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An Enigmatic Beauty

Suchitra Sen’s feminine charm and emotive force contributed to her illusive imagery.

Susanta.Koley,B.K.Sen
Sun, Jan 18 2015

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About Susanta.Koley,B.K.Sen

Susanta Koley is the Libraian at the Durgapur Institute of Advanced Technology & Management, & Dr B K Sen is an acclaimed scholar.


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লিস্টিকেল

বরিশালের বাঙাল

My many Kolkata

শিয়রে ইবোলা

 

Suchitra Sen was one of the most beautiful and glamorous actresses in Indian as well as Bengali cinema. She was an embodiment of exceptional combination of beauty, romance and talent as well as feminism – arguably India’s first feminist actress.

She was born as Rama Dasgupta on April 6, 1931 at her maternal uncle’s house in Pabna, Bengal Presidency, British India. (Now Pabna district is in Bangaladesh) She was the fifth child and third daughter of her parents. Family members named her Krishna.

Her father Karunamoy Dasgupta was the headmaster of a local school, and mother Indira Devi a homemaker. Krishna received her formal education in Mahakali Pathsala (up to class IV) and in Pabna Girls’ High School from class V.

When a student of class IX she was married in 1947 at the age of 17 to Dibanath Sen, the son of a wealthy Bengali industrialist Adinath Sen. After marriage, her father left their house at Pabna due to unprecedented violence caused by the partition of Bengal, and finally settled at Bhubandanga in Santiniketan.

Initially, Suchitra Sen was more interested in singing rather than acting. In 1951, she appeared for an audition as a playback singer, but was offered a role by director Sukumar Dasgupta. She was first selected in the film Sangket under the direction of Ardhendu Mukhopadhyay at Rupasi Studio, but could not act in the film, possibly due to family problems.

In 1952, she started her acting career with the film Shesh Kothay, but it was never released. Her next film Saat Number Kayedi directed by Sukumar Dasgupta was released in 1953. This was Sen’s first Bengali film that saw the light of the day.

Sen’s actual cine life started in 1953, and Nitish Roy, secretary of the filmmaker Sukumar Dasgupta gave her a new name. Suchitra Sen made her entry into the world of cinema. In the same year, she made a hit film Sharey Chuattur with Uttam Kumar and the rest was history.

The Uttam-Suchitra duo, arguably the greatest romantic pair in Indian cinema, presented many super hit films that swayed the imagination of the Bengali cine-goers.

Sen received the following awards for her contributions as an actress.

1955 : Best Actress Award for the film Devdas
1963 : Silver Prize as the Best Actress for Saat Paanke Bandha at the 3rd Moscow International Film Festival, becoming the first Indian actress to receive a foreign award.
1963 : Nominated for the Filmfare Best Actress Award for Mamata
1972 : Padma Shri, one of the highest civilian awards in India, for notable contribution in arts.
1976 : Nominated for Filmfare Best Actress Award for Aandhi
2012 : Awarded the West Bengal Government's highest honour: Banga Bibhushan for lifetime achievement in film acting
She was awarded the Bengal Film Journalists’ Association Award more than once.
She retired in 1978 after her last film Pranoy Pasha flopped and then Sen retreated to lead a solitary life with the stubborn determination not to show her face again in public. She was chosen for the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2005, but she refused for the aforesaid reason.

Chronological distribution of films

Suchitra Sen’s first film was released when she was 23 and her working life as an actress spanned for over 27 years. She made most of the films between 1953 and 1957 (age 23-27), the peak period of her career. During this period she acted in 32 films, including 29 in Bengali and three in Hindi. She continued with her acting for 27 years up to the age of 48 yielding 61 films (Bengali – 54, Hindi – 7).

Thereafter, she went into self-imposed exile and refrained from acting any further till her death in 2014. The chronology of Sen’s films are as follows: 1952 – 1; 1953 – 4; 1954 - 9; 1955 – 7 (Hindi 1); 1956 – 6; 1957 – 6 (Hindi – 2): 1958 – 3; 1959 – 2; 1960 – 4 (Hindi – 2); 1961 – 1; 1962 – 1; 1963 – 2; 1964 – 1; 1966 – 1(Hindi); 1967 – 1; 1969 – 1; 1970 – 1; 1971 – 2; 1972 – 2; 1974 – 2; 1975 – 2; 1976 – 1; 1978 – 1.

Uttam-Suchitra duo

Suchitra Sen was cast opposite Uttam Kumar in 30 films. They lent a new dimension to Bengali cinema only to be recognized as the greatest romantic pair ever.

Out of the 30 films acted by the duo, 14 were super-duper hits, followed by seven super hit films. A maximum number of their films (24) were produced during the decade 1953-1962, and 11 of the biggest of hits as well as four super hit films were released during this time. This romantic pair had only one block-buster film, i.e. Sagarika (1956) which ran for 24 weeks. Suchitra Sen was one of the most successful screen pairs with Uttam Kumar to rule the celluloid from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Suchitra Sen and her Co-actors

She worked with 21 co-actors and generated the highest number of films (30) with Uttam Kumar. Among the other co-actors, she acted with are Bikash Roy in seven films, Basanta Chowdhury (four), and Soumitra Chattopadhyay in three films.

Four co-actors - Ashok Kumar (one each in Bengali and Hindi), Deb Anand ( Hindi), Asit Baran (Bengali), and Rabin Majumder acted with Sen in two films each. She acted in one film each with the following 13 co-actors- Baratbhusan (Hindi), Dharmendra (Hindi), Dilip Kumar (Hindi), Dilip Mukhopadhaya, Dipak Mukhopadhaya, Nirmal Kumar, Prasanta Kumar, Ranjit Mallick, Samar Roy, Samit Bhanja, Sanjib Kumar (Hindi), Shekher and Utpal Dutta.

There was no hero in Kajori, and the hero’s name could not be identified for the film Shesh Kothay. She was cast with Ranjit Mallick in Dinen Gupta’s film Devi Chaudhurani in 1974.

It may be noted that she starred with two co-actors in six films. Out of them there are five Bengali films i.e. Dhuli (1954), Shilpi (1956), Smriti TuKu Thaak (1960), Uttar Fhalguni (1963), Kamal Lata (1969), and one Hindi film i.e. Mamta (1966).

Directors

She worked under 36 directors in her 60 films. Out of them, three were corporate bodies that worked as director, like Agradoot, Agragrami, and Yatric. The largest number of Sen’s films was directed by Agradoot, and Ajoy Kar i.e. six films each.

The first film by Agradoot (headed by Bibhuti Laha), and Ajoy Kar were released in the same year 1955 and their last films in 1972 and 1976 respectively. Asit Sen directed four of her films - the first one in 1957 and the last one in 1966.

She also worked under another 33 directors. Out of them, two directors - Pinaki Mukhopadhyay, and Sukumar Das Gupta made three films each; seven directors- Bijoy Basu, Debokikumar Basu, Haridas Bhattacharya, Niren Lahiry, Sushil Majumder, Agragami (corporate) and Yatric (corporate) directed two films each.

Apart from these, a group of 24 directors - Bimal Ray, Chitya Basu, Chitrasarathi, Deb Narayan Gupta, Dinen Gupta, Gulzar (Hindi), Harisadhan Dasgupta, Hiren Nag, Hrishikesh Mukherjee (Hindi), Kartick Chattopadhyay, Khagen Ray, Mongal Chakroborty, Nandalal Jasbasantalal (Hindi), Naresh Mitra, Nirmal Dey, Raj Khoshla (Hindi), Salil Sen, Sankar Mukherjee (Hindi), Satish Dasgupta, Subodh Mitra, Sudhangshu Mukhopadhyay, Sudhir Mukhopadhyay, Sushil Mukhopadhyay, and Taru Mukhopadhyay, directed one film each.

Greta Garbo of Indian Cinema

Suchitra Sen was often called and compared with Greta Garbo, one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood. Despite Garbo’s huge popularity, she quietly left the film world and remained away from it till her death in 1990, following adverse criticism that followed after the release of her last film Two Faced Woman in 1941. Likewise, Suchitra Sen also never appeared before the public till her death in 2014 after her last film Pranoy Pasha miserably flopped in 1978.

CONCLUSION

The term Mahanayika (greatest heroine) is not sufficient to express Suchitra Sen. Given her majestic screen presence and popularity, one can argue that probably ‘superstar’ is a more befitting one. She traced a new path in Indian cinema, breaking the conservatism that embodied the female actresses.

Sen retired from the screen in 1978 after a career of over 27 years to a life of seclusion, and avoided any public appearance. She then devoted her time to the Ramakrishna Mission.

Suchitra Sen died on 17th January 2014 at the age of nearly 83, in Kolkata. She is considered as a path-breaker and a role model for the generations of students of cinema and artistes to follow.

Many remember her as “the beauty of all beauties”. Whatever may be the reason behind her self-imposed exile, Suchitra Sen’s disappearance from public eye remains a mystery. Till date, her popularity remains unmatched. She symbolises the golden age of Bengali cinema with memorable films like Agnipariksha, Devdas and Saat Paanke Bandha.

The film Saat Paanke Bandha released in 1963 was her first film with Soumitra Chattopadhyay that eventually became a super duper hit. Their last film Pranoy Pasha released in 1978 was a super flop. It is interesting to note that Sen’s first film was a flop and her last film a super flop.

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