Satyajit Ray was born and spent his childhood in a house located on 100A Garpar Road in north Calcutta. His Grandfather Upendra Kishore Roychowdhury had stayed at several houses around this locality and this was his last residence. He designed this house himself and shifted here probably in 1914. In the same year, he founded his printing press, U.Roy & Sons, in the same building, which was probably the finest printing press in South Asia in those days.
Within no time he earned recognition in India and abroad for the new methods for printing black & white and colour photographs with great accuracy of detail. The ground floor of the building housed his Printing Press, which was the birthplace of the famous children’s magazine ‘Sandesh’. It was the first magazine for children in India with coloured pictures, and soon it became an institution in Bengal. The top floor had Wood Block Manufacturing unit, while residential unit was on the back side of the building.
Upendra Kishore died in this house in the month of December 1915. His talented son, Sukumar Ray, used to arrange frequent literary meetings (Sahitya Sabha) in the premise, which were duly attended and participated by many reputed poets and writers of the period, including Rabindranath Tagore.
Satyajit Ray, son of Sukumar Ray and his wife Suprabha Ray, was born in the building in 1921. However, after the untimely death of Sukumar Ray in 1923, the house along with the press and the manufacturing unit, were sold to the Mullicks in 1927 and finally Athenium institute shifted to this building in 1931.
After the building at Garpar was sold in 1927, Sukumar Roy’s wife Suprabha Ray shifted to her brother’s residence at 158/1/1A Bakul Bagan Road, along with her five year old son. However, young Satyajit always missed the intellectual atmosphere that prevailed at his ancestral residence.
Despite his deep rooted nostalgic feelings, only once in his later life did he visit his birthplace at 100A Garpar Road, to shoot a documentary on his father. It was not a pleasing experience for him. He was shocked and disappointed to find the façade changed its look and the name of his grandfather’s organization, U.Ray & Sons, obliterated from the top of the building. He never went back there again.
From Bakulbagan with its huge red portico, it was to Beltala Road in 1932, and then to Rashbehari Avenue in 1934, where his maternal uncle, Prashanta Kumar Das (Shonamama) built his house. After graduation, Satyajit started his career in D J Keymer, an advertisement firm, for Rs 80 a month and that was sufficient for him to start living separately in a flat at 47 Ballygunge Gardens with his mother. He married Bijaya in 1948 and Bijaya’s penchant for collecting furniture and objects d’art saw the Ray family move through a series of homes in search of space.
Till 1959, Ray used to live in another flat at 31, Lake Avenue. He directed his great films like, Pather Panchali, Parash Pathar, Aparajito, Jalsaghar and Apur Sansar, while he was staying in that flat. Today, that four-storey house is the property of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The crimson red oxide floor of the old house still remains, but the terrace has been renovated to make way for an Iskcon temple.
However, Ray was most comfortable at 3 Lake Temple Road, where he lives from 1959 to 1970. A four-room flat with a terrace, as it afforded Satyajit the much-coveted open space. While staying there, he used to take his evening walk on the terrace.
Pratidwandi was completed when Satyajit shifted to 1/1Bishop Lefroy Road in 1970. It was a colossal colonial flat, devoid of the middle-class surroundings of Lake Temple Road. The building was known as Calcutta Mansion, when Ray said to have purchased it in 1970.Bishop Lefroy was ‘Saheb Para’. Earlier, that was the address of the Russian consulate and there was hardly any social interaction with the neighbours. Finally, Satyajit became fond with his new well-lit and cheerful study and the house grew on him where he lived the last two decades of his life.