Revisiting ‘Mahanayika’: The ‘enigma’ called Suchitra Sen

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She was in the dream, she was in reality, her reel presence was enchanting and her realistic moves were enough to drive that generation into the dark eyelids, bewitching smile and subtle gestures of the ‘Mahanayika’ of Indian Cinema, Suchitra Sen. Called as ‘The Greta Garbo’ of Indian cinema by filmmaker Gautam Ghose, her most of the black and white movies were enough to bring in the ‘Vibgyor’ syndrome within the hearts of all the cine lovers of the era. And as she was born on April 6, this Monday is a day to remember her contribution to Indian Cinema and be a part of the exotic journey by revisiting the magic of her movies.

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If one travels down memory lane, the journey of Roma Dasgupta or Suchitra Sen will remain a fading experience to embody the time from where she exactly started to rewrite the quintessence of Bengali feminity. Officially she made her debut in ‘Sesh Kothay'(1952) which was never released, hence,‘Sharey Chuattor’ (1953) stands as her debut film in Bengali. Was it her ability to be the perfect foil to Bengal’s undisputable ‘mahanayak’ (megastar) Uttam Kumar or was it her on screen persona, a strong woman rooted in values but defiant when it comes to her ideals.

From playing the role of a trapped woman 1963’s Asit Sen classic Uttar Fhalguni (which was later made in hindi as ‘Mamta’, where she acted in a double role too), she laid the roles of one of the strongest revolts of the middle class society. 1961’s Shaptapadi, has almost become the bible of the lovers. She as Rina Brown is one of the immortal characters of Bengali movies. Rina’s loss of love results her to become an alcoholic. And that role stands as the most talked about genres of her life.
Although some of the Cine magazines of the time like ‘Ulto Rath’ would put Uttam-Suchitra Jodi under scanner at times, the fact is that, they have made their way into the pages of history as the lead pair of Bengali Cinema.soumitra

In 1963’s ‘Saat Paake Badha’ (which was later remade in ‘Kora Kagaz’ by Vijay Anand), Suchitra Sen’s marriage to a young idealistic professor (Soumitra Chatterjee) is destroyed by the interference of her overbearing mother (Chaya Devi). Caught between the two important people in her life, Suchitra Sen was confused, hurt and exquisitely neurotic. It was a performance that won her the best actress award at the Moscow Film Festival, making her the first Indian actress to have won an international award. She was awarded the Padmashree in 1972 and the West Bengal CM honoured her with BangaVibhushan in 2012.

In Bombay, her association with Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand was a much talked about affair. But she was super choosy in signing films. She was a part of Bimal Roy’s ‘Devdas’ and Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s ‘Musafir’
The Maestro,Satyajit Ray wanted to cast her in his adaptation of the Bankimchandra Chatterjee classic, ‘Debi Chaudhrani’, but when things didn’t work out, he abandoned the project.aandhi However the movie was later made by Dinen Gupta where she acted.

Then it was Gulzar’s story of a lifetime. He penned her in ‘Aandhi’ opposite Sanjeev Kumar. It was a ‘Chaand ko..rokh lo’ type performance from her. The role was that of a middle-aged woman politician who has a chance encounter with her ex-husband during while campaigning. Rumoured to be based in the life of the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, the film was banned during 1975’s emergency.

In 1977, her last film was ‘Pranay Pasha’ against soumitra Chatterjee. After this film, Sen completely retired from acting.However, after retiring from films, she never made any public appearance till her death. Infact she did not receive the Dada saheb Phalke award which was thought to be conferred on her as she did not want to make any public appearance. In order to collect the award , she had to go to Delhi.  Suchitra Sen died on January 17, 2014.

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