Ray Said ‘No’ Straight on My Face: Soumitra

RBN Web Desk: He was the auteur’s most preferred actor and worked with him in 14 films. Theirs has been one of the most successful actor-director combinations in Indian cinema. But still there was at least one instance when Satyajit Ray outright rejected actor Soumitra Chatterjee’s request to cast him in one of his films.

According to Soumitra, Ray’s decision to not cast him in his 1969 film Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, was something the actor couldn’t digest. He went straight to Ray’s home and requested the director to cast him as Goopy. Ray was still at the scripting stage of the film. While he already wrote Bagha’s role keeping Rabi Ghosh in mind, the actor to play Goopy’s role was still to be finalised, Soumitra recalled.

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Reminiscing to the media about his association with the filmmaker, Soumitra said, Ray promptly turned down his request to cast him as Goopy. When he questioned, Ray told Soumitra that he doesn’t have the look of the poor village farmer, and won’t fit into the role. A reluctant Soumitra reasoned that a deglamorised look can be achieved with proper makeup. Ray, in reply, said that no makeup artiste in India had the expertise to forge such a look.

Soumitra, still reluctant to let go another opportunity to work with Ray, insisted that he badly wanted to work in the musical. Ray, this time, firmly said that Soumitra doesn’t have the image of Goopy which he had in his mind. The actor, left with no option, finally gave up.

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When the film released, Soumitra said, he realised that none could have done justice to Goopy’s role other than Tapen Chatterjee. He was born to play Goopy. Ray, the actor said, was never wrong with his casting.

Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne went on to become the biggest hit in Ray’s career as a filmmaker. Soumitra would finally live his dream of working in a musical in the film’s 1980 sequel Hirak Rajar Deshe.

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