It is amazing how a small incident can make a crucial difference to your life and career. This was what Vishwanath’s test debut did to me. I was a relatively junior official in my company. I knew I was being trained to take over the Market Research Division. But that would have depended on my success in one or two difficult assignments . There was no dearth of competitors!
One such assignment came up in 1969- a survey on a new type of decorative closures. The liquor companies were the principal prospects. There were only three major groups and I could therefore approach each of them to conduct personal interviews.
(Satyajit Ray and I have had very little in common, personally and certainly not professionally. Most mornings I drove past Ray’s house on Bishop Lefroy Road and parked my car close by. I had, however never thought of meeting Ray, let alone, discussing his films. Yet I did meet him once…)
I had seen most of Satyajit Ray’s films, many without subtitles, in Calcutta’s theatres and had just started going to the Sunday morning shows of a film society. The film society movement owed its existence to Ray; it was pretty active in the 1970’s and 80’s and had produced renowned directors like Basu Chatterjee, Kantilal Rathod and Shyam Benegal. I had heard something about Ray’s shooting style and schedules from my colleague in Metal Box, Dhritiman Chatterjee, who had an offer for the principal role in Ray’s film Pratidhwandhi and had just finished shooting. Dhritiman was a management trainee and it took a great deal of pleading and the intervention of a Director, for the British company to bend its rules and let him take two months off for shooting.