14 June, 2021

The Unerring Casting Eye

The cast in Ray’s movies stand out—children and adults with no acting experience, theatre actors and superstars...

Apu and His Creator—Ray with Soumitra Chatterjee
The Unerring Casting Eye

Satyajit Ray’s exceptional and visionary filmmaking has drawn sustained intelligent attention from scholars and cinephiles over the past several decades. As we look back to his prolific body of work over four decades, one aspect we often attribute implicitly to his creative genius or simply happenstance is his unerring eye for casting actors to parts they appeared to have been born to play. Today casting directors conduct auditions on an industrial scale to match the actor (or actor aspirant) to the part, while several parts are written with stars in mind and the role tweaked to accommodate their quirks and cloak their limitations. Given the shoestring budgets Ray worked with, it would not have been feasible to rely on someone else to match actors to the parts he had meticulou­sly written himself and he preferred to retain creative control over as many departments of the filmmaking process as he possibly could to retain his own authorial signature in the final impression. His keen literary sensibility was matched by a remarkable clarity in visualising the scenography,...

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