Friday, March 30, 2012

A tribute to an iconic Bengali actor

It was only five days ago that I was listening in fascination as Commitscions Kaustav Datta and Atreyee Sen talked in awe about the grand old man of Tollywood, Soumitra Chatterjee.

The three of us were having lunch at Zara, the spiffy restaurant in Kolkata's South City Mall, and since both Kaustav and Atreyee are production professionals the discussion veered around to films and television shows and the stars who continue to hold fans in thrall. That was when Kaustav told us about the time he went to interview Soumitra Chatterjee for a television channel and Atreyee chipped in with an anecdote about the iconic Bengali actor with whom she got an opportunity to interact when he came to her studio for a dubbing session.

And what I do see when I open Mint today? A tribute to Soumitra Chatterjee, who received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award this year, by veteran columnist Salil Tripathi.

"Over the years," Tripathi writes, "Chatterjee personified the nuanced angst of the modern educated Indian, bound by traditions and accepting them while being sceptical. When tragedy strikes, he is overwhelmed, but he finds the reserves within him to rise again and faces the future with equanimity."

Tripathi also pays tribute to Bengali cinema:

If quantity equated quality, Hindi cinema would be India’s best. For provocative cinema that stays with you beyond the three hours at a theatre, we turn to films made in other Indian languages, Bengali being the most prominent.

And then he returns to Chatterjee:

In his debut film [Satyajit Ray's Apur Sansar], Chatterjee showed a range of emotions that could only come from an actor of exceptional maturity and sensibility. Ray knew how to make his expressive face reveal emotions that words couldn’t depict.

Read the column in its entirety here: "A master of his craft". And if you're not a Bengali, you will understand, as I did, why Kaustav and Atreyee think the world of Soumitra Chatterjee.


  1. A very nice read! Thank you Sir!
    When I started reading the article, I expected a lot more information about Soumitra Chatterjee. But the article soon steered towards the Ray-Chatterjee relationship!
    Who knows what the golden era would have been, if Chatterjee wouldn't have been Ray's "blue-eyed-boy"! Agreed, that the duo has contributed immensely to the Bengali film industry. Agreed, that Ray is responsible for moulding Chatterjee into a fine actor. As a viewer, I'm extremely thankful to Mr. Ray for all his contribution. Am sure even the industry and the State feel the same!
    But the article is celebrating the Actor's achievements or is it? Which leads me to point out the sheer waste of space by writing a synopsis of Apu'r Sansar, (Thank you for your classes Sir!), only because it was the Actor's debut film!
    Chatterjee's contribution to not only the Bengali film industry but also theatre, is immeasurable. His USP is the ease, suaveness, and, commitment, with which he becomes the characters he portrays, both on screen and on stage. He gives life to his characters.
    Satyajit Ray has been, and will always be, a great film maker, writer, and an artist. His contribution to not only Bengali film industry, but to World Cinema is humongous.
    But, just this one time, lets be fair to the Actor, give him a chance to gloat in the limelight a little, for it is also, his hard work, that has got him where he is today. It is his hard work and commitment (at the age of 77!) that helps him strive on to do what he loves the most, ACT.

  2. Atreyee: I think, given your comments above, that you will be happy to read this interview with Soumitra Chatterjee, which was published in The Hindu yesterday. Here's the link:

    There's a nice sidebar, too: Film personalities give us their views on the star.

  3. Sir: Now that's what I call a tribute! Thank you Sir for the link!

  4. Many would go with his B/W era as their favts.But for me his later year roles(late 80's/90's) are more special- E.g. Uttaran,Ganashatru, are few of the movies where Soumitra pulled off some great matured performance.


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