Archive for June, 2011


Part 1

The story begins with Ramsundar Deo, the earliest-known ancestor of Ray family, a Hindu by religion, a youth by age, moved from a village in West Bengal to East Bengal (now Bangladesh), wondering there, he reached a village called ‘Serpur’ where at the local zamindar’s house he met the ruler of a nearby place called ‘Yasodal’. He likes Ramsundar for his quick intelligence and invited him to Yasodal. There Ramsundar was given a piece of land, a house and a daughter in marriage. Ramsundar spent his life administrating the property of his in law’s.

Subsequently, the generations of his family live there in Yasodal, and later moved further deep into the east, a place called ‘Masua’. It was located on the other side of the Brahmaputra river. The family across time gathered wealth and education and also acquired the title of ‘Majundar’, a common Bengali surname which means ‘revenue accountant’. The actual surname which the family uses today was another honorific title ‘Ray’. The word was derived from another Bengali word ‘Raja’ (means king).  Then in the latter half of the eighteen century the family was further divided into two branches. The reason was a flood that destroyed the Masua. As a result the family, one of which became noted for its learning, the other for its wealth and piety got separated in course of time and situation.

Among the two families, one was lead by Ramkanta Majundar. A man of talent, he was very fluent in several languages, an expert singer and musician. Not only that, he was a man of great physical strength and courage. It is said that he would eat a full basket of parched rice and a whole jackfruit for breakfast. In another incident it is said that once Ramkanta was sitting in his verandah, when a wild boar attacked him. He grabbed its snout and held it in his vice-like grip before shouting for help.

It was this particular generation that developed the verse in the family, as Ramkanta’s eldest son has this habit of replying to a question in verse. Ramkanta had three sons. Among them the youngest one became a famous scholar in Persian. But the second son, Loknath, was so fluent in Sanskrit, Arabic & Persian that he was able to read aloud in one language from a book written in another so fluently that his listeners would not know that he was actually translating.  But unfortunately, Loknath started taking interest in Tantric yoga in his twenties, which on the other hand was a matter of concern for his father, who thought that his son may go into sannyasi. As a result Ramkanta secretly gathered his books and other sacred objects one day and dropped them in to the river. Loknath was so shattered that he took to a fast and died within three days. As he lay on his death bed he told his weeping wife, who held their only child, ‘Now you have only, but from him will come a hundred!’ –  A famous family story often repeated in Satyajit Ray’s childhood a century later.

Loknath’s son was Kalinath, father of Upendrakisore, great grandfather of Satyajit Ray, was probably born in 1830s. He too was a scholar in Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian, but not a sannyasi. Kalinath Ray was better known as ‘Munshi (Professor) Syamsundar’ in his time, which was quite an unusual distinction for a Hindu in a period when Islam was in retreat all over the India.

India at that time was under the British rule, and Brahmos were the most energetic group of Bengalis who evolved and reacted strongly both to Christianity, western literature and ideas such as sati in that particular period of time (around 1820s). Founded & lead by Raja Rammohan Roy, the greatest Indian intellectual of nineteenth century.  Later after his death, Devendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath Tagore led the Brahmos. The Ray family became associated with the Brahmos in 1880s.


Grain, Gauge & Speed

Probably one of the most important developments in the history of word cinema production was the development of first film stocks; it gave the film makers the freedom to photograph scenes which were once considered impossible.

Earlier without the use of huge, expensive arc lights film making was considered impossible, but with the introduction of film stocks film makers could use the available light to shoot, at night or indoor.  First came the color stock and then the black & white, which gave the film almost the same sensitivity that our eyes have. The exposure speed of a film stock is closely linked with its definition or grain, and varies inversely. Faster films are grainer; slower films give sharper, fine grain images.

A standard frame of 35mm film has an area slightly more than half a square inch. If it is projected on to a screen which is 40 feet wide, it has to fill an area that is 350000 times larger than itself – a prodigious task. And in case of a 16 mm film the magnification is 1400000 times more. The graininess of the film stock which is unnoticeable if the enlarged range is kept with 8×10 inch prints. Then the question rises how a 35 mm or a 16 mm film will be projected on to a 40 feet wide screen, sharp and clear. The distance between the image and the viewer comes into play at this point of time. From the back row of a very large theatre with a small screen, the image of a 35mm movie might appear in the same perspective as in an 8×10 print held one foot in front of the observer. In that case the grain would appear to be more or less equivalent.

35mm film stock has been there for a number of years now, most suitable for the amateur filmmakers, where as the 16mm stock has been useful for the television work. The ‘super 16’ format developed in the early 1970s was measurably having a little more area in the frame and the definition of the image. But whatever problems of definition and precision exits in 35mm will be multiplied by a factor of 4 in 16mm and a factor of 16 in a 8mm film stock. But by the same logic, a grater or wider film stock (say 70mm) will greatly ameliorate those problems. Hence 70mm film stocks are valuable for productions that need a feeling of panoramic details and power on a large screen.

Lastly, regarding the cost, 16mm stock is two to four times cheaper than 35mm stocks. But the most important thing to notice is the gauge of a film stock, which is a double variable. As because with wide screen processes the gauge in which the film is shot need not to be the one or same gauge in which it is distributed. For the most part, the gauge of the projected print is important in accordance with the size of the screen it must fill, while the gauge of the negative camera original will affect the clarity of the film throughout the several processes it will undergo.

Top 10 tips on taking better picture


Let me put forward some common ideas that may help you to improve your skills in photography.

Most important, keep your camera with you as much as possible. Keep it ready as soon as you get the smell of a good viewpoint.



Hold your camera Steady – The photographer must hold his camera steady enough to produce sharp images. Shaky hands or pushing the shutter button abruptly may result in fuzzy pictures.


Know your camera – To take good pictures, you have to become very familiar with your camera. Reading the camera manual thoroughly will surely help you to carry out the adjustments under a wide variety of conditions.


Move close to your subject(s) – Never mind going close to your subject. Whether it is a village church, your daughter’s wedding, or anything else. Always get close enough so that your frame/viewfinder holds only the most important things that you want to show/shot. One of the most common mistakes that everyone gets involved in consciously or unconsciously is not to measure the ‘real weightage’ of the frame. The ‘real weightage’ refers here the most important things that you must hold in your frame.


Correct Exposure – Before you move into a suitable ground, where photography is possible, always remember to adjust your camera setting according to the conditions, like light intensity, subject, and its distance from the camera, etc.


Direction of the Light – One of the most important factors is the direction of the light. Direct light or very bright light often make the subject to squint, as a result a very unattractive result comes out. Light from the side or even from the back is considered as a good direction of light and often produces good pictures.


BG & FG – Through the viewfinder, the photographer must notice the background (BG) and the foreground (FG) before exposing the sensor/film to the light. Cluttered BG can create disturbance to the eyes, resulting in confusion. Try to keep the picture as simple as possible.


Subject Placement – Though there no such fixed rule, but it is advisable to place your subject(s) slightly off-centre. It is believed that when a subject is shown dead-centre, it appears static and dull. But remember there is always a chance to carry out your own experiments. As I have mentioned in my last lesson that there is no such fixed rule, hence you may carry out your own perspective in taking pictures and placing your subjects into the frame.


Candid Shots – Rather than arranging your subjects like it is done in the studios, try to take the advantage of the natural moments. When people get engage, and forgets the presence of the camera, click your best shots at that time. Never make your subject(s) feel uncomfortable.


Flash-to-subject Distance – While taking pictures in flash light, the photographer must maintain the constant distance between the subject and the camera flash, so as to get the correct exposure.


Take many pictures – The potential for taking a successful picture lies behind the number of clicks per subject.  Take many pictures of a subject, from all possible angles. Always remember, ‘the cost of all the exposures per subject is far less than a missed opportunity’.

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