Recently The H. hearing me talk about Satyajit Ray’s cinema, offered his collection of the legendary master artist. So, I started with the favorite Cinema by Ray, Sonar Kella. For reasons thoroughly dissected many times over in various forums it remains a brilliant masterpiece in Children’s fiction as a book and as a movie it is loved by all, irrespective of the age they are. My earliest memories of watching this movie was on the National TV channel, in the pre DTH and pre cable TV times. Then it was a grainy black and white piece, at least that is what it was in my memory.Recently when I watched it again I was quite surprised to find the print to be colored.
What do I write about Sonar Kella that has not been written? This thought made me use Google and gave me some insights into the cinema and Ray himself. I will not attempt to talk about his craft, his talent and his mastery. I do not consider myself learned enough to do so. What I want to talk about is what this movie made me feel and the influence it has had on my experiences.
But before I begin to talk of my thoughts it is important for me to share a tiny bit about the movie and I turn to the most easily available resource on the Internet, Wikipedia for help.
I am using their link here for anyone interested to read more about the movie Sonar Kella.
The first trigger of a memory that connects this movie with life happened during a trip to Rajasthan. The original historical monument, the fort upon which the movie is based is located at Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India. This fort”s history is also worth mentioning in this write up as part of the discovery one makes when one endeavors to look deeper into a favorite cinema. I return to Wikipedia for my History lesson on Jaisalmer Fort.
I reached Jaisalmer on a January evening and having managed to survive a longish bus journey and a never ending wait to get checked in to the Hotel room, all I could think of was a warm shower and a soft bed to stretch out.
The first glimpse I had of the fort was from my Hotel balcony, in the night sky it was lit up beautifully with tiny lights and created a myth of a Golden Fort. The fort was on the schedule for the next morning and
in the early morning sunlight I was slightly disappointed that it no longer looked like the glittering fort of the night before. It had transformed into a sandy fort, dusty from afar.
The visit to the fort revealed it housed a vast populous, although it was a tourist destination, there were over 4000 people living inside the fort. What surprised me is the fact that the main attraction of the fort was the Bangali Babu, Satyajit Ray Babu, who was considered pretty much the reason for the tourist flow and the livelihood of those living in the fort. The guide told me this. When I said I knew about Ray and Sonar Kella, he was delighted, he showed me the dilapidated part of the fort that was filmed as the house where Mukul lived in his earlier life.
I suddenly felt a new significance of Ray and his Cinema, that went beyond the craft, the artistry, the design, the story, here was a more mundane story of the vast populace of the fort making a living by acting as a guide, or selling handicrafts and other nick nacks. The alleys of Sonar Kella are now filled with food joints, dress houses and barber shops. It is distinctly more alive than the fort I saw in the movie, desolate and dilapidated. It is then that I understood why the fort looked mesmerizing at night, it was because each and everyone of the inhabitants turned on their electric lights and made the fort look like something out of a dreamworld. It is at this point that I found myself differentiating Ray’s Sonar Kella and the Jaisalmer Fort. While returning as I bid the guide goodbye and he smiled I felt this unoriginal pride to be a Bong, here so many miles away from the state where I was born and raised, the bangali babu was revered. And I took a few seconds to bask in the reflected glory of his greatness.
When I watched Sonar Kella again, borrowing it from The H. This time in color, I waited with bated breath for the fort sequence which forms the fag end of the movie and its climax. I don’t know what I was hoping for, to recognize the temple or the alley or the walls, I didn’t recognize much. This Sonar Kella of Ray’s imagination and director’s eye remains shrouded in the reels of the film he made. And the real fort waits decked up in all it’s finery for the next batch of awestruck tourists in search of Sonar Kella.
But there is no disappointment, because the genius of Ray keeps you glued to the story and then it occurs to me, the story isn’t about the fort, its about the journey, the characters, the discoveries on the way. At the end there is no hidden treasure waiting to be discovered, the treasure lies strewn in each little nook and cranny of the film. And like the grumpy faced, unhappy boy Mukul finds laughter, I found the joy of watching a childhood favorite movie.
In the comments section do share which is your favorite movie from your childhood.