‘Is this man for real?’ Notes from the sets of Satyajit Ray’s ‘Shatranj Ke Khilari’
Generally, film directors are uncomfortable with crowds and spectators on their sets but Manikda was altogether contrary. I can’t remember even a single occasion during the shooting of Shatranj Ke Khilari at Indrapuri Studios when there were less than 150 to 200 onlookers. And it wasn’t as if a mob would gatecrash and then become impossible to clear – no, not at all. Requisite arrangements were made to accommodate the visitors. A rope was used as a makeshift barricade so that outsiders did not step inside the area of work, and there would also be chairs for special guests.
What baffled me was that work would carry on as usual, seemingly oblivious to the throng. The audience too would watch the proceedings in perfect decorum. The sets were always free of any kind of disruption, and I didn’t hear Manikda raise his voice ever. He even gave instructions to the artistes so softly . . .