When Jean Renoir gave Ray a photograph of his, he wrote on its back “To Manik Ray. I look forward to seeing him as a married man” during the former’s Calcutta visit in 1949 to find locations for his film The River. Little did he know that Ray had already been married to Bijoya Ray.
Bijoya (born in 1917) was the first cousin of Satyajit Ray and spent most part of her early youth in great hardship after the death of her father in 1931. Shortly afterwards, she shifted with her family to the residence of her step-uncle Prasanta Das, where Satyajit himself was living with his mother Suprabha. Bijoya shared Ray’s passion for Western classical music and Hollywood musicals, and this served as the common platform which brought the two closer to each other. The bond that grew between them culminated in their marriage on October 20, 1948.
Bijoya wasn’t just a wife to Ray but was more of a life companion to him. She inspired him and was instrumental in encouraging him to follow his filmmaking career despite the financial hardships. The first to hear his scripts and stories, Ray counted on her opinion while writing detective stories in particular, as she has been a lifelong crime fiction enthusiast. She would also make fair copies of her husband’s screenplays as Ray had a nearly illegible handwriting. She even helped her husband in costume designing.
A writer in her own right, Bijoya Ray took over as the editor of Sandesh, the Ray family magazine, after the death of her husband, and translated Ray’s childhood memoirs, Jokhon Chhoto Chhilam (Childhood Days: A Memoir), from Bengali to English. She authored Bijoya Ray Remembers and the remarkably candid Amader Katha (Speaking of Ourselves), which has been on the bestsellers list ever since its publication.