During the telecast of the 1992 Academy Awards, millions of people watched Audrey Hepburn — one of world’s most recognizable actresses — stand on the Oscar stage and pay tribute to Indian filmmakerSatyajit Ray, who spoke to Hepburn from a hospital bed in Calcutta. Ray was dying. Heart troubles had greatly reduced his 6’4″ frame and he could barely speak with any authority. But speak he did, and after Hepburn told the audience about Ray’s four-decade career and his films’ “profound humanism,” and said the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was giving him a special Academy Award for lifetime achievement, Ray was gracious as he held onto a gold Oscar statue with his left hand and said, “It’s an extraordinary experience for me to be here tonight … certainly the best achievement of my movie-making career.”
What the audience didn’t know was thatDilip Basu, a Bay Area history scholar, was actually holding the statue for Ray, who was too weak to do it himself. Ray’s wife had put a shawl over Ray’s body, and Basu was hidden from the camera as he gripped the statue and kept it upright for the camera. The tribute was one of the most extraordinary in Oscar history. Even those who’d never heard of Ray were moved to emotion. Basu certainly was, and his role in the tribute led to a friendship with Hepburn and higher-ups at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which led to a new phase in Basu’s career — as the founding director of the Satyajit Ray Film and Study Center at UC Santa Cruz, which he established in 1993, and as a leading authority on the preservation of Ray’s films.