The success of 'The Householder' as a stepping stone for Shashi Kapoor's foray into international cinema has a lot to do with the legendary Satyajit Ray, who not only loaned to the film's makers his genius cameraman but also suggested music and editing for it, says a new book. Released in 1963, 'The Householder' is a black and white comedy-drama featuring Shashi in his first English film. The film was directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant with the duo forming the famous Merchant-Ivory Productions.
"If 'The Householder' is considered lucky despite confronting a spate of monetary challenges - it is on account of the unexpected intercession of the legendary filmmaker, Satyajit Ray. James met Satyajit during a visit to Calcutta; it so happened that the Bengali master had seen a short film of his and had liked it. Satyajit introduced James and Ismail to his cinematographer, Subrata Mitra; he loaned them this genius of a cameraman, who went on to shoot 'The Householder', giving it its pristine look with stunning black-and-white montages," says the recently released 'Shashi Kapoor - the Householder, the Star', written by Aseem Chhabra.
In addition, Ray stepped in for 'The Householder's' music production - enlisting the help of Ali Akbar Khan, the sitar maestro - and even re-edited the film with his editor, Dulal Dutta, when James and Ismail showed him a rough cut. James recounts how this came to be in an interview with the novelist, Amitav Ghosh.
"After 'The Householder' was edited, it still seemed very unwieldy, not very nicely done... I asked [Ray] if I could bring the film to show him. He said sure come on. So Ismail and I climbed on the train we took the Hindi version of it, all those cans, there must have been twenty-four cans or something. We went from Bombay to Calcutta with all that film. He saw it and liked it he thought there was something there to work with. I asked him whether he could give us any suggestions about the cutting and he said, yes. He would re-cut it, but he didn't want me to interfere while he was doing that.
"He said let me have a go at it, I'll do it my way, you can be in the editing room if you want to be, when we're all done you can change it if you want to, that's your business, but let me do what I want to do. So then he and his editor Dulal Dutt[a] re-cut the film. They took about four days, and gave it a new shape. It was he [Ray] who suggested that it go into a flashback form," says the Rupa Publications' book, the maiden biography on Shashi Kapoor.