The actor, even in his mid-eighties, was not solely lively but additionally extremely sought-after. Phrases like ‘has-been’ or ‘yesteryear’ by no means utilized to him
A chunk of knowledge, by itself, is lifeless wooden – like a chunk from a jigsaw puzzle – which involves life solely whenever you collate it with different items. Take actor Soumitra Chatterjee’s date of beginning, for instance. The truth that he was born on January 19, 1935 doesn’t say a lot about him. However when you place that date in opposition to October 1, 2020, when he final reported for a shoot earlier than exhibiting signs of COVID-19, you realise he was no strange actor however somebody who was professionally lively even when nearing 86.
Additionally learn: Soumitra Chatterjee, among the greatest of Bengal’s thespians, dies at 85
Not many lead actors proceed to work – or get work – at 86. None really, when you low cost Clint Eastwood, Kirk Douglas, Christopher Plummer and possibly a few different names that don’t lend to simple recall. Again house, there was exception within the type of Dev Anand, who continued to work till he died at 88, however by then he was long gone his prime and was making these movies solely to feed his self-importance.
However Chatterjee, even in his mid-eighties, was not solely lively but additionally extremely sought-after. Phrases like ‘has-been’ or ‘yesteryear’ by no means utilized to him. Ernest Hemingway as soon as mentioned that no author ever produced something worthwhile after profitable the Nobel; the identical holds true for the Dadasaheb Phalke award in Indian cinema, within the sense that it invariably comes at a time when the awardee’s productive years are spoken of prior to now tense. However not for Chatterjee. He acquired the award in 2012, and ever since then he acquired solely busier by the 12 months. In 2019, he had as many as 15 releases; and within the pandemic-hit 2020, virtually as a lot of his movies both launched or are lined up for launch.
So, how does one outline Soumitra Chatterjee?
For those who label him as a Satyajit Ray actor – they labored collectively in 14 movies – his educated followers will immediately level out that he labored with quite a few different administrators too and that these 14, though they introduced him acclaim, kind solely a small proportion of the greater than 300 movies he did throughout his lifetime. In reality, with the notable exceptions of Ritwik Ghatak (whom Chatterjee claimed to have punched as soon as, throughout a debate again within the Nineteen Sixties) and Buddhadeb Dasgupta, he labored with practically all administrators, together with Tapan Sinha, Mrinal Sen and Tarun Majumdar.
For those who label him as a cinema actor, folks will remind you that he did theatre too.
For those who label him as an actor, somebody or the opposite is certain to inform you that he was a painter, poet and an activist as properly.
For those who determine him as Feluda, there might be somebody disagreeing: ‘No, he was extra fashionable as Apu.’
For those who classify him as a Calcuttan or a Bengali, they’ll say he was international, embellished twice by the French, with Order of Arts and Letters and with the Legion of Honour.
Extra an actor than a ‘hero’
However in debate-loving Bengal, one factor stays indeniable: that for a number of generations of Bengalis, the point out of the phrase ‘actor’ immediately introduced two names to thoughts, Uttam Kumar and Soumitra Chatterjee. There have been the 2 colossuses. After Kumar, practically a decade older and much more fashionable of the 2, died on the age of 54 in 1980, Chatterjee grew to become the lone flag-bearer of significant Bengali cinema.
Chatterjee was a kind of only a few Indian actors who, even whereas enjoying the lead in industrial motion pictures, was acknowledged extra as an actor than a ‘hero’ – a hero being somebody one who can bounce off a tall constructing with out a scratch and may knock out a dozen dangerous guys along with his naked fingers.
Whereas it was solely pretty just lately that some recent air swept by way of Bollywood with the arrival of Irrfan Khan, Ayushmann Khurrana, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Rajkummar Rao – mainstream actors who might draw crowds even with out battle scenes – Chatterjee was all of them rolled into one, proper from the black-and-white period. And contemplating that he was round for 61 lengthy years, virtually each Bengali – from nonagenarians all the way down to youngsters – lovingly preserves in thoughts his or her personal picture of Chatterjee: the harmless Apu; the charming Amal of Charulata; the daring Feluda; the resolute swimming coach in Kony; the middle-aged man subsequent door; the genial grandfather. His very presence on the display was assuring: for filmmakers and audiences alike.
His passing is akin to the falling of an historic tree. However whereas the tree is gone, its shade stays. It wouldn’t be totally incorrect to say that the trunk of the tree was primarily fabricated from the 14 movies he did for Ray. For, one will at all times surprise how Chatterjee’s profession would have fared with out Ray. For that matter, one may surprise how Ray’s movies would have fared with out Chatterjee.
That’s one thing Bengal can now debate.