Paoli Dam: Soumitra Chattopadhyay was the face of Feluda to me as a child

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Paoli Dam: Soumitra Chattopadhyay was the face of Feluda to me as a child

“In the month of September, and I was back on the set of ‘Aboho’ post lockdown. It was our first day of the shoot after lockdown and, though we had already shot a substantial part of the film before Covid stopped shooting, I was feeling jittery on returning to a film set after a gap of many months when I was stuck in a confined space.


“There was a sense of nervousness. I went to Soumitra sir and simply gave a smile. He checked out me and stated, ‘ki holo? kemon kemon lagche na, etodin por (what occurred? are you feeling nervous to shoot after such a lengthy hole)?’ I nodded after which he smiled and advised me, ‘kicchu hobe na, jai hok, mogojastre dhulo jomte dio na, bujhle (don’t be concerned and do not let mud collect in your thought course of, understood)?’


(The allusion of mogojastro, actually translating to brain-weapon, attracts from Satyajit Ray’s 1979 superhit Joy Baba Felunath that had Soumitra taking part in Feluda. In a scene, Feluda tells a child his weapon is ‘mogojastro’ or brain-weapon).


“I smiled again and agreed. He assured, ‘do not worry, we will have a good day’.


“That is Soumitra Chatterjee to us, a legend — at 85 assuring a teenager like me not to really feel jittery. I feel I’ll keep in mind the line for all times.


“Being at Rabindra Sadan to take part in his last journey, it was heart-breaking to just deal with the fact that he is no more.


“As I speak, I’m going via the final {photograph} I clicked on the set of ‘Aboho’ and the way can I make myself imagine that we have been taking pictures for the final time?


“The first time I saw him on the big screen when Ma took me to watch ‘Sonar Kella’. I would watch that film again and again because of Feluda, and I would never miss any film of the Feluda series ever. He was the face of Feluda to me as a child. I loved him in ‘Hirak Rajar Deshe’, too.


“When I look again, it’s so fascinating to discover that he has remained timeless and he reached out to the viewers of each era as a result of of his alternative of movies.


“On one hand, he acted in children’s films, teenagers loved him as Feluda. And then, I had a crush on him when I grew up and watched ‘Charulata’! He acted in a film called ‘Koni’ in which he encourages a young swimmer to take part in a national level competition. It was an aspirational story and he was the life of the story.


“How clever he was as an artiste with a deep understanding of storytelling — each time I conversed with him, I used to realise this aspect of his.


“The last successful film I did with Mr Chatterjee was ‘Sanjhbati’ in 2019. He is the man who never had arrogance or took shortcuts from hard work despite being so successful and having so many admirers across generations.


“He would say, ‘your success mustn’t distract you out of your artwork and craft. It ought to somewhat empower you to experiment.’


“He was not someone who would give gyan (preaching) to a junior. But when one sees an 85-year-old successful legend, despite physical exhaustion, standing and performing in front of the camera for five hours, how can one not put the best foot forward?


“Yes, that was him. The second the digicam and lights have been on, I might see his eyes lit up! This was magic and you’ll realise what I’m saying provided that you labored with him, shared a body with him. I’m lucky to be one of such actors.


“I didn’t know that the shoot for ‘Aboho’ was the final time I might meet him. He was smiling. I sat subsequent to him and we clicked a image. Today once I see that image once more, earlier than I break down into tears, I need to thank the legend for create a reminiscence with me that I’ll cherish endlessly.

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