The curtains got here down on an era in Bengali cinema as Soumitra Chatterjee, 85, the most illustrious protégé of the legendary director Satyajit Ray died at a private hospital in south Kolkata at 12.15 pm on Sunday. He was suffering from Covid encephalopathy.
With the Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner’s departure, a 61-year-long journey in films and plays that had been influenced by Bengal’s history, creation of Bangladesh, the Emergency, and rise of Marxism and shaped by the works of immortal writers, got here to an end.
Most of the nice actors with whom Chatterjee shared display area – Chhabi Biswas, Uttam Kumar, Utpal Dutta, and Subhendu Chatterjee to call only a few – handed away over a long time. Chatterjee was the final male face of what the veterans often referred to as the golden age. The chronicle of his life, which gave the audience round 300 movies in monochrome and color, stands as a testimony.
When Mohit Kumar Chatterjee and his wife, Asha, had their second son on January 19, 1935, no one within the family possibly thought that the name Soumitra would contact a chord with millions someday.
Fondly known as Pulu, a nickname the Chatterjee’s discovered apt for the naughty boy who would run across the family’s home at Krishnanagar in Nadia district, Soumitra showed the first indicators of a performer among the 4 siblings at a rather younger age.
“Our household moved to Howrah once I was around ten. I used to be the excessive leap champion on the Howrah Zilla College. My parents had a great influence on me. My father impressed me to be an actor whereas my mom guided me into the world of poetry,” Chatterjee stated throughout a tv present in 2010, six years after he had been awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest award given to civilians by the government of India.
The veteran was already 75 in 2010 however actual recognition for the performer inside him had not but come.
Not like no different actor in Indian cinema, Chatterjee performed the important thing roles in as many as 14 motion pictures Ray made between 1959 and 1990. Most of those obtained nationwide and worldwide acclaim however Chatterjee, regardless of his excellent efficiency in some, by no means acquired the national award for acting. These motion pictures included Apur Sansar (The World of Apu), the third in Ray’s internationally recognized Apu Trilogy, through which Chatterjee made his debut in 1959 as the husband of another debutant, 15-year-old Sharmila Tagore.
Ray grew to become Chatterjee’s mentor. Their partnership lasted until Ray’s second final film, Shakha Proshakha (Branches of the Tree), released in 1990. Their 31-year-long journey grew to become unique as Ray made Chatterjee stroll out and in of various characters resembling non-public detective Pradosh Mitra or, a village teacher (Hirak Rajar Deshe or The Kingdom of Diamonds, 1980) who led individuals right into a revolution towards an autocratic king performed by Utpal Dutta.
The opposite motion pictures of Ray through which Chatterjee stood out are Abhijan (The Expedition, 1962), Charulata (The Lonely Spouse, 1964), Aranyer Din Ratri (Days and Nights within the Forest, 1969), Ashani Sanket (Distant Thunder, 1973), Ghare Baire (The House and The World, 1984) and Ganashatru (Enemy of the Individuals, 1989).
Director Shyam Benegal, whereas commenting on Chatterjee throughout an interview, stated, “He has labored notably for Satyajit Ray. All of the movies he has made for Ray are so extraordinary. He matches into the function in a manner that he turns into the particular person you’d know instantly. That’s an excellent high quality in an actor and he has that.”
Chatterjee, who graduated from Metropolis School and acquired his grasp’s diploma in Bengali literature from the Calcutta College, was immensely impressed by thespian Sisir Kumar Bhaduri, an icon in his time. Chatterjee joined the theatre after faculty and acquired a job as an announcer on All India Radio the place he labored for about two years.
“I used to be carefully related to the good Sisir Kumar Bhaduri. It was virtually predestined that I need to be an actor. I made up my thoughts once I was doing my commencement. However I by no means thought that I’d be a well-known movie star. Earlier than witnessing a revolutionary change in India with Pather Panchali (the primary a part of Apu Trilogy and launched in 1955) I had a snobbish form of an idea about cinema. I didn’t like Bengali cinema these days,” Chatterjee candidly stated during an interview a long time after his debut.
Though he shared display area with acclaimed performers resembling Uttam Kumar, Utpal Dutt, Suchitra Sen, Tanuja and Sharmila Tagore, Chatterjee, not like these co-actors, was at all times reluctant to strive his luck within the Mumbai movie trade. He appeared in solely two full-length Hindi movies; Nirupama (1986), which was a telefilm, and Hindustani Sipahi (2002). Each had been made by Bengali administrators who had solid native actors. A few of the motion pictures Chatterjee labored in had been nevertheless later remade in Mumbai.
Typically described by critics and followers because the hero of intellectual moviegoers and never the plenty, Chatterjee additionally labored for the nationally acclaimed Mrinal Sen and Tapan Sinha.
He played the lead in Sen’s Akash Kusum (Up Within the Clouds, 1965) opposite Aparna Sen, his lifelong pal, and co-actor in lots of tasks. The film was remade in Hindi 10 years later by another legendary director, Basu Chatterjee. Starring Amitabh Bachchan and Moushumi Chatterjee, Manzil (vacation spot) did reasonable business however its music composed by R D Burman remains a chartbuster.
With Sinha, Chatterjee labored in Khudita Pashan (Hungry Stones, 1960), Jhinder Bandi (the Prisoner of Jhind, 1961), and Antonio (Worry, 1984).
Primarily based on a novel by Sharadindu Bandopadhyay who was inspired by Anthony Hope’s 1894 novel, The Prisoner of Zenda, Jhinder Bandi saw Chatterjee taking part in a ruthless villain for the first time, and that too towards Uttam Kumar who was then the star of Bengali cinema.
Chatterjee obtained the best awards from the government of India rather late in life. He even refused the Padma Shree twice as he felt that his prowess had not been recognized.
“I’ve long since misplaced all curiosity in these awards as a result of they’ve so typically been awarded to somebody who didn’t deserve it. It’s not an ego downside. It’s simply affordable thinking. I’ve acted in 14 of Ray’s movies and I’ve not been thought-about to be the most effective actor in any of them,” Chatterjee as soon as stated during an interview.
Chatterjee obtained the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1998 and 2011, the Padma Bhusan in 2004, and the Nationwide Movie Award for performing in Podokkhep (footsteps) in 2006 though two of his extra well-known movies acquired the National Movie Award in 1991 and 2000.
Lastly, in 2012, Chatterjee obtained the celebrated Dadasaheb Phalke award and, in 2018, the government of France honored him with the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, (Legion of Honour) the best civilian award in France. But right here too, Chatterjee followed his mentor. Ray obtained the award from the French government in 1987.
Chatterjee gave an emotional speech after accepting the Dadasaheb Phalke Award from Hamid Ansari, the Vice-President of India. “I’m actually not in a way of thinking to say something about this. All my life I’m have been plagued with doubt about my work and at all times thought that possibly this enterprise of leisure isn’t actually worthwhile. And I’ve at all times thought that if I might as a substitute do one thing like Albert Schweitzer and go away to a distant leper colony and serve individuals, my life would have been worthwhile. However repeatedly for the final greater than 50 years I’ve been accepted, loved, and made to really feel like one of their very own by my countrymen. I really like them. I respect them. They’re the reason I’ve come this lengthy…. I salute them that they’ve supplied me with the power and the dedication to proceed with what I consider in and what I believe to be good artwork..,” stated Chatterjee.
The recognition moved some of the stalwarts within the Indian movie trade. “Mr. Chatterjee getting the Phalke award is eminently deserved. I believe he’s a type of actor who would be counted as one the best in the world,” director Govind Nihalni stated in an interview.
An ardent follower of literature, a writer and a poet, Chatterjee beloved drawing sketches as properly. But he by no means left theatre, his first passion. He introduced his first play throughout faculty days and directed or acted in a dozen more over the next a long time.
In November 2010, Chatterjee placed on make-up and Celtic costumes to look on stage at the age of 75 as Raja Lear (Type Lear), a play-based mostly on the tragedy by William Shakespeare and directed by Suman Mukhopadhyay. As he gained accolades for the function, Chatterjee stated at a literary festival that he would like to do Macbeth but was unsure if his health would allow it.
A statement Chatterjee made throughout his last interview to a Bengali news channel a number of months in the past confirmed the world his indomitable spirit and maybe his vulnerability well. “I really feel alive as a result of I’m still performing,” he said.
Nothing could be extra true for a person who stunned the YouTube era in 2015 by taking part in the husband of Radhika Apte, an actor a third his age, in Sujoy Ghosh’s 14-minute movie, Ahalya.
Soumitra Chatterjee was also directed by other Bengali cinematic greats, including Mrinal Sen in Akash Kusum.
His last big screen outing was 2019’s Sanjhbati.