The palace in Murshidabad where Satyajit Ray shot Jalshaghar!
A worn-out palace stands as testimony of its rich and glorious past. The ruins of a grand terrace, the staircase covered with wild growth, rickety bricks of a mansion jutting from the walls, plaster peeling off. Yet, Nimtita Rajbari stands as a spectator of glorious days with breathtaking architectural grandeur still instilling awe and pride.
Located in Murshidabad, this was the palace where Satyajit Ray shot his film, Jalshaghar (1957). He went back to shoot two more films, Debi (1959) and Samapti (1960). The riches and grandeur of the palace is alive in the frames of these three movies. However, one cannot compare those exquisite vignettes with what one witnesses today.
Two brothers, Goursundar Chowdhury and Dwarakanath Chowdhury, jointly built this vast and marvellous mansion. The palace became the epicentre from where the brothers conducted their business. It was also a means of displaying wealth and grandeur. During Holi, they hosted Jatra-pala for a fortnight every year. News of the splendor and riches depicted during the annual Durga Puja would be the talk of the town and even reached far and wide till the capital of Murshidabad. The brothers were patrons of theatre. During Dwarakanath’s son, Gnyanendranath’s wedding, the entire team from Kolkata’s Star Theatre was invited to perform.
Renowned actor and director, Kshirod Prasad Vidya Vinod, visited Nimtita Palace with his troupe. In his honour the zamindars established Nimtita Rangamanch or a theatre hall on the lines of public theatre halls of Kolkata. Many famous artistes, including Natyacharya Shishir Kumar Bhaduri had performed on this stage. But all these are memories of a glorious past. The Rangamancha was unfortunately destroyed during a massive flood in 1944.
The descendants of the Chowdhury family are all based in Kolkata and visit Nimtita during Durga Puja. The annual Durga Puja is an integral part of the family tradition even today. The condition of the Thakur-Dalan is comparatively better than the other portions and seems to bridge the gap between the past and the present. The Bhagirathi river flows close to the palace and during high tide, its turbulent waves kiss the courtyard of the Rajbari. The scenic beauty of the surrounding area is stunning.