Satyajit Ray’s foreword in Gaston Roberge’s “Chitrabani: A Book on Film Appreciation”

Srinivas Krishnaswamy (a.k.a Srini), a cinephile and a friend of TCRC, brings us this rare foreword penned by auteur Satyajit Ray for a book titled “Chitrabani: A Book on Film Appreciation.” The book was authored by Fr. Gaston Roberge and was published for the first time in 1974. It has now gone out of print and on Srini’s request, Fr.Gaston Roberge has typed out Ray’s essay from his old copy of the book. We thank both of them for making this lovely essay available to us.

Chitra Bani, 1974

Foreword by Satyajit Ray, 26 January 1974

Gaston Roberge has written a film book which is aimed primarily at the Indian student of the cinema. Even ten years ago, a project like this would have made no sense. That it does so now is due to the enormous increase in interest in the cinema among the young people of the country, thanks largely to the spread of the film society movement. But this is not a phenomenon restricted to India alone. One has only to turn to the bibliography at the end of the book to realise what a vast amount of literature on the cinema is available to the enthusiast now. In my youth, when I set out in the pursuit of film, there were hardly a dozen worthwhile books on the subject in English.

For aesthetics, one turned to Arnheim, Spottiswoode, to Balasz and to Pudovkin. Eisensstein’s erudite essays didn’t see the light of the day until the late 40’s. For history, there was Rotha, there was Bardèche and Brasillach and, if one’s special interest lay in Hollywood, there was Lewis Jacobs. There were also a few odd collections of film criticisms – Agate’s, C. A. Lejeune’s, and a compilation by Alistair Cook called Garbo and the Nightwatchman. As for screenplays, one looked around in vain for them. The only film script in book form that I was able to track down was on René Clair’s first English language film, The Ghost Goes West.

The situation has, of course, changed drastically. Today is not unusual for even a modest pavement book stall in Calcutta or Bombay to display titles in the Cinema One series, or some of the admirable Lorrimer screenplays, or even a dog-eared old copy of Cahiers du cinema. And the amazing thing is that these books and magazines don’t stay in the stalls for long, but are picked up by young film buffs who are slowly building up their own private libraries.

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