Dada Saheb Phalke awardee, Satyajit Ray's favourite man, Soumitra Chatterjee died at the age of 85 on November 15 in Kolkata. He died at Bellevue Nursing Home in Kolkata after being hospitalised for nearly 30 days. The 'Apur Sansar' actor had tested positive for coronavirus on October 6.
Later, he had tested negative for coronavirus but was shifted to a non-Covid Intensive Trauma Unit (ITU). Since then, the 'Charulata' actor had been under expert medical care with a special team set up to monitor his health. He was facing secondary infections due to the Covid-19 repercussions.
In most Bengali households, Soumitra Chattopadhyay had become a family member, as Apu, (Apur Panchali), Feluda, (Joy Baba Lokenath, Sonar Kella,) master moshai (Hirak Rajar Deshe). Soumitra Chatterjee was not just an actor but a nostalgia, who fought against fascism in Hirak Rajar Deshe, a film by Satyajit Ray, which acted as a metaphor for Indira Gandhi's emergency period.
Before the demand for parallel cinema, realistic pictures became a fancy trend on social media, Soumitra Chatterjee had already set an example. It's difficult to conclude whether the Dada Saheb Phalke awardee was a star of the time, or the star since then, (or maybe both). For the longest time, he represented the face of a well-read Bengali, ones who were fondly called 'bhodrolok'.
Journey of the legendary Soumitra Chatterjee
Soumitra Chatterjee spent the first ten years of his life in Krishnanagar. His passion for acting started at a very young stage in his life when he did drama in schools and colleges. When he moved to Kolkata, he intensely focused on his passion.
It was his hobby to perform, but after watching Shishir Bhaduri's performance in a play he gained perspectives about working as a professional actor. A few years later Apu (Apur Sansar, Satyajit Ray) happened and then a new wave began in the Indian Cinema with Satyajit Ray as the epicentre of India's cultural icon.
Ray, fondly known as Manikda in Indian film circles, would often write screenplays keeping Soumitra Chatterjee in mind. A director-actor duo was established in Bengali cinema. Much later in Nayak when Ray collaborated with Uttam Kumar instead of Soumitra Chatterjee, cinephiles sensed an out-of-frame competition between these actors in parallel cinema.
But in real life, these two first-line heroes were quite good friends. Uttam Kumar was one of the guests at Soumitra's sister's wedding,(remember this was in an era when weddings were more personal and not about pre-wedding, post-wedding or bride and groom shoots with professional camera persons.) Uttam Kumar even became his guardian and much later it was accepted that Nayak would have been incomplete without the presence of the glamorous Uttam Kumar.
Despite a successful career in the film industry, even in the middle of action and cut, he explored the meaning of his life on stage. Soumitra Chatterjee was awarded the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Dada Saheb Phalke for his notable work in Indian cinema.
That is why waking up to the news of a legend being on oxygen supply is mentally disturbing especially in a year where we have already witnessed the loss of Irrfan Khan, Rishi Kapoor, Chadwick Boseman, and the untimely demise of Sushant Singh Rajput. 'Fight Feluda Fight', people prayed on social media, even those netizens who were disappointed with him being a part of the film circle which sent a letter to PM Narendra Modi regarding the rise of lynching incidents in India.
How can a figure who stood up against the fascist Hirok Raja not fight COVID 19, cinephiles unreasonably pinned their hope? What else can they hold onto in the middle of a pandemic which restrains you from physically coming closer to your loved ones?