Expressing her admiration for Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray, veteran actor and theatre artist Shabana Azmi said she would have loved to act in all the films the auteur made.
“Every single one of them... Anything he would offer me,” Azmi said at a session on Ray’s film Shataranj Ke Khiladi (1977) at the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet.
Azmi, who herself acted in the film, based on a Munshi Premchand short story, said she was overwhelmed to get an offer from Ray at such an early stage of her career.
“I was so overwhelmed that the great Satyajit Ray was offering me anything at all. I put down the phone and picked it back up and put it down again, to actually believe that it was Ray talking to me,” she exclaimed.
“I was very young then. I had just entered the film industry and I must say that I wasn’t even familiar with the story except for the surface because Premchand was somebody so revered that time. So what I concentrated on was the only three days that I worked in the film.”
Talking about Ray’s mastery in cinema, she said the innovative change at the end of the film was so wonderful that it evoked discussions on how much creative freedom can be given to a filmmaker without destroying the essence of a book.
Reminiscent of her first interaction with the prolific filmmaker on the film set, Azmi explained how Ray’s suggestions and thinking fascinated her.
“When I reached the studio on the first day, I was in jeans and a T-shirt. Ray shook my hand and said, ‘Get into your costume, then we will talk’.
“I did not have the courage to ask him why. Then when I got into my costume, I realised that the costume demanded a certain posture with which I sat.
“Then he came into the room and said, ‘In those jeans, I don’t think I would have been able to communicate with you about what I want from the character’. I thought that was fantastic,” she said.
Though her screen time in the film was less, the actress said she considers herself to be lucky to have made the cut.