AA: You are 65. It’s common for CEOs to continue working well into their 70s... Ray: Yes, but I have a few other interests which my career never gave me the time to pursue seriously. I believe I must devote some energy to those, now that I am, well, running out of time.
AA: Didn’t you make a film?
Ray: That remains the great regret of my life. In 1952, I started shooting Pather Panchali, based on a Bengali classic, while still working in Keymer. But I ran out of money. I sold everything I had—my wife’s jewellery, even my music collection, but it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t find a financier. No one would back a film with no songs and dances, no love interest. In 1956, I accepted defeat. Besides, the main characters in the film were a small boy and a teenage girl. They had grown up in these four years, leading to quite unsolvable continuity problems. I must confess I still feel extremely bitter about this.
AA: Would your life have been different if you had completed the film?
Ray: Well, I have always been a film buff, and assisted Jean Renoir when he came to Bengal to shoot The River. So it is possible that if Panchali got made and was successful, I would have become a full-time filmmaker.
AA: What is the state of Indian cinema now?
Ray: Pathetic. Someone called Ghatak made a film, Ajantrik (The Unmechanical), which I thought showed a unique sensibility. But he never managed to make another film. Another advertising man, Benegal, made a film called Ankur (The Seedling), which was rather good, but the producer had forced him to put in a couple of songs. Benegal found it frustrating. Went back to advertising. Heads Lintas in India now. So, nothing has changed. The other day, I saw a film called Charulata. The story had definite cinematic possibilities, but...six songs, including one where the heroine sings dolefully about her loneliness while getting drenched in the rain in a diaphanous dress. (Laughs.)
AA: Was Pather Panchali ever made into a film?
Ray: No. In fact, I spent the last two weeks reworking my original screenplay. I find it somewhat flawed now. I can easily finance the film myself today. And I intend to start on it as soon as I reach Calcutta.
Japan 1954 : What if Kurosawa hadn’t made ‘Seven Samurai’? Would ‘Sholay’ be conceived?