Monday, 30th October 2017

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Move over Sarani, Satyajit Ray Dharani is here

Mamata Banerjee wants a road to be named after Satyajit Ray, but it can’t be called a mere road.

  • Published 1.03.16
Mamata took the mike from the mayor and said: “Sarani amra onek shunechhi. Eta Satyajit Ray Dharani korbo (We have heard of enough Saranis. We will call this Satyajit Ray Dharani)” 

Mamata Banerjee wants a road to be named after Satyajit Ray, but it can’t be called a mere road.

So, instead of the staple Bengali “sarani (road)” that even Shakespeare couldn’t shake off, the road the chief minister wants to rename after Ray will be called “dharani (earth)”.

“We have enough saranis,” she said on Monday at a programme on Bishop Lefroy Road.

Then came her choice of name: “Satyajit Ray Dharani”. 

A buzz coursed through the audience and the faces of some of the dignitaries on stage betrayed a trace of disbelief. Mayor Sovan Chatterjee took a second or three to recover and then put on an approving smile.

One wonders how Ray would have reacted, given that he was passionate about the city’s heritage.

His Gorosthane Sabdhan describes through Topshe how Feluda had developed a keen interest in the origin of different road names after learning that Fancy Lane got its name from the hanging (phansi in Bengali) of Maharaj Nandakumar. 

Metro highlights how Mamata’s imagination ran riot on Monday in her keenness to honour Ray.

The programme: 
The function marked the inauguration of the recently beautified Bishop Lefroy Road where Ray lived and worked. Replicas of 42 film posters designed by the master adorn the 242-metre stretch, interspersed with 22 decorative retro lightposts made of cast iron and painted black and golden. The pavements have been cleaned and done up with new paver blocks and curve channels in Mamata’s favourite combination: white and sky blue. 

The Ray road: 
The chief minister took the mike last at the programme, after Ray’s son Sandip Ray, Ray’s actors Barun Chanda and Madhabi Mukherjee, mayor Chatterjee and the local councillor had had their say. 

Mamata ended her speech with a “request” to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation to rename Lee Road after Ray.
The mayor returned to the mike and said he would convene a special meeting of the mayoral council and adopt a resolution to rename the road “Satyajit Ray Sarani”. 

Explaining the hurry, he said: “We all know that the election dates can be announced any time now and then this work would have to be deferred. That’s why I will call the meeting right after this one.”

Mamata, who had been trying to draw the mayor’s attention while he was speaking, then took the mike from him and said: “Sarani amra onek shunechhi. Eta Satyajit Ray Dharani korbo (We have heard of enough Saranis. We will call this Satyajit Ray Dharani).”

The ripple effect:
CMC officials worked overtime to honour Mamata’s wish to salute Ray with a road name of her choice.

A special meeting of the mayoral council was convened soon after the chief minister’s announcement around 5.40pm. The decision to rechristen Lee Road “Satyajit Ray Dharani” was passed without dissent, sources said.

An official of the civic body said a board with the new name would be put up on Tuesday morning. 

But at least two mayoral council members, Atin Ghosh and Debashis Kumar, told Metro that they were unaware of any such meeting. 

The Dharani debate:
“Dharani” means “earth”. The Bengali dictionary Haricharan Bandopadhyay’s Bangiya Sabdakosh, gives the meaning of the word as “jibadi dharika, prithibi (the abode of living creatures, the earth”) and “bhutol (surface of the earth)”.

According to the dictionary, “saran” means “gaman (the act of going)” or “chalan (gait)”, depending on the context. “Sarani”  is mentioned under “saran” as “jar opor chola jaye (something that you can walk on”).

Another Bengali dictionary, Samsad Bangla Abhidhan, says that “sarani” means “path” or “rasta”, which translates into a road.

“It is wrong to name a road ‘dharani’ because in Bengali it means ‘the earth’. When a road is named 
after someone, it is correct to use the person’s name as a prefix with sarani because that means road,” said Malay Rakshit, professor of Bengali at Presidency University.

Bishop Lefroy Road, where Ray lived and worked, now shines bright with replicas of 42 film posters  designed by the master. The 242-metre stretch also has 22 decorative retro lightposts

The interpretation:
A CMC official said “dharani” as a suffix to the filmmaker’s name was supposed to conjure a vision of “Satyajit Ray’s world” since the word meant earth or world in Bengali.

The real Ray world:
1/1 Bishop Lefroy Road was Ray’s home post-1970 till he died in 1992. He made the Calcutta Trilogy (Pratidwandi, Seemabaddha and Jana Aranya), two Feluda classics and memorable films like Shatranj Ke Khilari, Hirak Rajar Deshe, Nayak, Ghare Baire, Ganashatru, Shakha Proshakha, Ashani Sanket and Agantuk while staying in the second-floor apartment.

Lee Road link:
One end of 1/1 Bishop Lefroy Road, a corner plot, is on Lee Road, which connects AJC Bose Road and Elgin Road.

Did you know?:
Feluda’s address is 27 Rajani Sen Road while Jatayu is a resident of Garpar Road.

Another famous, albeit fictitious, resident of Bishop Lefroy Road is Buddhadeb Guha’s creation: forest and adventure-loving detective Rijuda.

And, finally, in the Feluda story Samaddarer Chabi, there is a character called Dharanidhar Samaddar!

Text: Rith Basu
Pictures: Amit Datta