‘Behind every successful man is a wise and confident woman’: meet Mrs Bimal Roy

On the occasion of the renowned filmmaker’s fiftieth death anniversary, memories of his elegant wife.

In addition to their elegance and beautiful film craft, Bimal Roy’s movies have something to say — they hold up a mirror to the society of the era, highlight progressive thinking, challenge brutal exploitation and show the innate strength of women. He has been the subject of documentaries, and many books have been written on his life and work. But perhaps less well known is the story of his wife, Manobina Roy.

Bimal Roy was an established cinematographer at Calcutta’s New Theatres, working with Nitin Bose and PC Barua, when he met his future wife, Manobina Sen Roy. During a family holiday in Mukteshwar near Nainital sometime in the late 1930s, Bimal Roy first saw the young Manobina and immediately proposed. Her father initially felt ‘Bina’, as she was known, was too young to marry, but it was not long before he gave his consent. In 1939, the couple were married in a traditional Bengali ceremony in Banaras where the Sen Roy family had settled. Manobina was 17 and Bimal Roy was 28.

“Behind every successful man is a wise and confident woman”— the saying may be a cliché, but Manobina Roy did become that strong force in her husband’s life. Besides discussing his films together, she shared with him an equal understandingof photography (her own photographs were regularly published in the Illustrated Weekly of India), accompanied him on his trips in India and abroad and encouraged him to adapt literature to the screen (she was the author of the Bengali novel So Far, That Near, and was a regular columnist for Femina).

Thanks to Behroze Gandhy, a friend who still lives in London, I met Mrs Bimal Roy and her three daughters, Rinki, Yashodhra, Aparajita and son Joy. This was in the early eighties, some 15 years after Bimal Roy had passed away. It seemed that everyone who came to the sprawling and exquisite bungalow where they lived on Mount Mary Road in Bandra called Mrs Roy “Ma.” She was welcoming and warm, and as the years passed, I got to know Yashodhara, Aparajita and Joy very closely. Whenever I visited from London, I spent many hours in that enchanting house, and started calling Manobina Roy “Ma.” She said with a smile: “Has the word ‘Ma’ become some sort of a pet name?”

Through the ’90s, when the evening light turned their living room ethereally beautiful, Mrs Roy and I often sat for hours talking about her husband’s work. On the far wall of the room, a large photograph of Bimal Roy hung above a row of black statuettes. He was the only director to have received 11 Filmfare awards for Best Direction or Best Film, starting with Do Bigha Zamin in 1953. In brilliant cinematic language, the film tells the simple and heartbreaking story of a farmer struggling to save his land from a greedy landlord.

Despite the respect and critical glory that Bimal Roy received in his lifetime, money did not flow in that household. The director knew if he wanted to make films of his own choice that meant producing them, but he cared little for the box office and told me he always followed his instinct.

“In Hindi we say ‘hatke,’ and Madhumati was something different from anything that my husband had made,” Mrs Roy said. “People criticised the film because it was a ghost story. They said, ‘How can Bimal Roy, who is such a realist, stoop down to this level?’ It’s simply a ghost story, and a love story. His sternest critics did not like him making it. But Madhumati is still today [1990s] the only film that has kept us alive. All the other films are not exactly forgotten — that’s not true —they are remembered for their quality, but they do not make any money.”

One day I asked Manobina Roy to tell me something about her husband that was not widely known. The frequent description one read was that he was a man of a few words. She said, yes, he was a very silent man but he had a great sense of humour that showed itself in the privacy of their home.

On January 8, 1966, Bimal Roy died of lung cancer in that same sprawling bungalow on Mount Mary Road. Manobina Roy was only 44, a young woman by today’s standards. With the grief of losing her much-loved husband came great pressure and responsibility. Single-handedly, she raised her children and instead of closing the offices of Bimal Roy Productions and letting her husband’s staff go, she made sure that they were paid a salary well into the ’80s, even when all production had ceased.

Manobina Roy passed away in 2001. With her an era of gracious living has gone. Yashodhara, Aparajita and Joy still keep their doors wide open for me. They now live in a gem-like cottage next to the land where the old bungalow once stood. That familiar photograph of Bimal Roy still hangs on their living room wall, and now alongside it is a photograph of the lovely Manobina Roy.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.


During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.