Kolkata, Nov 12, 2010 (Calcutta Tube): As a new strategy to strip the Kolkata Film Festival (KFF) of its glamour potential by bringing in beautiful stars of Bengali and Hindi cinema to light the inaugural lamp, the 16th KFF decided to do something different.
It invited 95-year-old Ramananda Sengupta, the oldest living cinematographer of Indian cinema, to light the inaugural lamp in a way to felicitate him. Though his legs fail to carry him without support, he brightened the inaugural function with his lucid nostalgic speech that became emotional in the end.
This great man, typical of the modesty that defined talents of his generation, went on about his experience of having worked with Jean Renois when the French filmmaker came to India which he considers to be the most significant milestone of his life.
Sengupta was chosen by Renoir to work as the operating cameraman on this film.
Following the completion of the shooting of The River done entirely in India, Renoir sent Sengupta alongwith his brother Claude Renoir who was D.O.P. for The River, to England to train in technicolour cinematography.
Sengupta took this opportunity to become an observer at Sheperton, Denham and Illy Studios. The cinematographic experts in technicolour taught me the finer detailing of make-up and how to judge proper make-up that changes during bright sunlight.
His work in cinematography began in 1938 when he joined as an apprentice at the Film Corporation in Kolkata. His work was confined to managing equipments like the camera box, the trolley and the power vellocilator used as a small crane for the camera in those days. This introduced him to the world of the movie camera.
“The environment in those days was ideal to learn on the job when film schools did not exist in our country. I became an expert in managiing and controlling trolleys and other camera equipment so much that I would be called if any technical problem arose,” he says.
He worked without any remuneration for two-and-a-half years at a stretch. He became assistant cameraman in 1939 and his first independent work began with the Hindi film Asha.
His earliest films that left an imprint of the kind of work to come are Rastar Chhele, Kankabotir Ghat and Bindur Chhele. He has been a trailblazer with some of the most wonderful films that strided off-mainstream films like Ghatak’s first film Nagarik and manistream films like Dakharkara, Teen Bhuboner Paarey, Nishithey, Headmaster, Kanna, Shilpi, Abhishapta Chambal, Mrinal Sen’s first film Raat Bhor and Utpal Dutta’s Ghoom Bhangar Gaan.
By Shoma A. Chatterji