Seven-time National Film Award-winning actor Babita has garnered her career with powerful performances. She shares her memories of working with eminent filmmaker Satyajit Ray, on the maestro's birth centenary.
"I still remember the first time that I visited Satyajit Ray's residence with my elder sister Shuchanda," she shares. "Wearing my best shade of red lipstick, I had put on my best clothes, as I was to step in front of the living legend."
Ray welcomed the two sisters with a smile, accompanied by his wife. Babita recalls how the filmmaker had asked her, "Why are you wearing such heavy makeup?"
Babita, being an introvert, couldn't say a word. Ray then asked Shuchanda, "Is she very shy in nature?", which made Babita blush even more. Afterwards, Ray told Babita, "Meet me tomorrow without any makeup, and don't forget to wear a saree in Bengali style."
Babita arrived at his house again the next morning. "He handed me over a script and asked me to learn it by heart," she recalls. She left his house that day after having breakfast, with an anxious mind.
The very next day, Babita went to Ray's studio with Shuchanda. The producer of the film was also present. After observing her for a while, Ray asked her to read the script.
"He suddenly screamed 'Action!' and I was awestruck as I was too occupied in trying to perfect my lines," Babita says. "He also said that I had no resemblance with the shy young girl who had visited him earlier that week."
Babita suddenly heard him scream, "Eureka Eureka, this girl will be 'Angana Bou'!"
Babita took a sigh of relief. The actor had visited the director in the hope of a role in his films. "My fear and anxiety just vanished as I managed to land a role in his film 'Ashani Sanket'." Soon, Ray finalised her dates and the film went on to become one of the most widely appreciated works of all times and is still featured in "The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made".
Babita entered the Bangladeshi film industry just after the 1971 Liberation War, when she was 16. She was once approached by a photographer for a shoot while working at BFDC. "He took about 150 to 200 different snaps of me, but at that time I was completely unaware of the fact that these photos would end up in the hands of Satyajit Ray," she adds.
"Later, I received a letter from Ray that confirmed my role in his film, but the offer was too good to be true, and everyone started laughing when I shared the news." Afterwards, Babita got a call from the Indian High Commission for confirming the offer and asking her to meet the director as soon as possible.
Babita adds that Ray is one of the best directors that she has ever worked with. "Every year on his birth anniversary, I am reminded of his immense charisma. His work will continue to be celebrated across generations," she concludes.
Translated by Ashley Shoptorshi Samaddar