My first taste of Satyajit Ray’s cinema started at the age of ten when we used to stay in Bangalore. Those were the days of VHS video cassettes and my father showed us the Apu Trilogy. Honestly speaking then I never did really understand the exact meaning of a Ray Classic. In fact, then Satyajit Ray was still alive and yet to receive the Oscar for his lifetime contribution.
It was 23rd of April 1992 we were celebrating my sister’s birthday in Bangalore, this day also happened to be our last day in Bangalore as my father had decided to move back to Kolkata. There were many guests in the party and after every one had left my father turned on the television to watch the news at nine on Doordarshan. It was then we came to know that Satyajit Ray was no more.
Fast forwarding twenty years to 2012 when I had already started working and had a family of my own did I really get the chance to understand Ray and his style of movie making. During the summer vacations my wife would visit her parents in Ranchi along with our daughter Rianna. I had to obviously stay back in Kolkata due to office commitments and during these long days of forced bachelorhood I would often watch Ray Classics.
One fine day I chanced upon Aranyer Din Ratri, since my wife was from the state of Jharkhand and moreover being from the Munda Tribe this movie struck a chord in me. Somehow I wished to make such journey along with friends in a car on my own someday.
In the year March 2015, I got such an opportunity to team up with two of my friends to make a trip to Betla and Netarhat. We had booked a car and this was the first time we had teamed up with Aftab, our trusted car driver with whom in future we had done many such long drives.
As per our schedule, we took the following route Ranchi à Betla à Netarhat à Ranchi. Betla which is part of the Palamu range also happened to be the place where Aranyer Din Ratri was extensively shot. When the car crossed the North Koel river overlooking Kechki confluence I remembered the shot from the movie where the four protagonists were entering the Palamu village.
One of the days during our stay in Betla we decided to visit Kechki confluence, this meant that we were actually following Ray in his journey to the famous Kechki Forest Rest House. Though most of the surroundings have changed but I managed to stich some of the scenes.
The Koel Forest Rest House is around ten kilometres from the main Betla forest entrance. Though there are provisions to stay here but you must remember that this is not a hotel and expecting an attached restaurant is out of the question. You need to book this by contacting the Jharkhand Government – Department of Forest. Once approved there is a caretaker who doubles up as a cook also to look after you. You need to provide him with the raw materials with which he will happily cook for you.
It is also to be noted that the current structure is not exactly what was seen in the movie. It was blown up by the Maoist rebels few years back and only recently it has been renovated. Thus do not expect the exact same type sections but more or less from the outside it looks similar.
The forest rest house is situated right at the banks of Kechki confluence. You can reach the confluence on foot from the right side. From inside of the rest house you will be able to see both the rivers, Auranga to the left and North Koel to the right. This place has got some of the most fantastic view of the confluence.
Ray played with the natural beauty of the place in most of the shots. The most remarkable according to me was the Memory Game played by all the central characters in the movie. According to various reports, this was shot at Kechki. This can also be seen when panning the camera during the game. Though not sure of the exact spot I think it’s to the left of the forest rest house, there is a long stretch of fertile grass land with tall trees. This is the place from where you access the Kechki confluence.
If you have not seen the movie then I would surely recommend you to buy the DVD and watch it once. You can get the DVD / Book from the following online stores:-