Soumitra Chatterjee and Satyajit Ray till date are considered the dynamic director-actor duo in Indian cinema. The two icons from the film industry changed the landscape of Indian cinema.
As the actor, Soumitra Chatterjee breathes his last, here's a recount of how he started his journey in the industry. The following excerpt is from the last chapter of the book, 'My Years With Apu' where Ray fondly mentioned him and how Chatterjee came to his notice.
While I had used only professionals in both Parapather and Jalsaghar, I decided to go back to predominantly non-professional actors for Apur Sansar (The World Of Apu), which is what I decided to call the third party.
I particularly wanted new faces for Apu, his wife Aparna, his five-year-old son Kajal, and his five-year-old wife's son, Aditi, and his friend Pulu. For the rest, I didn't mind employing professionals.
He was then 20 and just out of college, so I had to send him away.
When I was looking for a character to play the adolescent Apu in Aparajito the young men who came to see me was Soumitra Chatterjee, brought to me by my assistant production man Nitai Dutta. Soumitra had the right look but was too old for the adolescent Apu. He was then 20 and just out of college, so I had to send him away. This time I sent for him again and offered him the lead role. Soumitra was then a radio announcer but with an intense interest in acting. He had made a stage appearance in a small role in a production by the doyen of Bengal's stage, Sisir Bhaduri.
Third time lucky, Apur Sansar went on to win the President's Gold Medal and the British Film Institute' Southerland Trophy as the most original film of the year. We were acclaimed at home and abroad and it was a huge box office success.
Soumitra Chatterjee went on to become the most sought after actor in Bengal. While, Sharmila Tagore made an extremely successful career for herself in Bombay, although she returned to work for me in a number of my films. My Years With Apu: Satyajit Ray.