Three women and a baby - Trisha Ray on her links with Pather Panchali's Sarbajaya and the city

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  • Published 20.05.09

Houston-based Trisha Ray, (late) Karuna Banerjee’s grandniece, is shooting her third English feature film Sugar Baby with actors from the US and two Satyajit Ray heroes — Soumitra Chatterjee and Barun Chanda — in Calcutta. A t2 chat...

Tell us about your association with Karuna Banerjee, Pather Panchali’s Sarbajaya...

I am her grandniece. My grandmother and she were sisters. But I’ve never met her. She had shifted to Delhi when I was very young. I have seen all her films. Devi is my favourite and I loved her in Pather Panchali.... I went to Houston in 1990 to study medicine but I dropped out and pursued filmmaking. Karuna Banerjee passed away in 2001. I am in touch with her grandchildren.

Why did you leave medicine to be a filmmaker?

My parents had a theatre troupe, so I sort of grew up watching them act. Then I went to Houston and assisted a couple of directors who made films on the streets. In the US, you will find many such makers. Funds are easily available to make films there. That’s how I figured out what I am passionate about. Besides, I am a huge Satyajit Ray fan. Given a chance, I would love to make a Bengali film in Calcutta soon.

What is Sugar Baby about?

It’s about three girls — Maria (Iheny from Venezuela), Sally (Cristina from the US) and Tara (Jasmine, also from the US) — who are street singers. One day they find an abandoned baby and then their lives change for the better. I am showing the girls as Anglo-Indians.... Sugar Baby is based on a novel by Brian Stewart. The story is based in New York. I was supposed to shoot the film in New York, but then I thought why not Calcutta. I always wanted to do Bengali films and wrote a couple of scripts but couldn’t find producers. When I told my producer Drug Research Centre of America that I wanted to shoot in Calcutta, they agreed.

Did you have to change the story in order to shoot it in Calcutta?

No, I didn’t. Sugar Baby is not about Calcutta, it’s about the Calcutta I would like to see. It’s the Calcutta of my dreams. I want to show Calcutta with the flavour of an international city, that’s why the three protagonists are neither Indians nor foreigners. Language wasn’t very important to me either.

Where in Calcutta will you be shooting?

From Park Street to New Market, Kalighat to Deshapriya Park, Panchanantala and the various churches in Calcutta. We will shoot till May 28.

Who are your Calcutta actors?

Soumitra Chatterjee plays the priest of a church and Barun Chanda is the villain. We have Shankar Roy Chowdhury, Tamal Roy Chowdhury, Ananda Mitra and Kalyan Chatterjee. Tanmay Dhanania, Sumeet Thakur, Rohini Ghosh and Anasuya Sengupta of Tin Can are in the film too. Roshni Bose of Tin Can is doing the costumes.

Did you take Soumitra Chatterjee because of his Ray connection?

I wanted only him in the role of the priest. If he had rejected it, I would have cast someone from America. I was awestruck when I met him for the first time. It’s a huge honour working with him. He is open to suggestions and is very chilled out. He is also very dignified and there’s an aura about him, which I needed.

What else are you making?

I made Federal Case in 2003. It was shot in Mexico. It will be screened at the New York Film Festival. I am also working on a film with 12 stories, titled Suicide Love. I am directing three stories and I am acting in one of them. I am also acting in a film called Bodhisatwa, to be directed by San Banarje, the director of photography for Sugar Baby.