Q: Coming back to Kolkata after a long time. How does it feel?
Anand: I myself always thought of Kolkata as my own and I’ve come back to my city. I’d just like to say that it will be 50 years of Gupi Gyne Bagha Byne and that I think, is my ‘birth’ because when I joined the city it started Gupi Gyne Bagha Byne, so I think I am 50 years old today; it’s my birth date and this is my birth place. So it’s always a pleasure to come back here.
Q: Since you spoke about your life beginning with one of Satyajit Ray’s works, how has your life evolved from meeting to working with him?
Anand: No, I just felt that, he had a great deal of warmth; Manik da. And that warmth, it depended upon you, how much you could absorb that. And I think that I bathed in that warmth, in his glance and that’s why his family is my family and I can’t think of anyone else being more close to me. I belong to them, they belong to me.
Q. How does it feel being surrounded by all the great actors of Gupi Gyne Bagha Byne through out the shooting schedule?
Ans: Oh my God! You know speaking about Gupi Gyne, it is incomplete without Rabi da. Rabi da was absolutely amazing; I mean what an actor. He still remains my favourite actor. I get inspired in my commoning by simply remembering Rabi da because I spent a lot of time with him in Gupi Gyne Bagha Byne, Aranyer Dinraatri. He is just a volcano of talent; I mean any actor standing in front of him were overshadowed by him, and he didn’t have to do anything. He was not like any other comedian, making faces; it was his eyes which could deliver everything. Absolutely amazing actor!
Q: If there were three wishes being granted to you by Mr. Satyajit Ray, what would you ask for?
Anand: (laughs) first would be to become an assistant again to Satyajit Ray. Second being to spend more time under him. Lastly, spending so much time that I would not have to share him with anybody.
Q: Gupi Gyne Bagha Byne was shot throughout vivid locations in Jaisalmer and you had a very important role to play in these shoots. If you could tell us a bit more on this.
Anand: I was very lucky because in my Jaisalmer trip, there the Maharaja’s son was my friend; we were from the same school. I had done my schooling from Rajasthan and incidentally we were going there for our first film. It was a foreign unit for me because I didn’t know Bengali, and I was only an outsider from Bombay.
Q: And Mr. Ray helped you with a translated script!
Anand: My God! It was unbelievable. That man was something unbelievable. No one does it. No one. I wish every director take that much interest in their assistants. I mean Manik da was an unbelievable person. I still have those printed papers (the ones typed by Satyajit Ray on his typewriter) and cling to them. So, how I came very close to Manik was because of the ‘uth othao’ sequence where we had to control 100 camel riders and if you don’t know their language, it’s very difficult to communicate with them. So at first, Manu da tried in Hindi; god! His Hindi was atrocious. So Manik da told me, “You take over and please communicate whatever I want.” So you know, I was standing outside there, I became very close to Manik da. And, that was my first dive into becoming very close to Manik da. And after that, I did become his shadow, I mean I used to know where his shadow was all the time. In that way I was very fortunate.
Q. How has life changed after working with Satyajit Ray and then going to Bollywood?
Anand: Oh, that was my disqualification. Because in Bombay, they all thought that Manik da made films on famine and with very few happy moments; they want “happy films”. To this attitude I always used to say that “c’mon open your eyes, open your eyes, there is a bill coming to cinema one day.” For one and a half years I struggled, trying to do something different but ultimately I succumbed to it and of course I blame myself only, for that. I succumbed and I started making commercial cinema, but again I had learnt under “the master”; I should not forget, and should not forget to thank that “master” for having shown me what script writing was, and how editing is done on the scripting stage itself. So, those things I brought into myself and I’m very grateful to him for that.
Interviewed by Astha Pramanik