23 April, 2019

#BookReview :: Travails with the Alien by Satyajit Ray


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I have been a huge fan of Satyajit Ray since I could read on my own and has been an influence on my reading habits ever since. Mystery has been my favourite genre because I started reading with Feluda. My interest in SciFi is primarily because of Professor Shonku while my interest in supernatural is mainly thanks to Tarinikhuro.  Besides being a prolific author, Satyajit Ray was a talented screen writer, lyricist, music composer, graphic artist, calligrapher and one of the best filmmakers the world has ever seen. 

‘Travails with the Alien’ is his journey of trying to get his script about a friendly alien to come alive on screen.  Ray wrote the script of the film based loosely on his short story ‘Bonku Babur Bondhu’ hoping to make the-first-of-its-kind movie in India. Encouraged by the famous sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke, Ray pitched his screenplay to Hollywood. What followed was described ‘ordeals with the alien’ by Ray himself. Numerous visits to US, UK and France and countless meetings and correspondence resulted in nothing. What was probably Ray’s most ambitious project, never took off.

Failures and disappointments are part of an artist’s life. And Ray knew that well enough. His project never seeing the light of the day was one thing, but seeing the plot similarities in E.T. and the physical appearance of the alien in Close Encounters of the Third Kind had uncanny resemblance to his sketches for The Alien. While the world welcomed, praised and applauded these two movies by Steven Spielberg about over a decade later, Ray’s own hopes of his project ever taking off was quashed forever. The resemblances and the similarities are well known by all Satyajit Ray fans and it bothers me still that no credit was ever given to him for it. This book brings forth the original script by Ray and his correspondence over the period as kind of a proof of the claims of the Ray fans.

Aside from the original script and the collection of correspondence the book also offers the translated version of ‘Bonku Babur Bondhu’, translation of an epic interview of the author on All India Radio and also traces the Maestro’s love and affinity for science fiction.

This book should be of interest to sci-fi lovers, film enthusiasts and is a must have for Satyajit Ray fans for being the bonanza that it is.


Review Copy received from Harper Collins India

This post is a part of A to Z Challenge and BlogchatterA2Z