In his introduction, Das asserts: "The authors of the earlier significant works on Ray have offered their views and evaluations of Ray, something I have scrupulously avoided. All that I have done, in a more modest exercise, is to bring together a substantial body of material (to) give readers an opportunity to have a closer and objective view of Ray the man and his work."
It is clear from the outset that Das went to some trouble to collect all the material, both from home and abroad. There are personal accounts by people who had known him intimately like Kalyani Karlekar, R. P. Gupta, Iqbal Masud, Dinkar Kaushik as well as those who provided only analyses of different aspects of his works, among them K. G. Subramanyam, Subrata Banerjee, Gaston Roberge, Saroj Bandopadhyay.
Then there are select reviews of some of his films, a complete filmography, a bibliography, and a comprehensive list of all the awards received by Ray. A most innovative section, The First Time , is a collection of the very first story, article, translation, illustration, vignettes and book jackets, designed by Ray. The section on Ray as a film- maker is kept short with contributions from Adoor Gopalakrishnan and French scholars Charles Tesson and Gaston Roberge.
The sincerity of Das' intentions his commitment can't be questioned. Whatand is regrettable is that having gathered so much material, Das fails to make a proper presentation. Some sections appear to be little more than a hurried cut- and- paste job.
The section on film reviewers contains extracts from reviews going back to '55, both from journals in India and abroad, but not enough has been done to find particularly interesting ones. The short, pithy reviews that appeared in Time Out would have added more colour to this section. An obvious omission is the lack of extracts from relevant interviews, especially well known ones (Folke Isaksson in English and Jyotirmoy Dutta in Bengali) and a recent one in French conducted through correspondence with Henri Micciollo.
It jars that many of the Bengali contributions read as if they were written originally in Bengali, then translated for this book. one— The Literary Works of Satyajit by Saroj Bandopadhyay— is openly acknowledged Ray Only as a translation.
The size and overall format of the book is a bit The odd— not quite big enough to fall into the coffee table category, it is too large to hold comfortably for a little relaxed reading. There is no index, and the bibliography carries a few unfortunate errors. But these omissions and drawbacks are not serious, and if they are overlooked, it is clear that Santi Das has produced a book with a new approach to Ray.
With regular updating and more careful editing, this book can act as a suitable introduction to the polymath that Ray was, particularly for people who might not be familiar with many aspects of his work.
Allied Publishers clearly took a bold decision when they decided to publish this book. Its limitations notwithstanding, all lovers of Ray's films and his writing are bound to thank the publishers. A book of this nature need not stop just at one; it can run into volumes. One hopes the publisher is aware of such a potential.