my favorite Bimal Roy film, I get stuck. I like some aspect of all his films, including Bandini, Devdas, Sujata and Do Bigha Zamin.
My father was a very sensitive person but he never really expressed his feelings. He was a very private person. I rarely saw him chatting, like we normally do. He seldom spoke. One could say that his films were mainly his form of expression.
Though he never wanted to come to Mumbai, he was forced to, because things in Calcutta were becoming increasingly difficult. After Partition, the Calcutta film industry collapsed and there was no market for Bengali films. Father was a true Bengali and moving away from his roots hurt him immensely. But he didn’t have a choice. It was very difficult not only to sustain us but also his unit, which was solely dependent on him. His unit was like a family to him and finally, he moved to Mumbai.
However, returning to his native land, was always on his mind. During his last days, he kept remembering his childhood, to the extent that he even recalled the name of a particular fruit which is only available there! His critical condition didn’t permit us to take him there. I thought to myself that when his condition improved, I would take him to Calcutta. But before this could happen, he passed away.
Hailing from a village, he loved nature. When he came to Mumbai, he made sure that the place where he resided was also close to nature. He actually took pains and prepared the ground, added soil and planted vegetation.
Like everybody else, he too had a lighter side to his nature. More than an introvert, I would say he was a closed person.
Among his films, Madhumati was a super hit and so was Sujata. Do Bigha Zamin initially did face a prollem because it didn’t have star value. These things prevailed even then.
Father was not the kind of a person to enjoy parties. He liked reading and would listen to music, in his free time. His tastes were very refined! Even when he attended parties, he would never drink. As a result, many people considered him a snob. But the fact remained that he didn’t like drinking! This was apparent in his film Devdas. Not that the film focused on alcohol, but somewhere it did carry an underlying message of what alcohol can do to you. I am thinking of showing the film to the Alcoholics Anonymous.
Speaking about friends, I can say that he was very fond of Guru Dutt. Guru Dutt was a part of his unit in Calcutta and so was Hrishikesh Mukherjee. I remember when we came down to Mumbai, the entire unit stayed in one small room, till each one made a mark for themselves in the industry. He wanted to cast Guru Dutt in one of his films but Guru Dutt was busy with Pyaasa at that point of time. However, my father’s closest friend was a producer who was instrumental in his coming to Mumbai.
Though my father was an ace director, joining films never really occurred to me. One day, father’s assistant saw me and felt that I should join films. But nobody ever dared suggest something like this to my father!
I never really saw my father in an angry state, except when I ran away with Basu (Bhattacharya), my late husband, and married him. Though Basu was assisting my father in direction, fact remained that he was a nobody. Before I could tell my father about my relationship with Basu, people had already told him things against Basu, which upset him. Basu was not very popular with the unit and the only way to get back at Basu, was to malign me. That’s exactly what happened! I had never seen my father in that state. Moreover, he was angry at the way things were done. Besides my father had earned a name in society and proposals from rich, educated families were pouring in, including one from Amartya Sen. The fact that I had refused all of them to settle for somebody who had not even made a mark for himself, was what upset him. I knew his anger was justified but I couldn’t help it. I had let him down, as well as the family prestige. But things settled down with time, and I was the one who took care of him and was at his bedside till his end.
Another occasion I saw him lose his cool, was during an outdoor schedule. There was this cook who served lousy food to the unit. Though everyone would grumble, nobody dared complain to my father. My father, on the other hand, was totally unaware of this, as his food was cooked separately. One day, my father’s assistant figured this out and brought it to his notice. My father was so angry that he slapped the cook! He was the kind of a person who would only get angry over certain issues. Other-wise, he was a very soft hearted person.
I remember, as children we would drop in on his sets whenever possible and all the uncles (people who worked with him) like Salil Choudhary, would dote on us. I am happy that my relations with all of them have been well maintained till date.
The kind of reality my father wanted to depict in his films, was simply amazing. Nirupa Royji would tell us that while making Do Bigha Zamin, my father had despatched his assistant to Chor Bazaar to procure old clothes for his characters! He also had a very good sense of music, which was apparent in his films. He was fond of playing the violin and loved painting. He was an excellent photographer, when it came to portraits.
It brings a smile to my face, when I think of the kind of person my father was! How do I sum him up in a word? We would anxiously wait for him to return home from shooting. He would never come home empty handed. He simply loved shopping for all of us, and would bring home loads of goodies. He really spoilt us, like that! Food was a major factor in our house. We had grown up eating foreign cheese, butter and biscuits. Wherever in the world he went, he never failed to bring gifts for all of us. Unless he had some really important work, he would normally come home by a particular time, and we would have dinner together. This was the culture that existed in our home, memories of which I cherish till date! (Bimal Roy’s daughter Rinki Bhattacharya interviewed by Ranjeeta in 1999).