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Uday Shankar’s legacy in breach of trust

Amala Shankar is outraged. The large wooden box, containing personal belongings and documents of Uday Shankar, that she had kept in a house belonging to the P.N. Roy Trust Estate at 38, Golf Club Road, has been broken open. The 85-year-old wife of the legendary artiste says they had lived there from the early 50s right up the late 80s, and some of their best productions, such as Ramlila and Samanya Kshati, were born in that building, which also houses P.R. Productions. Another building on this about 20-cottah plot is a laboratory belonging to Film Services.

Both enterprises were started and run by Pramod Nath Roy, one of the founders of New Theatres, his brothers Tarun Kumar and Prasad and cousin Amitabha Roy. The latter’s sons, Subir and Sugata, live in the south section of another house at 40 D, Golf Club Road, belonging to the trust.

Uday Shankar’s sets, costumes, musical instruments and other effects were kept at 38, Golf Club Road. Amala Shankar says she has heard that intruders have easy access to her space now.

But Uday Shankar’s effects are not the only precious things that have disappeared. P.N. Roy had introduced the Ariflex camera, used for outdoor shoots, and his nephews and nieces and Sukumar Guha Thakurta, a director of P.R. Productions, say all the valuable equipment and several prints of silver nitrate films (these contain a high percentage of silver) belonging to the company have been removed from there. P.N. Roy’s nephews and nieces, one of whom is actress Aloknanda Roy, allege that all charitable work by the P.N. Roy trust has stopped ever since “outsiders” took charge of it. Several cubicles have been constructed in the main building. These are let out as offices and for weddings. In February 2001, Sukumar Guha Thakurta’s wife Gopa, herself a film producer, started a criminal case against the present three directors of P.R. Productions and Film Services. Jadavpur police station chargesheeted the three and now they are on bail. On September 8, 2003, Sukumar, as the largest shareholder of P.R. Productions, made an application to the sub-divisional judicial magistrate in Alipore about the missing equipment and film reels.

The same day, Gopa started a case of misappropriation of funds she had advanced to buy shares and breach of trust against the trio. The judge ordered investigations in both cases.

Subir and Aloknanda say their uncle P.N. Roy, who was single, had amassed a fortune through films. Along with his brother Tarun Kumar, P.N. Roy had set up the Film Services laboratory and P.R. Productions. The income was used for charity. They asked cousin Amitabha to look after the production house and lab. After P.N.’s death in 1959, T.K. asked Amitabha to run the business as managing director. The latter had moved in with his family at 40 D, Golf Club Road as a tenant. T.K. was sole executor of the property and in 1964, he formed the P.N. Roy Trust Estate with brother Prasad as chairman.

Subir Roy says after his father Amitabha died in 1981, shareholders did not allow the transfer of shares of P.R. Productions and Film Services laboratory to his two sons. Subir’s cousins, Surajit and Subrata Sengupta, who were beneficiaries of P.N.’s will, initiated a case against the trust chairman in May 2002 against “illegal” operations in the trust. In March 2003, after the death of two trustees, chairman Ashim Banerjee unilaterally included three new members in the trust — Ajit Kar, director of P.R. Productions, Satyabrata Chatterjee and Kalyan Dasgupta. Subir alleges that his family was being harassed and so he filed a case against the four with Jadavpur police station in July 2003. In August, Kalyan Dasgupta and another filed a case against Subir Roy and family with the same police station. At this juncture, the Roys feel they are up against a wall.

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