When the legendary Satyajit Ray met the gangly young actor in 1958 for a role in his movie, he exclaimed “Oh pricey, You have turned out to be a lot too tall.” Ray was searching for somebody to play a grown-up Apu – the little boy of his traditional film Pather Panchali. Eventually, the peak – 5 ft 11 and a half inches – didn’t get in the way. Soumitra Chatterjee debuted as Apu in 1959 in Apur Sansar.
Today, Bengal lost its tallest superstar.
Soumitra Chatterjee died on Sunday, weeks after he was admitted to hospital with COVD-19. He was 85. He was 23 when he began acting, playing Apu or Apurba Kumar Roy in Apur Sansar, the third of Satyajit Ray’s nice trilogy. He breathed life into Ray’s strongest and complicated characters and Ray molded him into what he believed was one of the world’s best actors.
Fourteen movies – that is what number of instances Satyajit Ray directed Soumitra Chatterjee in the movie from Charulata Abhijan and Aranyer Din Ratri to Devi, Ganashatru and Gharey Baire.
Different Bengal greats – Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha, Ajoy Kar – signed him up repeatedly too. Even in his 80s, the thespian was the star of the Bengali silver display. Bengal’s filmmakers wrote scripts centered around a personality that solely Soumitra Chatterjee may play. Until the tip, he was huge on the field office with Bela Sheshe, Mayurakshi, Sanjhbati — all hit movies.
The Dada Saheb Phalke award got here in 2012, the Padma Bhushan in 2004. Soumitra Chatterjee had rejected the Padma Shri twice before that because, it’s mentioned, he felt they got here too late and not for his finest work. In 2018, France bestowed upon him the Legion of Honour.
Soumitra Chatterjee didn’t simply act in movies. He straddled the theatre, performing on stage, directing and writing plays, essays, poetry. He painted. He raised the recitation of poetry to a positive artwork that entranced Bengal for years.
His most beloved – the poems of Rabindranath Tagore.
With Soumitra Chatterjee’s passing, it is not simply an actor Bengal has lost, it’s not simply the muse of Satyajit Ray alone – Bengal has lost a little bit bit of its self, of what it meant to be Bengali.
Perhaps, within the mold of Tagore and Ray, its last Renaissance Man.A tall man.