The 1950s West Bengal must have been a fascinating place — the British had just left and despite the painful partition of Bengal, there was new hope. India then was dripping with Nehruvian optimism.
West Bengal was represented by its remarkable chief minister, Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy. At the heart of it all was Calcutta (yes, very much ‘Calcutta’ not Kolkata) — its modern character intact — her buildings, her boulevards, her river banks, her cleanliness and overall, sensibilities were very much a driving force.
In cinema, this modernity expressed itself in two distinct yet dominant sensibilities – the high-brow intellectualism, often symbolised by the city’s ‘adda’ culture; the other, perhaps less authoritative, was the middle-class way of life. If Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak were the high priests of the former, Suchitra Sen (born Roma Dasgupta) was the prima donna of the latter.
On her 87th birthday today, here’s a look at what made her so special, why there can never be another ‘Roma di’.
To appreciate Suchitra’s unrelenting charm, it is essential to familiarise oneself with the quintessential Bengali sensibility. Suchitra was a strikingly good-looking woman — sharp features, big expressive eyes, a gainly figure, a disarming smile.
Yet, to many an Indian, growing up on classic Indian features as epitomised in the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma, she would, perhaps, fall short by a step. Here’s where the likes Madhubala, Nutan, Waheeda Rehman and Nalini Jaywant etc would score over her.