CLASSIC MOMENTS BRM members are planning a film appreciation school and a museum in the directorâ€™s memory
In this series, we cover unusual groups. Ketan Tanna, this week, profiles a unique club called Bimal Roy Memorial
Needless to say, all Bimal Roy fans will not fit into a flat, especially a flat in Mumbai. Bengalis would insist that Bimal Roy fans will not fit into Bengal even. But then a house full of extreme fans of the departed film director is a good place to begin.
In this upscale Bandra flat of his eldest daughter Rinki Bhattacharya, the walls are, inevitably, adorned with posters of classics like Do Bigha Zamin, Parineeta, Devdas, Sujata, Bandini and Madhumati. In the main living room, nine of the over 150 members of the Bimal Roy Memorial (BRM) sit for one of their frequent meets.
BRM was founded in 1997. â€œOur mission is preservation, restoration and acquisition of Bimal Royâ€™s film prints with other memorabilia such as posters, publicity stills, old contracts, and film related documents,â€ says Bhattacharya. â€œThe organisation conducts concerts, organises programmes, and felicitates journalists, technicians, performing artistes.â€ An activity that has truly become a rage is the musical series, Smriti Sandhya, which recreates the nostalgic mood of the black and white age. The response to the first Smriti Sandhya was so huge that police had to be called in.
Fifty-three-year old Vidhyadhar Kamat points to a still of Do Bigha Zamin, and says with uncontrollable excitement, â€œLook at the expression of the face of the zamindar and that pleading look on the labourerâ€™s face sitting on the floor. See the composition and the arrogance in the eyes of the zamindar who is smoking a hookah.â€
One of the fans in the room is 60-yearold yoga teacher Danny Pereira, the only member of the BRM, besides Bhattacharya, to have met Bimal Roy. Pereira was in school then and one day he and his friends wandered into the sets of Do Bigha Zamin in Mohan Studio. Roy noticed the school kids and was worried that they had bunked class. He quizzed them. When they assured the director that they had come after finishing school, Roy gave each of them an ice cream and made them feel more comfortable than they already were.
As the conversations of this chatty group ebbs and flows, a strange character of the Nehruvian age accidentally comes through. Advertising professional Supriya Naiksatam, who is the secretary of BRM, says that her parents did not let her watch films when she was growing up. Another member, 53-yearold Vaijayanti Gupte, a social worker, nods to indicate a common plight. Gupte stayed in a hostel during her student days, but the freedom from parents was not enough to secure the right to watch movies. The only films she was allowed were educational or mythological. After Gupteâ€™s confession arrives the bombshell. Rinki Bhattacharya says that her father, Bimal Roy, too, never allowed her to watch films when she was young.
Though the members of the BRM do not want to come across as a snobbish clique that criticises the way modern films are made, they cannot resist commenting on the jarring overacting and the enactment of some scenes in Sanjay Leela Bhansaliâ€™s Devdas. Vidhyadhar Kamath says that actor Motilal, who played Chunnilal, Devdasâ€™ friend in the Bimal Roy classic, was subdued and refined compared to Jackie Shroff in Bhansaliâ€™s version who, she says, was over the top.
But they do speak fondly of Bhansaliâ€™s gesture of inviting Rinki Bhattacharya to the sets of Devdas. Also, the premier of his version was dedicated to Bimal Roy. They like it when the new generation acknowledges the greatness of the old. Like when Vidya Balan admitted, after a special screening of Royâ€™s Parineeta, that she was no match for Meena Kumari.
Bimal Royâ€™s fans say that his contribution to Hindi Cinema was overshadowed by the showmanship of Raj Kapoor and the newsworthy traumas of Guru Dutt. â€œYes, my father never got his due. Maybe because he was not the chatty type nor was he a showman,â€ says Rinki.
Bimal Roy might not have got his due but BRM members are determined to preserve his legacy. Funds are always a problem as the annual membership fee of BRM, at Rs 750 to Rs 1100, is nominal. Finding sponsors is a hard task and the government often says it is broke. But Bimal Royâ€™s fans cannot forsake their dreams. In the future, they see a film appreciation school and a museum dedicated to his