New Delhi: There were very actors who were trusted by Satyajit Ray when it came to portraying a grey character. Bengali actor Dipankar De was one of those actors who were a part of Satyajit Ray's core team whenever he had to showcase complex characters. The actor talks extensively about the creative process of Satyajit Ray.
Q: How was it to work with a legend like Satyajit Ray in the beginning only of your career?
A: Well, I started my career in 1970 in a very small role in 'Seemabaddha', then there was a long gap, after which I did 'Jana Aranya' with Satyajit Ray, and then there was again a long gap before I did major roles in his last trilogy 'Ganashatru', 'Shakha Proshakha', and 'Agantuk'.
Q: Was he a tough man to work with?
A: I found him very easy to work with. Initially I was very scared to talk to a man like Satyajit Ray with his baritone voice, structure and height, but when I heard the script in his house then I realised that he is a very simple man. I slowly got over my fright and understood that this man doesn't impose his ideas on actors, he gives his actors a free hand except in the roles where some nuances, and innuendos need to be shown. He used to act those scenes to demonstrate what he wants from the actor.
Q: How do you rate Satyajit Ray as an actor?
A: In fact, the way he used to read his scripts and portray different characters to the artists, I don't think any of us could give even 75% of his performances.
Q: Ray probably found you very suitable for dark characters.
A: (Laughs) That's a great compliment for me. My characters had darker shades in his films, but he told me during 'Ganashatru' that I don't want to make you a complete dark character. He wanted to put some human elements into my role and he maintained that as far as my role was concerned.
May be I do look like a villain, but his characters were very down to earth. They were not from outside the planet. He saw my face, my height and weight and thought that this guy is slightly villainous in comparison to others.
Q: You looked very different in 'Agantuk' then other Satyajit Ray films.
A: What happened during those scenes that I asked Manik Da, can I do this scene in such a way? He saw it and permitted me to do the same, he never imposed anything.
Q: How was Ray in his personal life?
A: Satyajit Ray as a human being was very concerned about the Calcutta life. Coffee houses, cinema movements, libraries you know, at the same time he had a very international personality. He had a personal leaning towards music, books, and even towards the man dying on the streets. He used to react to political jargons and movements but not like a politician, like in 'Shakha Proshakha' he talked about communism in Eastern Europe, he didn't like the idea. He had his own political views but he was not very outspoken about them.
Q: And you didn't have any difficulty in relating to his ideas.
A: I fully endorse his views because I am not a communist.
Q: Satyajit Ray becomes outspoken in 'Agantuk'.
A: I personally like 'Shakha Proshakha' because it's a sharp witted razor like film. Ray talks about bombing, ghettos and other important things in 'Agantuk' but 'Shakha Proshakha' is absolutely to the point.
For example take 'Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen' which is basically an anti war film, so he talks about peace.
Q: Is this true that something funny had happened on the sets of 'Agantuk' due to your penchant towards astrology?
A: (Laughs) I dabble in astrology a little bit, he didn't believe in astrology, so when his grandson was about to be born he very casually asked me 'Dipankar, tell me whether it's going to be a grandson or a granddaughter'. I did a little bit of calculation and predicted the arrival of a granddaughter. After some days when I reached to the sets of 'Agantuk', he came towards me and said that 'I will give you one tight slap; it's a grandson not a granddaughter. Your astrology is all rubbish.' Then he started laughing.