Review Pen: Travails With The Alien By Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray

Author– Satyajit Ray

Book Travails with the Alien

Previous WorksThe complete adventures of Feluda , Deep Focus etc

Publishers– Harper Collins India

Number of Pages– 211

Format– Paperback


Satyajit Ray was a master of science fiction writing. Through his Professor Shonku stories and other fiction and non-fiction pieces, he explored the genre from various angles. In the 1960s, Ray wrote a screenplay for what would have been the first-of-its-kind sci-fi film to be made in India. It was called The Alien and was based on his own short story “Bonkubabur Bandhu”. On being prompted by Arthur C. Clarke, who found the screenplay promising, Ray sent the script to Columbia Pictures in Hollywood, who agreed to back it, and Peter Sellers was approached to play a prominent role. Then started the “Ordeals of the Alien” as Ray calls it, as even after a series of trips to the US, UK and France, the film was never made, and more shockingly, some fifteen years later, Ray watched Steven Spielberg’s film Close Encounters of the Third Kind and later E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, and realized these bore uncanny resemblances to his script The Alien, including the way the ET was designed!

A slice of hitherto undocumented cinema history, Travails with the Alien includes Ray’s detailed essay on the project with the full script of The Alien, as well as the original short story on which the screenplay was based. These, presented alongside correspondence between Ray and Peter Sellers, Arthur C. Clarke, Marlon Brando, Hollywood producers who showed interest, and a fascinating essay by the young student at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism who broke the Spielberg story, make this book a rare and compelling read on science fiction, cinema and the art of adaptation.


Satyajit Ray, one of the most celebrated names of the Indian cinema, who gave us movie like Pather Panchali, Charulata, The world of Apu etc, had a vision of his own. His creation, Professor Shonku, that depicted a scientist with the nerve to do the extraordinary, had stirred the and Ray did not stop with that, he wanted to give India, a sci-fi film that was an achievement in just the thought itself. He went to huge lengths, to make his dream of The Alien, a reality, but sadly, things did not go as planned. Even one of the greatest filmmakers the 20th century has ever seen, was not able to reveal his work to the world, and the film was never made.

Also Read- Review Pen: Dead To Them by Smita Bhattacharya

To add to the misery, years later, Steven Spielberg’s movies, had a huge resemblance to his script and indicated towards a possible plagarism.

The book Travails with The Alien The Film That Was Never Made and Other Adventures With Science Fiction, contains all that you need to know about Ray’s Alien.

The book is a rather collectible for Satyajit Ray’s fans, the built, the pages, the content, and everything else requires this precious piece of literature to be preserved.

It might puzzle the reader, that Satyajit Ray is the one who wrote the content of this book, but he is long gone. This book is an anthology of Ray’s articles, stories, interviews, anything and everything else that connect him with his idea. The book is divided into four sections. First, Satyajit Ray’s thoughts on science fiction, here we read certain articles which were published during Satyajit Ray’s lifetime. An interview with All India Radio where Satyajit ray talks a bit about The Alien, a few documents and letters that he wrote.

The second section is about Bonkubabu’s Friend, fragments of the story that Satyajit Ray wtote, featuring a primary school’s geography teacher who had an encounter with the extraterrestrial. The section includes a part of the script that Ray wrote for the same as a TV series.

The third section, The Alien, is Satyajit Ray’s quest to make it a movie. From pitching his ideas to a few production houses to finding the perfect location to shoot the movie, the journey includes it all. It has pictures of Satyajit Ray’s visits to the Paris and several other meetings that took place to discuss The Alien. It also has the letters that state why the movie could not be made, the details of which should be left to be savored by the reader.

The fourth section is the treat from the ones who have been waiting for the “other stories “ part of the book. It has two stories featuring the extraterrestrials and a note on the Socity For Preservation Of Satyajit Ray Archives.

The book  is rich in terms of content and a visual satisfaction for it has certain illustrations by Ray, from his different works.

The book depicts an illustration by Satyajit Ray for Bonkubabur Bandhu, and is definitely the best choice for the cover.


Cover- 5 stars

Title- 5 stars

Blurb- 5 stars

Content- 5 stars

Writing and Presentation- 5 star

Overall- 5 stars out of 5

This is the first book that I am rating as a 5 star as Satyajit Ray’s works deserve nothing less.

The book is worth the purchase and would be a lavish addition to your personal library.

Reviewed by- Banaja Prakashini

Buy the book-


About The Author-

Satyajit Ray (1921-92) is one of the greatest film-makers of all times. His first film Pather Panchali (1955) won an award at the Cannes Film Festival. The only Indian to receive the Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1992. He was also a prolific writer of fiction, non-fiction, and a designer, calligrapher, editor and music director.




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