Nemai Ghosh: The most eminent Satyajit Ray's lensman

Nemai Ghosh has kept tracking the most eminent Satyajit Ray for over the two decades. Nemai imbibed such great qualities like- discipline, sincerity & honesty- from Ray. Throughout his career, these are the qualities which helped him. During the early years, with Utpal Dutt in the Little Theatre Group, Nemai was laid down on the basis for these qualities.

Nemai Ghosh, most eminently known as Satyajit Ray's lensman, was born in the 1930's. He is a renowned Bengali man, born on the land of Bengal. He is lauded for his photography work on painting and theatre. On the year 2011, the 77-year old photographer launched his memoir- Manik-da: Memories of Satyajit Ray. Former to this, he produced two more books- Satyajit Ray at 70 & Satyajit Ray: A Vision of Cinema. A man of such glory & honor kept on tracking Ray for two decades by shooting photographs while Ray was on the sets for the various film-shoots. Nemai called Ray as Manik-da.

Turning point in life of Nemai Ghosh

Nemai Ghosh was then acting into a theatre. And one day, when he was about to leave for his theatre rehearsals, one of his friends walked in. He astonished Nemai as he showed him the still camera. It was a fixed lens Cannonette QL 16. While this friend was returning in a cab, he found this camera inside there and realized that someone had left it behind. He had paid Rs. 10 to the taxi-driver & got hold of it. Some of the friends of Nemai were linked to Ray's unit, some with New Theatre in either the camera or art departments. These friends promised him that they would get cut-piece of films for him. Hence, they forced him to get hold of that still camera for himself. They taught him the basics & then he started working on it.

Nemai Ghosh association with Satyajit Ray

Almost immediately after getting hold of this camera & starting to work on it, to try his hands at outdoor photography, he went on an outing to Rampurhat. At the same time, there was the shooting of Manik-da's (Ray's) Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne going on. As few of his friends were in Ray's unit, he got the most precious opportunity of getting two rolls of candid shots from this shooting. Nemai showed these pictures around after returning back to Kolkata. At those times, it was like an unimaginable fantasy to take photos of Ray's film-shoots. Hence, it was a very big thing that Nemai did so. He showed the stills to his friend Banshi Chandragupta (Ray's Art Director). After going through them, Banshi called him to the NT1 Studio where Ray's unit was shooting. After going there, Banshi showed the pictures to Ray, who was amazed to found Nemai's compositions very similar to what Ray would have done himself. That was how it all started. Years passed by while he never realized when he had become a part of Ray's unit or rather Ray's family.

Nemai Ghosh during shooting of Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne

For over two decades, Nemai has been present with Ray during all the shoots- starting from Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne to his last film Agantuk & also, the documentaries. For Ray's earlier films he never had a still photographer. As Ray often forgot to take his stills, he asked Nemai to keep taking them during the shoot of Aranyer Din Ratri. This was the first time he realized that he had a great responsibility. Nemai started receiving payment only from Ghare Baire.

Favorite photographs by Nemai Ghosh

Over the years, Nemai has taken more than 90,000 photographs. The book, Satyajit Ray: A Vision of Cinema was a collaborative project between Andrew Robinson & Nemai Ghosh. This book was very close to their hearts. Most of Nemai's favorites are compiled in this book. One of the most memorable photographs in this book is the shoot from Ashani Sanket. This was the sequence where Babita is, precisely, molested in the woods. In more details, Babita falls behind the rest of the group & is attacked. So when the others rushed to her, Ray started running behind them with the camera. At the same time, Nemai started running alongside. It was then when Nemai took this still but there are other memorable ones though.

Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne with Satyajit Ray

Nemai & Ray really had a great harmonious understanding between them. Ray was very flexible. Ray's unit was totally engrossed in every way. Everyone worked like a clock-work, from the man behind the trolley to the boy carrying water. That Ray was the grammar of film-making is one of the greatest reasons for Nemai who could never adjust with any other team; not even with Sandip, who has shades of his father in him. When Nemai used to go in for the shoot in the morning, he would find Ray laid down his notes on the table open for everyone to see. Nemai, himself, used to go through the notes along with the unit in order to plan out where he would be taking the working stills & where he would take his pictures. Nemai had a great rapport with both Ray & his unit.

Most memorable trip with Satyajit Ray

One of the most memorable trips that Nemai have been on with Rayis to Birbhum for the Ashani Sanket shoot. These people were the first lodgers in the Bolpur Tourist Lodge which had just then been inaugurated there. One day, they had the call time at six in the morning but Ray was all set at 5:30am when he was pacing the balcony. No sooner did the entire unit got to know that Ray was ready than they were up & about in a flash as in a fire alarm had been sounded.

Nemai had worked with Ritwik Ghatak in Jukti Takko Aar Gappo; Mrinal Sen in Interview & Calcutta 71; Goutam Ghose in Paar & Antarjali Jatra; M.S. Sathyu, Roland Joffe in City of Joy. He has also worked for four days with Mira Nair in The Namesake on special request.

Manik-da: Memories of Satyajit Ray

In the year 2000, a French-Belgian group came up to Nemai to make a documentary on him. As an interpreter, Kanchana Mukhopadhyay was working with this group. Kanchana came up with the idea of a book, which is a compilation of 50 photos & 50 articles. This book was first published in Bengali & then in French. Later, when Harper Collins approached Nemai for a book, he showed them the earlier version, which they wanted to do it in English. They added an extra to it, that is, they added the foreword by Sharmila Tagore, which is not there in the French & Bengali versions.

Nemai Ghosh with Michelangelo Antonioni

Nemai got the fabulous opportunity of meeting Michelangelo Antonioni while working on the book, Satyajit Ray at 70, in 1991. Again he met Antonioni in 1994. Both of them maintained correspondence as Nemai went to Italy on his 94th birthday celebrations.
Both Michelangelo Antonioni & Satyajit Ray were painters, apart from being film-makers. So, Nemai then planned to do a book compiled on their personal lives. As Ray made a documentary on Benode Behari Mukherjee, so Nemai is working on a book on Benode.


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