Soumitra Chatterjee (1935-2020): ‘Bengal film world has been orphaned’

By: Express News Service | Kolkata |

November 16, 2020 1:11:13 am

Soumitra Chatterjee with Sharmila Tagore during a shoot. (Express Archive)

Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee, who died at a Kolkata hospital on Sunday after a battle with post-Covid ailments, was cremated with full state honours. He was 85.

Chatterjee was admitted to Belle Vue Clinic on October 6 after testing positive. He was later shifted to the ICU as Covid encephalopathy set in, affecting his nervous system and causing renal dysfunction. He recovered from the infection but his health did not improve, despite plasma therapy, dialysis and tracheotomy. His condition severely deteriorated on Saturday following multi-organ failure. Doctors said he had stopped responding to treatment.

He is survived by wife Deepa Chatterjee, daughter Poulomi Basu and son Sougata Chatterjee.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee rushed to the hospital after the news broke of Chatterjee’s death, and met the actor’s daughter there.

“Feluda is no more. Apu said goodbye. Farewell, Soumitra (Da) Chatterjee. He has been a legend in his lifetime. International, Indian and Bengali cinema has lost a giant. We will miss him dearly. The film world in Bengal has been orphaned,” Banerjee said.

Soumitra Chatterjee with Satyajit Ray on the sets of Ghare Baire. (Express Archive)

As news of his death spread, hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital to catch a final glimpse of their much-loved Feluda —a strapping, handsome Bengali sleuth – brought to life by Satyajit Ray, and immortalised by Chatterjee in Sonar Kella and Joi Baba Felunath.

Some were seen reciting Chatterjee’s favourite poems by Rabindranath Tagore as the hearse reached his residence.

After his family paid their respects, his remains were taken to the Technicians Studio in Kolkata, where the film fraternity and technicians paid tribute. Later, the body was taken to Rabindra Sadan in Kolkata and kept there for two hours for people to have a last glimpse. As the procession, led by Banerjee, began heading towards the crematorium, CPM leaders Biman Basu, Surjyakanta Mishra, Sujan Chakraborty and others joined them.

In several parts of the West Bengal, people took out processions with photographs of the veteran actor, as a mark of respect.

President Ram Nath Kovind said: “…Indian cinema has lost one of its legends. He will be especially remembered for the Apu trilogy and other memorable performances in Satyajit Ray’s masterpieces.”PM Narendra Modi said this was a colossal loss to the cinema and cultural life of West Bengal and India. “Through his works, he came to embody Bengali sensibilities, emotions and ethos. Anguished by his demise…” Modi tweeted.

Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina also condoled the death. “Big vacuum has been created in the field of acting with the death of the veteran actor. Soumitra Chatterjee will always remain in our hearts through his work,” she said.

Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted that the veteran actor took Bengali cinema to new heights.

Members of the film industry, many of whom had worked with Chatterjee, mourned his passing.

“I can’t believe he is no more,” said film director Aparna Sen. “He was my first hero. I was only 14 when we first met. He and his wife were friends of our family. I became his friend too as I grew up… I had hoped till the last that a miracle would happen,” said Sen, who debuted opposite Chatterjee in the Teen Kanya anthology.

Sharmila Tagore, who shared screen space with Chatterjee in Ray’s Apur Sansar, Devi and Aranyer Din Ratri recalled many happy moments she had shared with the thespian. “We shared a great rapport. He had a childlike innocence and simplicity. He was a cerebral personality,” Tagore said. Both Tagore and Chatterjee debuted in Ray’s 1959 masterpiece Apur Sansar.

Director Sandip Ray, son of Satyajit Ray, said: “He was an actor par excellence. He was meticulous about everything… a perfectionist.”

Veteran actor Shabana Azmi tweeted, “Farewell Soumitra Da. I had the honour of playing your wife in La Nuit Bengali and your daughter in 15 Park Avenue…”

Several other members of the film industry remembered the actor and paid their respects on social media. —PTI inputs

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