Reaching Ray to the masses

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  • Published 29.06.05

Shah Rukh Khan and Prosenjit rule their theatres, but the villagers of Amragachhi in North 24-Parganas love Vittorio De Sica and Satyajit Ray more. Simply because the hapless father of Bicycle Thieves and the playful boy of Pather Panchali are closer to their lives than the dream merchants of mainstream cinema.

For the youths who introduced De Sica and Ray to Amragachhi, it is an ?alternative film culture? they now want to carry across the nation.

?It all started in 2002 when we were working on a project in Amragachhi. We found that the villagers suffered an inferiority complex from watching the larger-than-life presentation in mainstream Hindi and Bengali films. So, we decided to screen films like Meghe Dhaka Tara, Pather Panchali, Bicycle Thieves, 400 Blows, Goopi Gayen Bagha Bayen and Bari Theke Paliye. They liked the films immediately as they could connect with the rawness of life,? says Chiranjeeb Mukherjee, who with three others formed Drishya to reach a different kind of reel magic to villagers.

Buoyed by the Amragachhi success, Drishya members would then trek from one place to another in the districts of Nadia, South and North 24-Parganas, armed with an LCD projector and a pile of VCDs. It could be the corridor of a school or a para club where their audience would huddle around the television set or the makeshift screen.

The VCD collection, built painstakingly over the years with help from friends abroad, boasts the works of Federico Fellini, Paolo Passolini, Visconti, Antonionni, Vittorio De Sica, Kieslowski, Akira Kurosawa, Ritwik Ghatak and Satyajit Ray among others.

?We would screen Mr India, stop the film midway and start Goopi Gayen Bagha Bayen. And the response for the second film was just amazing. Marginalised people are usually excluded from the viewership of these films. We want to bring them in the fold,? adds Sunetra Bandyopadhyay, another member of Drishya.

From the core group of four, the organisation has now expanded to 70, comprising students of English, comparative literature, films studies, physics and other subjects from Calcutta and Jadavpur universities and also Viswa-Bharati in Santiniketan.

Outside the state, Drishya has screened films at JNU and Delhi University, and in Goa and Himachal Pradesh. Presently, it has tied up with Hatibagan Chetana, an organisation working with street children, to intensify the movement in Calcutta.

?But we don?t want to be a club where only a few privileged members can watch films. Drishya is for everyone who loves good films,? clarifies Chiranjeeb, drawing up plans to hold screenings in the city during the Pujas. On the cards is a trip to Mumbai, where Drishya will show films at IIT Bombay and in Dharavi. Then, it?s Dhenkanal, Bhubaneswar and Kashmir in the last lap.