Bimal Roy, not Bollywood, at Florence

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By AMIT ROY in London
  • Published 2.12.07

London, Dec. 2: Selvaggia Velo, an Italian woman who has been organising an Indian film festival called “River to River” in Florence for the past seven years, is this week bringing Joy — both metaphorically and literally — to a discriminating movie audience in one of the great artistic cities of the world.

Joy Roy, son of the late Indian film director Bimal Roy, spoke to The Telegraph in London on his way to Florence where he will be holding the world premiere of a 55-minute documentary on his father, Remembering Bimal Roy.

That will close the festival as well as a retrospective on the films of Bimal Roy.

Velo, who is passionate about Indian movies, approached Joy 18 months ago after stumbling across Bimal Roy’s name on the Internet. At the time, she did not know Joy was working on the documentary about his father nor, indeed, much about Bimal Roy, but took the trouble to travel to Mumbai to see Joy’s rough cut.

And now, during the River to River festival from December 7 to 13, the Indian movies to be screened, “all non Bollywood”, Velo emphasised, will also include three of Bimal Roy’s classics — Do Bigha Zamin (1953), Devdas (1955) and Bandini (1963).

In Italy, Velo has won much praise for her efforts to “keep alive the culture of Indian movies in Florence”.

Velo described the documentary as “the portrait of one of India’s most talented directors, Bimal Roy, by his son. The documentary goes over Roy’s career through interviews and footages”.

“After the film, there will be a Q&A with director Joy Roy,” she said from Florence.

In the programme notes done for the festival, Aparajita Sinha, a writer who runs Moving Images, a film society in Hyderabad, has said of Bimal Roy: “When he died in 1966 at the age of 57, he left a legacy of 17 wonderful films (including three in his native Bengali) that Indians still cherish.”

He could have but did not add that notwithstanding Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s lush 2002 reinterpretation of Devdas, starring Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai, many Indians continue to cherish the earlier black-and-white adaptation of Saratchandra Chatterjee’s novel which cast Dilip Kumar as Devdas, Vyjayanthimala as Chandramukhi and Suchitra Sen as Parvati (Paro).

En route to Rome and Florence, Joy had dropped in at the Nehru Centre in London last week for the launch of Darlingji: The True Love Story of Nargis & Sunil Dutt by author Kishwar Desai and her husband Lord Meghnad Desai.

Joy is now considering whether he has enough archival material to attempt a fresh biography of his father.

Joy, now 52, said he was very young when his father passed away. His mother, Manobina, died in 2001 but an earlier interview given by her, though not to Joy, has been included in Remembering Bimal Roy.

“I completed 11 a few days after my father passed away in 1966,” Joy pointed out. “The best thing that would happen to me to get to know my father better was this film. I had such rewarding experiences by speaking to some of his colleagues. It was a revelation for me. I had got to know my father through his films but this gave a personal perspective. What emerged was that he was such a wonderful man. For me that was the biggest discovery.”

He interviewed about 20 people, including Tapan Sinha, the filmmaker.

“Tapan Sinha spoke about 60 years after meeting him but it was as though he had met him yesterday,” he added.