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The Alien was an Indian-American science fiction film under production in the late 1960s which was eventually cancelled. It was being directed by the parallel Bengali film director Satyajit Ray and co-produced by Hollywood studio Columbia Pictures. The script was written by Ray in 1967, loosely based on Bankubabur Bandhu (Banku Babu's Friend or Mr. Banku's Friend), a Bengali science fiction story he had written in 1962 for Sandesh, the Ray family magazine, which gained popularity among Bengalis in the early 1960s. Bankubabur Bandhu was eventually adapted into a television movie by Satyajit Ray's son Sandip Ray alongside Koushik Sen in 2006.[1]

Contents

Plot

What differentiated The Alien from previous science fiction was the portrayal of an alien from outer space as a kind and playful being, invested with magical powers and capable of interacting with children, in contrast to earlier science fiction works which portrayed aliens as dangerous creatures.

The plot revolved around a spaceship that landed in a pond in rural Bengal. The villagers began worshiping it as a temple risen from the depths of the earth. The alien, known as "Mr. Ang", established contact with a young village boy named Haba (meaning "Moron" in Bengali) through dreams and also played a number of pranks on the village community in course of its short stay on Planet Earth. The plot contained the ebullient presence of an Indian businessman, a journalist from Calcutta and an American engineer.

Ray's biographer W. Andrew Robinson describes one particular scene from the screenplay as follows: "In a series of fantastically quick, short steps over the lotus leaves, the Alien reaches the shore of the pond. He looks down at the grass, examines the blade and is off hopping into the bamboo grove. There the Alien sees a small plant. His eyes light up with a yellow light. He passes his hand over the plant, and flowers come out. A thin, soft high-pitched laugh shows the Alien is pleased."[2]

Production

The Alien had Columbia Pictures as producer for this planned US-India co-production, and Peter Sellers and Marlon Brando acting in lead roles. However, Ray was surprised to find that the script he had written had already been copyrighted and the fee appropriated by Mike Wilson (Ray's representative in Hollywood). Wilson had copyrighted the script as co-writer, despite not being involved in any way in its creation. Marlon Brando later dropped out of the project and though an attempt was made to bring James Coburn in his place, Ray became disillusioned and returned to Calcutta. Columbia expressed interest in reviving the project several times in the 70s and 80s but nothing came of it.

Legacy

When the New Hollywood film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was produced in 1982 by the same company that had contracted with Ray in 1967, many, including Arthur C. Clarke, saw striking similarities in the movie to Ray's earlier script - Ray discussed the collapse of the project in a 1980 Sight & Sound feature, with further details revealed by Ray's biographer Andrew Robinson (in The Inner Eye, 1989). Ray believed that Steven Spielberg's film "would not have been possible without my script of The Alien being available throughout America in mimeographed copies." When the issue was raised by the press, Spielberg denied this claim and said "I was a kid in high school when his script was circulating in Hollywood."[3] Star Weekend Magazine disputes Spielberg's claim, pointing out that he had graduated from high school in 1965 and began his career as a director in Hollywood back in 1969.[4] Besides E.T., it is also believed that another earlier Spielberg film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), was also inspired by The Alien.[3][5]

The 2003 Bollywood film Koi... Mil Gaya, the first film of the Koi... Mil Gaya series directed by Rakesh Roshan, appears to be based on Satyajit Ray's The Alien. In particular, the film appears to parallel The Alien more closely than E.T. in that it revolves around a mentally retarded person coming in contact with a friendly alien.

In 2003, Satyajit Ray's son Sandip Ray began working on adapting Ray's original 1962 story Bankubabur Bandhu into a Bengali television movie of the same name.[3] The adapted film, directed by Koushik Sen, was eventually shown on television in India in 2006. This version is based on Ray's original story Bankhubabur Bandhu where the protagonist was a school teacher named Bankhu Babu, in contrast to his script for The Alien where the protagonist was a boy named Haba.[1]

Notes

References

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