A recently launched book on cinematographer Dilip Gupta is a collector’s item for movie buffs

Supreeta Singh

Champa Roy is finally at peace. She has been able to deliver what she promised her ailing father, the late cinematographer and one of Bengal’s unsung heroes, Dilip Gupta. Best remembered for films such as Dena Paona (1931), Kapal Kundala (1939), Deedar (1950), Biraj Bahu (1954) and the unforgettable classic Madhumati (1958), Dilip Gupta passed away on October 16, 1999.

Since then, his daughter Champa had been striving to bring out his biography. It was released recently and is called A Portrait of Dilip Gupta – The Artist Who Painted with Light and Shade.

When asked what took her so long, she says, “My mother was ill and the project got shelved. After her demise in 2007, I could again attend to it.”

Work had begun on the book way back when Dilip Gupta was convalescing after an eye operation. Champa, the second of his five daughters, used to speak to him about his early life and keep notes. Sadly, the first-time author had a difficult time getting sponsorship for publishing the book. After being kept at bay by an established film institute, Champa decided to publish the book on her own. “My husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. He had done a lot of running around for me so I wanted him to see the book before he shut his eyes,” says Champa.

The book is an ode to a man whose vision and skills gave Bengali cinema one of its golden periods. It provides a detailed account of Dilip Gupta’s life and times woven together with personal accounts of some of the most illustrious film personalities like Dilip Kumar (who has also written the foreword), Asha Parekh, Tanuja, Shammi Kapoor, Gulzar, and Shashi Kapoor, among others. The biography ends with a chronological list of Dilip Gupta’s films. There are also dedications by his family and friends interspersed with photographs.

Talking about the actor Dilip Kumar, Champa says, “Everybody had warned that I won’t get any response either from him or his wife Saira Banu. I was told that he has Alzheimer’s. But I was pleasantly surprised when he not only remembered my father but readily agreed to dictate the foreword. Gulzar was difficult. Shammi Kapoor was sweet. When I called him up, he straightaway asked me, “Do you have a pen and paper?”

Reminiscing about her father, Champa says that Dilip Gupta was very disciplined and health conscious. Since she was the youngest daughter for nine years before her third sister was born, she was pampered a lot by her parents. She writes in the book: “Baba was a health freak, he did his daily exercise early in the morning and in his younger days he was a body-builder too. He would be the first one to wake up early in the morning and in order to discipline us, would wake us up at 6am and make us dress and go out with him for morning walks…I was very fond of participating in our school elocution and singing competitions and when I won the first prize, Baba would be very happy and congratulate me with a big kiss.”

What hurts Champa most is the sheer apathy of the concerned departments in the government who take no initiative to create awareness or pay due acknowledgement to a man of his stature.

Dilip Gupta was one of the first technicians to go aboard and in 1933 and study at the New York Institute of Photography. His learned about animation from none other than Walt Disney who had taken him under his wing. His film Gotama, the Buddha, had fetched him President Award in 1966. In 1997, he was felicitated with the Bimal Roy Memorial Award for lifetime contribution. But is there anyone to take note?

Rues Champa, “No government body has taken any interest so far. Director Gautam Ghosh personally called me up and thanked me that for the first time someone like my father has got his dues, at least through a book. Next year, I hope to organise a small film festival, if all remains well.”

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