Soumitra Chatterjee: A Tale of the Fallen Star of the Bengali Film Industry

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By Sadia Noor Joya

FB: snoorj.29; @noorj.2948

Acting raced through young Soumitra’s veins as the city of Krishnanagar, West Bengal, was the kingdom of theaters back in the era when playwright Dwijendralal Ray reigned. Beginning with the plays in which he acted in his school days and then ending up with Satyajit Ray’s on screen master project of the Apu trilogy back in his college days, it was a massive turning point as these two stars joined hands to carve their names in the bright days of the Bengali Film Industry.

In 1956, Satyajit was in a quest of new faces for his movie Aparajito. That was the moment when the two legends crossed their paths; however, the then physique of Soumitra was not appropriate for the casting of teenage Apu, the main character of the movie, so Satyajit promised to get back to him when it would be the perfect moment.

In 1957, a slight throwback hit Soumitra as he was not selected for the screen test of Kartik Chattopadhyay’s Nilachale Mahaprabhu. Later in 1958, Satyajit casted Soumitra for the grown-up Apu in his third segment of the popular Apu trilogy, Apu’s Sangsar, making it Soumitra’s debut appearance. The movie depicted the hardships of a young man leading a rather simple life, urging to be a writer – a masterpiece it was. This movie bagged President’s Gold Medal for the All India Best Feature Film in 1959, Best Foreign Film for the National Board of Review Awards USA in 1960 and more.

Soumitra also portrayed the widely known character of Feluda, the private investigator from Satyajit’s Feluda series books, in the movies Sonar Kella in 1974 and Joi Baba Felunath in 1979.

Likewise, the journey of the two legends continued with Abhijan in 1962, Charulata in 1964, Aranyer Din Ratri in 1969 and so on bringing upon fame for both of them. Other notable works of Soumitra include Swaralipi in 1961, Akash Kusum in 1965 and Parineeta in 1969.

More appreciation buzzed in as awards were added to his satchel of achievement. The third highest civilian honor given by Government of India, Padma Bhusan in 2004; the highest honor in Indian Cinema, Dada Saheb Phalke Award in 2012; France’s highest award, the Legion of Honor in 2018 are the few of them to name.

Off-screen, he was a publisher of essays and poems; actor, director and writer of plays; an avid painter and the editor of the magazine, Ekhon, named by Satyajit, who he called his mentor.

This loaded package of creativity departed on November 15, 2020, at the age of 85, due to covid-19 and its influenced disorders. Thus, marking the fall of one of the brightest stars of the Bengali Film Industry.

Clockwise: Monu Mukherjee, Andrew Kishore, Mohiuddin Bahar, Sadek Bacchu, Aly Zaker and Abdul Kader

Speaking of which we can account, others who we lost in 2020 were the Machlibaba fame Monu Mukherjee (90) of Joi Baba Felunath of the same Satyajit and Soumitra; from Bangladeshi Film Industry were playback singer Andrew Kishore (64); Mohiuddin Bahar (73) renowned for the Bangladesh Television programme Ityadi; Sadek Bacchu (65) popular for his villainous roles in movies, Freedom Fighter Aly Zaker (76) famed for his appearance in the all time favorite classic of Humayun Ahmed’s Aaj Robibar and Abdul Kader (69) another Ityadi star best known for his comedic roles and his character Bodi in Humayun Ahmed’s Kothao Keu Nei.

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