By Haimanti Dutta Ray
People gathered at Oxford Bookstore, Kolkata, on the evening of the 3rd of May, disregarding the Meteorological Office’s predictions of the impending cyclone, Fani. The occasion was the book launch of the acclaimed film director, music director and cinematographer, Gautam Ghose, and the subsequent panel discussion lined with luminaries from the literary as well as cinematic circles. The book, Beyond The Himalayas: Journeying Through The Silk Route, has been co-authored by producer and writer Michael Haggiag.
The panellists for the evening included renowned actress and film-maker Aparna Sen; novelist Kunal Basu whose The Japanese Wife was made into a film; former diplomat and essayist Jawhar Sircar; critic and editor Samik Bandopadhay, who is also known for his translations of works by noted playwright Badal Sircar and celebrated author Mahasweta Devi; and film scholar Jagannath Guha. Guha had accompanied Ghose on his expedition along the famous Silk Route. Gautam Ghose had made his documentary in 1996 based on the journey he had undertaken. The film was also named Beyond The Himalayas.
Gautam Ghose, the recipient of many national and international awards, including a knighthood from Star of Italian Solidarity, thanked all the persons who had worked tirelessly with him to bring out the book. He especially mentioned his co-author, Michael Haggiag. Haggiag was not present for the occasion. Ghose said that the idea for the book came to him when he re-discovered the negatives of the Silk Route lying at the bottom of his cupboard. The 14,000 km journey they made in1994 took them through Central Asia, China and Tibet. They journeyed through a number of places like Bukhara, Tashkent and Samarkand.
Jagannath Guha added, “What began as a romantic journey soon became a journey of discovery.” Before they could reach Khyber Pass, the Indian government informed them they could not guarantee their security because Afghanistan was in a state of civil war at that time.
They had driven through the entire route. Gautam Ghose said that physically, it had been a very challenging journey. He had been left awestruck by the beauty and layers of mystery that lay hidden in the land of Tibet, which was “turbulent beneath the surface”. The experiences, that the entire team had had, he added, would stay with them for a very long time.
Jawhar Sircar reiterated the extreme danger that Ghosh had embraced when he had decided to traverse through one of the most difficult terrains in the world. Kunal Basu confessed that he had been a little apprehensive before he penned the foreword for this book where he felt “the threat of the filmmaker has combined well with the threat of the narrator”.
Aparna Sen, while expressing her desire to have been a part of the expedition, revealed that the pictures used in the book have been restored.
An open forum followed where the panellists interacted with the audience. The discussion lead to a recount of the hardships and hurdles the team encountered while making the documentary, Beyond The Himalayas. The documentary is scheduled to be screened at Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) located at the Ho Chi Minh Sarani, Kolkata on the 26th of May at 4 p.m. Entry is free for all.
Interestingly, the venue for the launch, Oxford Book Store, has existed for nearly a hundred years. Mrs. Maina Bhagat of the Oxford Bookstore, mentioned that the Bookstore would soon be completing its first centenary.
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