Upendrakisore, Sukumar Ray’s father & Satyajit’s grandfather was born in 1869. Although he was born in ‘Masua’, a rural area in Bangladesh, but soon made a long journey to Calcutta, where he too got attracted towards Brahmoism. Upendrakisore was the fifth son of Kalinath Ray. And he was been adopted at the age of five by a childless relative belonging to the orthodox, wealthy branch of Ray family. This relative, a zamindar and lawyer by profession chose Upendrakisore among his brothers due to his skin color, which was indeed really very fair. Not only that, the relative who adopted him also changed his name to Upendrakisore from Kamadaranjan, after the style of his own name, Harikisore, to which he added the honorific surname of ‘Ray Chaudhuri’.
From a very young age Upendrakisore, was quite fond of music and drawing. One when the Governor visited his school he saw a boy was drawing intensely in the class. With curiosity, he picked up the book to discover an amazing drawing/sketch. The Governor was a British man, and in reference to that the school teachers were quite worried as to how the ‘sahib’ would react. But, instead, the ‘sahib’ patted little Upendrakisore, and said – ‘You must not let this skill disappear’.
Upendrakisore stayed in Calcutta, and kept his practice of drawing and singing. He later stated practicing the Indian classical style under the best teachers and also developed his love for Brahmo songs and hymns. His singing was so good that once at a performance at Jorasanko, the Tagore family mansion in North Calcutta, led him to the lifelong friendship with Rabindranath Tagore.
In the year 1884, Upendrakisore got married to the daughter of Dwarkanath Ganguli, and moved to the large family house at 13 Cornwallis Street in central Calcutta, just opposite to the main temple of the Brahmo. Upendrakisore’s wife was a remarkable woman in her own right. She bore him three sons and three daughters. Among them, Sukumar, Satyajit’s father, was their second child, born in 1887. On the other hand, Upendrakisore continued his practice of drawing and music. He often used to play his Violin and sing. He was so good in it, that often listeners gathered in the street outside, just like as they did when he took his family outside to an exhibition or festival and explained things to the children.
Sukumar Ray took after his father in many ways. He was serious, lively and intensely curious and also a natural story teller. From a very young age, he would show pictures of wired and wonderful animals to his brothers and sisters from their father’s storybook, and invent his own story about them. He also used to create his own creatures, with untranslatable names. When Sukumar was about eight, a new element appeared in his life, which later also influenced Satyajit Ray greatly. It was the printing press.
Calcutta by 1890s was well equipped with printing press technologies, but good quality printing & its illustration was seriously lacking. As a result of this, Upendrakisore’s illustrations of Ramayana for children’s book were totally ruined. With merely a handful of technical books published in West, Upendrakisore decided to start first Calcutta based high quality printing process. Soon his effort brought him international prizes for best quality printing reproduction. Soon he started to order cameras and various pieces of half tone equipments from British. The money for such investment came from selling most of his share in the zamindari to his foster brother Narendrakisore, who was in charge of it, following his father, Harikisore’s death.
Read Part I, click here