Till the end, Tollywood tried to live up to the phenomenon called Soumitra Chatterjee

Written by Premankur Biswas

Updated: November 15, 2020 9:19:35 pm

Soumitra Chatterjee handed away on Sunday. He was 85.

The youth we see in the first twenty minutes of Satyajit Ray’s Apur Sansar (1959), has only a few talking strains. We see him negotiate lanes of a bustling Kolkata, searching of the window of a tram, taking in the websites of the metropolis, dodging his landlord, all this with eyes of an individual who has seen way more than his years. He is battle-weary, but there may be nonetheless a flicker of life in these eyes. But issues change virtually magically in a scene that’s now iconic amongst Bengali children who dare to dream past their station. Apurba, a boy from rural Bengal, who has nobody left in the world to name his personal, tells his finest pal about his unwritten autobiography. His eyes mild up, his physique language adjustments, his voice quivers with feelings that solely goals can gasoline. In these few moments, Satyajit Ray, thought-about by many to be one in all the most essential filmmakers of the 20th century, provides the viewers a uncommon present. We see the beginning of a protagonist. At that second, world cinema is presented Soumitra Chatterjee.

Apur Sansar, the remaining act of Ray’s Apu Trilogy, was Chatterjee’s debut movie, but when wouldn’t be foolhardy to say that Ray was simply ready to occur to the boy from Krishnanagar, a city about 100 km away from Kolkata. Chatterjee, who had flourished beneath the tutelage of one other Bengali icon, theatre veteran Sisir Bhaduri, had auditioned for the second installment of the trilogy, Aparajito (1956), as a twenty-year-old. “I was in college when Pather Panchali (1955) was released. When Manikda (as Ray is fondly called) was looking for someone to play the lead in Aparajito (1956), a friend of mine, who was assisting him, introduced me to him. He found me to be too grown up and tall for that role,” Chatterjee told The Indian Express in an earlier interview.

Eventually, Ray determined to forged Chatterjee as an older model of the similar character in Apur Sansar.

For the Uttam Kumar-marinated Bengali movie viewers, an unlikely star was born. Soumitra Chatterjee, who has repeatedly confessed that he was very aware of his appears to be like, didn’t have the self-conscious swagger of Uttam Kumar, the man who he was to play second fiddle to in some essential movies of his profession. Neither did his performances have Uttam Kumar’s grandiosity, however Chatterjee launched the Bengali cinema viewers to the thought of unaffected performances. The thought {that a} protagonist needn’t simply be a lover or a hero, he is usually a individual first. His subsequent few collaborations with Satyajit Ray, Devi (1960) and Teen Kanya (1961), have been actually about the feminine protagonists, Sharmila Tagore and Aparna Sen, respectively. But Chatterjee introduced a uncommon vulnerability to his characters in each these movies. He is a confused husband in Teen Kanya and a browbeaten son of an overbearing father in Devi. Though Ray intentionally chooses to strip his characters of all traits of conventional Bengali masculinity, in these movies, Chatterjee endeared, and the way.

Akash Kusum Soumitra Chatterjee and Aparna Dasgupta in Akash Kusum. (Express archive photograph)

His unwillingness to be restricted to a mould was evident fairly early in his profession. In the 1961 Tapan Sinha movie, Jhinder Bandi, he was forged in a damaging position reverse Uttam Kumar, who was at the peak of his recognition then. Chatterjee might have been simply bracketed as a villain, however it’s a threat he selected to take. He performed the rakish Mayurbhan in the Bengali adaptation of the Prisoner of Zelda with the sexual menace that it required, however he additionally introduced in a touch of the neurosis that humanised the character.

This was the starting of a fruitful affiliation with Sinha, with whom he made a number of movies later in his profession, prominently Aatanko (1986) and Wheelchair (1994). In truth, although Ray was clearly possessive of him, as he confessed in a number of interviews, Chatterjee gave some actually well-calibrated performances in a number of non-Ray movies. In the 1963 movie Saat Pake Bandha, the place he was forged reverse the reigning famous person of Bengali cinema, Suchitra Sen, Soumitra Chatterjee is a headstrong man so consumed in his conscience that he doesn’t recognise the unravelling of his marriage. The movie clearly sides with the feminine protagonist and virtually chides Chatterjee’s character for not paying attention to her wants. Chatterjee rises up to the event, taking part in the poisonous character with requisite helplessness.

Soumitra Chatterjee (1935-2020): A pictorial tribute to the legendary actor

In Mrinal Sen’s Akash Kusum (1965), Chatterjee performs an bold middle-class government, who’s shedding every little thing he values due to one unhealthy choice. The Hindi remake Manzil (1979) starred Amitabh Bachchan, however a back-to-back viewing of each these movies will inform you how nuanced Chatterjee’s flip as Ajoy was.

Though this was the peak Uttam-Suchitra period, Soumitra Chatterjee didn’t appear to have any intention of offering a parallel “juti” (pair) to the Bengali movie viewers. He, actually, wasn’t comfy with that style of filmmaking in any respect, as he confessed in lots of interviews.

Teen Bhubaner Parey Soumitra Chatterjee and Tanuja in Teen Bhubaner Parey. (Express archive photograph)

Chatterjee’s 1969 movie Teen Bhubaner Parey was in all probability the greatest hit of his profession, however it additionally signalled the beginning of a brand new type of Bengali cinema hero. As an unemployed youth disillusioned with the system, Chatterjee was being true to his instances, the troubled naxalite period which marked the lives of thousands and thousands of Bengali children. Though the movie was in essence a romantic drama, the place he was paired with Tanuja, Chatterjee sounded and behaved like several wastrel loitering round at the para rawk (native hangout place). His character, Montu, went on to change into a leitmotif for a technology of Bengali and even Bollywood heroes. You will discover echoes of Montu in lots of characters that Amitabh Bachchan performed in the 1970s.

In the similar yr, Soumitra Chatterjee performed the central character in the Bengali adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, Aparachita. With Aparna Sen and Uttam Kumar as his co-stars, Chatterjee shone as the guileless Sujit, who’s assumed to be a simpleton just because he chooses to see the good aspect of individuals.

Through most of the 1970s, Chatterjee performed the romantic lead in a number of movies with Aparna Sen and Tanuja, whilst his collaboration with Ray advanced into one thing uncommon and exquisite. Here was a director-actor duo for whom belief was greater than only a idea. Chatterjee was not only a clean canvas for Ray, it was fairly evident to the viewers that the director relied on the intelligence of his actor to make good performances nice. So, if he embodied laziness as the Brahmin priest in Asani Sanket (1973), he was the sharp, agile Feluda the very subsequent yr in Sonar Kella.

From Express Archives | Ray was possessive of me, like a father is of his son: Soumitra Chatterjee

As he graduated to extra mature roles in the 1980s, Soumitra Chatterjee was acutely conscious that he’s getting into the post-Uttam Kumar darkish period of Tollywood. This was the time when the Bengali movie business was actually in shambles. The video piracy challenge had taken its toll, Ray, was not making movies, and the middle-class Bengali selected to avoid cinema halls. Chatterjee admitted that he labored in a number of movies (and tv serials) that he himself was “ashamed” of. Through the 1980s and early 1990s, he alternated between taking part in the wealthy unhealthy dad or the wronged poor dad in Prosenjit-starrers. In the uncommon event that he acquired a meaty position, he shone. Like the cult traditional Koni (1984), the place he performed a strict swimming coach to a younger woman from Kolkata slums. He performed the determined-coach-with-a-past position to the hilt manner earlier than Chak De India and Dangal have been even conceptualized. In the 1986 Tapan Sinha traditional Atanka, Chatterjee performed a retired faculty trainer who witnesses a political homicide and decides to report it. He is a person being subjected to unspeakable horrors only for doing the proper factor. Chatterjee lived the position and put a whole business to disgrace for not rising up to his expertise.

Read | Actor Soumitra Chatterjee passes away at 85 | Celebrities mourn demise of Soumitra Chatterjee 

In truth, until the finish of his profession, Tollywood appeared to be doing precisely that. Try to live up to the phenomenon called Soumitra Chatterjee.

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