A master storyteller, Satyajit Ray belongs to the highest echelons of world cinema. Regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Ray mastered the craft of storytelling through simple yet emotive narration. Despite being made in a vernacular language, Satyajit Ray’s films appeal to a universal audience with their subtle depictions of the spectrum of human emotions and relationships.
Satyajit Ray justifies his observation that film making is tough business: According to Satyajit Ray film making is a tough business for various reasons. This is true in the case of Indian films, especially the Bengali films. With sufficient financial support, men and materials, it is easy for Hollywood to make a movie like Spartacus, or for the Soviet Russia to make a movie like War and Peace. They can present battles, orgies, earthquakes, fires, victory processions and other similar scenes.
However, in India epics cannot be shown, because we do not have enough money, market and technology to be able to compete with Hollywood. Therefore we have chosen the intimate type of cinemas. Our cinemas have adopted mood and atmosphere instead of grandeur and spectacle. Though our financial position has improved a little, we still have problems of our own.
If we consider film making from the initial stages, the first problem is finding an effective story, which is viewed as property. It is the director who chooses the story. His choice is based on two considerations. They are, his liking or sympathy for the story and his confidence that the story will make a good film. Here the public view is also important. The director must keep it in mind that if the film does not bring back its cost or capital, his backers will lose faith in him. He will become unwanted and a bad risk. A director may explore new themes, and new aspects of society and human relations, but they will find only a minority public or viewers. Therefore the director must be careful about his budget. Similarly, the director must avoid full-bodied treatment of physical passion. Love scenes in India must be suggestive only in the spirit of established moral conventions.
There are other problems, too. We cannot show a corrupt politician, a corrupt bank clerk with a Gandhi cap on, and an office boss passing comments on an Anglo-Indian. We cannot deviate a bit from a popular classic. Story-wise the director’s choices are very limited. He is in a narrow field. The next problem is finding the suitable casting. We have no agents to scout talent. Even if there are talented people, they do not respond to advertisements. The next problem is shooting. Our studios have crevices on the walls. They are infested by rodents. There are pits in the floors and cameras groan. Electrical power drops. In spite of all these problems, it is within the powers of the director to make a good film or a bad film. It is exciting to be able to create beauty even in the absence of necessities and comforts.
The problems of casting in Indian films:
In the Indian film making casting has its problems. It is the first step in the process of interpretation. In Indian films some of the roles are pre-cast. The roles are created keeping certain actors and actresses in mind. But there are no professional players for the role of an 80-year old grandfather. Similarly, there are no players for minor roles such as common men, women, children, peasants, shopkeepers, professors, prostitutes and so on. How to find actors for these roles is the question. In most countries there are agents who keep a list of all available extra actors. The director can choose his actors from them. In India there are no such agents and talent-scouts. The deserving people do not respond to advertisements for fear or suspicion of refection. Those who respond are not suitable for the roles. Therefore the search is made on streets among pedestrians, in race-meets, parties and wedding receptions. Satyajit Ray was lucky in finding the right players for his roles, but the possibility of failure was always around the corner. There is always an acute shortage of good professional actors and actresses of middle age and above. There are roles that can be brought to life only by professionals. Thus casting is always a problem in film making.