Birthday remembrance

The Indian Garbo….

The lady was born today , 92 years ago in what is now a country that provides tens of millions of illegal immigrants (many of them involved in violent crimes) to India. Her acting career was nothing short of brilliant, and exactly half of the films she acted in were with her best friend, Arun Kumar Chattopadhyay (we know him by his screen name). She was born Roma Dasgupta but we know her much better by her screen name, Suchitra Sen.

She married as a teenager, and to his credit, Dibanath Sen, the son of a wealthy industrialist, Adinath Sen was supportive (as was, thankfully, the patriarch) of her acting and both encouraged it. There is virtually no other example in Indian Cinema where the actress has actually had an entire career span only after getting married. Her debut film, in Bangla, Shesh Kothay was shot to completion but never released. She was lucky this had no impact on her career. The very next year, she starred in a film Sharey Chuattor with Uttam Kumar (who would become arguably her best friend as well as constant leading man in films) which became a huge hit and the pair of stars were born. Her first film in Hindi was with the legendary Bimal Roy as Parvati (Paro) in his adaptation of Sharatchandra Chattopadhyay’sDevdas“. She is the first Indian actress to get an International award for her acting.

As a tribute to her on her 92nd Birthday I’ll play two songs, one from a Hindi movie and one from a Bangla one. For an actress of her stature and abilities, it is something of a surprise she only acted in 61 movies throughout, out of which the number of Hindi movies was a pitiful 7: Devdas, Musafir, Champakali, Bombai ka Baboo, Mamta, Sarhad and Aandhi. Of her Bangla movies, even a non Bangla speaker like me has seen nearly 10. Her Uttar Falguni was remade as Mamta, a true gut wrencher movie with dual roles which must’ve drained her emotionally. She outdid Nargis (in my opinion ) in Adalat which has a strikingly similar storyline. Her role in Deep Jwele Jaai is to me the most intense one I’ve seen as Nurse Radha Mitra. When Asit Sen (the director) remade it in Hindi as Khamoshi, I am sure he asked Suchitra Sen, but Waheeda Rehman got the role. Waheeda ji watched the Bangla original some 10 times to get under the skin of Radha. Watch this song from Bimal Roy’s Devdas, her debut in Hindi films. Although it is sung by Talat and filmed on Yusuf saab, you can see her mettle. Amazing emotive abilities on display so early in her career in, what is admittedly, one of the most challenging roles in Bollywood history.

The Bangla song had to be from a more joyous role she enacted in a wonderful Bangla Classic, Saptapadi with her friend and favourite co-star, Uttam Kumar.

You’ll find the composer of this song, Hemantada has reused the composition in a Hindi song which I honestly don’t need to spell out, it is so well known.

The lady after Aandhi -which ran into a tremendous amount of Government ( thru the Censor Board) opposition and was delayed (since IG was ruling no one dared to point out the denial of Freedom of Expression, those who did landed in jail or worse during 75-77, easily the worst period of Indian history) disappeared from Hindi movies altogether. Aandhi won both members of the lead pair Filmfares. She unfortunately became so reclusive after that she even refused to accept the highest award for anyone connected with films in India: Dadasaheb Phalke award, as she didn’t want even that much publicity .

A wonderful actress who showed her brilliant glimpses of her amazing oeuvre when she got the opportunity.

Here’s wishing you a good one, Suchitra Sen, you’re truly one of the all time greats of the industry. Stay healthy and happy, folks and watch either Saptapadi or Deep Jwele Jaai tonight on YouTube.


By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

20 replies on “The Indian Garbo….”

Excellent piece on homage to Suchitra Sen.
Mamata was a great film too. With Ashok Kumar as lover and father…Dada Moni did the same to Meena Kumari in Pakeezah with elan.
What coincidences!
Devdas and Parvati scenes had hardly any dialogue in the interaction but were most eloquent, thanks to the actors!
These things don’t happen again.

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One of my most favourite Bengali actress. Some called her Madhubala of Bangla films, in looks, her smile. My favourite Bangla song too!! Hindi song by Talat sahab is wonderful, though listening for the first time.
Suchitra Ji’s off screen name is new to me.

Your affinity for Bangla literature, films and songs amaze me, since the time I know you because each time you bring in something that was not known to me, despite being a Bong. Thanks for sharing!

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Lovely homage to the real star SS👌🙏🏾🙏🏾
I completely agree she outdid both Nargis n Waheeda in Bangla versions👌👌👌👌🙏🏾
Camera seemed to bow at her brilliant face🙏🏾
Yess her Paro was toughest of all…👌🙏🏾

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Suchitra Sen was a legend in her time. Her private tutor (guru) during her schooldays , a monk in East Pakistan (Bangladesh), was our school teacher years later, in Calcutta. That was the first time I came to hear about her, as he used to talk very affectionately about her. After she became The Suchitra Sen, a big star and a married woman, visited our Engineering college campus a few times to meet her brother in law, a student, a few years my senior. Never saw (forget about meeting) her during any of her visits. I heard that she was well respected by all in the film world and used to be addressed as Mrs Sen. Liked what you wrote about her, hats off to your wide knowledge and connaissance.

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Yes Suchitra sen was class apart but she is not the only actress whose career started after marriage. Rakhi is another one . Who had done some memorable roles and won many awards.

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