Suchitra Sen, one of India’s best-known movie actresses, who remained famous more than 30 years after she made her last film, died on Friday in Calcutta. She was 82.
The cause was a heart attack, said Dr. Subrata Maitra of Belle Vue Hospital, where she died.
Ms. Sen, who appeared in both Bengali and Hindi films, was in such demand at the height of her fame that the celebrated filmmaker Satyajit Ray scrapped his proposed film “Devi Chaudhurani” because she was not available. Her refusal to act in a film by the great Hindi showman Raj Kapoor made headlines.
She became a recluse after retiring from movies in 1978 and was often compared to another famous recluse, Greta Garbo. But she continued to be talked about nonetheless.
“She knew how to create that mystery around herself and how to carry it along with her long after she stepped out of the tinsel world,” the Bengali actress Madhabi Mukherjee said. “Even today, we talk about her, her films and her unique sense of style.”
Ms. Sen and Uttam Kumar were the most successful romantic pair in the history of Bengali cinema, famous for their passionate on-screen chemistry. They appeared together in 30 films, including the hits “Agni Pariksha” (1954) and “Saptapadi” (1961).
Ms. Sen appeared in more than 50 Bengali films and seven Bollywood, or Hindi, films. Her first Bollywood film was Bimal Roy’s “Devdas” (1955), a major box-office success.
Her most famous Hindi film after “Devdas” was “Aandhi” (1975), which caused controversy because the character she played, an Indian politician, was thought to be based on Indira Gandhi, the country’s prime minister at the time. “Aandhi” was banned for a time during the state of emergency declared by Ms. Gandhi in 1975, although it had already been in theaters for several months.
Suchitra Sen was born Rama Dasgupta on April 6, 1931, in Pabna, which is now in Bangladesh. One of five children of Karunamoy Dasgupta, a school headmaster, and Indira Devi, a homemaker, she was originally more interested in singing than acting.
In 1951, she auditioned as a soundtrack singer but was instead offered an acting role by the director Sukumar Dasgupta. Her fourth film, the romantic comedy “Sharey Chuattar” (1953), was her first pairing with Uttam Kumar and her first major success.
Ms. Sen won many honors, including a Silver Award at the Moscow International Film Festival for her performance in the 1963 Bengali film “Saat Pake Bandha.” She was given the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian honor, in 1972. In 2005 she turned down the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest honor in Indian cinema, because she did not want to go to Delhi and collect it in person from the president of India. The West Bengal government gave her the Banga Bibhushanon, its highest award, in absentia in 2012.
Ms. Sen’s husband, Dibanath Sen, whom she married in 1947, died in 1970. She is survived by her daughter, Moon Moon Sen, a well-known Bengali and Hindi actress, and two granddaughters, Raima Sen and Riya Sen, who are also actresses.
Suchitra Sen (Bengali pronunciation: [ʃuːtʃiːraː ʃeːn] listen (help·info)), born Rama Dasgupta ( listen (help·info); 6 April 1931 – 17 January 2014), was an Indian actress who acted in several Bengali and a few Hindi films. The movies in which she was paired opposite Uttam Kumar became classics in the history ofBengali Cinema.
Suchitra Sen was the first Indian actress to receive an award at an international film festival when, at the 1963 Moscow International Film Festival, she won the Silver Prize for Best Actress for Saat Paake Bandha. In 1972, she was awarded the Padma Shri, one of the highest civilian awards in India. From 1979 on, she retreated from public life and shunned all forms of public contact; for this she is often compared to Greta Garbo. In 2005, she refused theDadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest cinematic award in India, to stay out of the public eye. In 2012, she was conferred the West Bengal Government's highest honour: Banga Bibhushan.
Personal life and education
Suchitra Sen was born in Pabna, in the present-day Pabna District ofBangladesh, on 6 April 1931. Her father Late Karunamoy Dasgupta was the headmaster of the local school, and her mother Indira Devi was a homemaker. She was their fifth child and third daughter. She received her formal education in Pabna.
Suchitra Sen married Dibanath Sen, son of wealthy Bengali industrialist Adinath Sen, in 1947 and had one daughter, Moon Moon Sen, who is a former actress. Her father-in-law Adinath Sen was supportive of her acting in films after her marriage. Her industrialist husband initially invested a lot in her career and gave her all possible support.
Suchitra Sen made a successful entry into Bengali films in 1952, and then a less successful transition to the Bollywood film industry. According to persistent but unconfirmed reports in the Bengali press, her marriage was strained by her success in the film industry.
Suchitra Sen made her debut in films with Shesh Kothaay in 1952, but it was never released. The following year saw her act opposite Uttam Kumar in Sharey Chuattor, a film by Nirmal Dey. It was a box-office hit and is remembered for launching Uttam-Suchitra as a leading pair. They went on to become the icons for Bengali dramas for more than 20 years, becoming almost a genre unto themselves.
She received a Best Actress Award for the film Devdas (1955), which was her first Hindi movie. Her Bengali melodramas and romances, especially with Uttam Kumar, made her the most famous Bengali actress ever. Her films ran through the 1960s and '70s. She continued to act in films even after her husband died, such as in the Hindi film Aandhi (1974). Aandhi was inspired by India's Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Sen received a Filmfare Award nomination as Best Actress, while Sanjeev Kumar, who essayed the role of her husband, won the Filmfare as Best Actor.
One of her best known performances was in Deep Jwele Jaai (1959). She played Radha, a hospital nurse employed by a progressive psychiatrist, Pahadi Sanyal, who is expected to develop a personal relationship with male patients as part of their therapy. Sanyal diagnoses the hero, Basanta Choudhury, as having an unresolved Oedipal dilemma. He orders Radha to play the role though she is hesitant as in a similar case she had fallen in love with the patient. She finally agrees and bears up to Choudhury's violence, impersonates his mother, sings his poetic compositions and in the process falls in love again. In the end, even as she brings about his cure, she suffers a nervous breakdown. The film is noted for its partly lit close-ups of Sen, which set the tone of the film. Asit Sen remade the film in Hindi as Khamoshi (1969) with Waheeda Rehman in the Suchitra Sen role.
Suchitra Sen's other landmark film with Asit Sen was Uttar Falguni (1963). She plays the dual role of a courtesan, Pannabai, and her daughter Suparna, a lawyer. Critics note that she brought a great deal of poise, grace and dignity to the role of a fallen woman determined to see her daughter grow up in a good, clean environment.
Suchitra Sen's international success came in 1963, when she won the best actress award at the Moscow International Film Festival for the movie Saat Paake Bandha, becoming the first Indian actress to receive an international film award.
A film critic summed up Suchitra Sen's career and continuing legacy as "one half of one of Indian cinema's most popular and abiding screen pairs, Suchitra Sen redefined stardom in a way that few actors have done, combining understated sensuality, feminine charm and emotive force and a no-nonsense gravitas to carve out a persona that has never been matched, let alone surpassed in Indian cinema"
Suchitra Sen refused Satyajit Ray's offer due to a scheduling problem. As a result, Ray never made the film based on the novelDevi Chaudhurani. She also refused Raj Kapoor's offer for a film under the RK banner.
Sen continued to act after her husband's death in 1970, but called it a day when Pronoy Pasha flopped, and retired from the screen in 1978 after a career of over 25 years to a life of quiet seclusion. She was to do a film project Nati Binodini, also starring Rajesh Khanna, but the film was shelved mid-way after shooting when she decided to quit acting.
She assiduously avoided the public gaze after her retirement and devoted her time to the Ramakrishna Mission. Suchitra Sen was a contender for the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2005, provided she was ready to accept it in person. Her refusal to go to New Delhi and personally accept it from the President of India deprived her of the award.
Suchitra Sen was admitted to the hospital on 24 December 2013 and was diagnosed with a lung infection. She was reported to have been recovering well in the first week of January. She died at 8.25 am on 17 January 2014, due to a heart attack.
Suchitra Sen's death has been condoled by many leaders, including the President of India Dr. Pranab Mukherjee, the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, and BJP's Prime Ministerial candidateNarendra Modi. A gun salute was given before her cremation, as ordered byMamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal.
Respecting her fierce desire for complete privacy, her last rites were performed at Kolkata's Kaioratola crematorium, barely five and half hours after she breathed her last, with her coffin reaching the crematorium in a flower decked hearse with dark-tinted windows. Despite being Bengal's greatest star, referred to as "Mahanayika", she had consciously chosen to step into oblivion and she remained an enigma till her last, although thousands of fans had converged at the crematorium to catch one last glimpse of their idol. Her entire medical treatment had also been done in seclusion and secrecy.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, the below mentioned films are in Bengali language.
|1953||Saat Number Kayedi|
|1953||Bhagaban Srikrishna Chaitanya||Bishnupriya|
|1954||Ora Thaake Odhare|
|1954||Atom Bomb||Appeared as an extra in the film shot in 1951 but released in 1954|
|1955||Devdas||Parvati (Paro)||First Hindi language film|
|1957||Harano Sur||Dr. Roma Banerjee|
|1957||Pathe Holo Deri||Mallika|
|1957||Musafir||Shakuntala Verma||Hindi language|
|1958||Rajlakshmi O Srikanta||Rajlakshmi|
|1958||Surya Toran||Aunita Chatarjee|
|1959||Deep Jwele Jaai||Radha|
|1960||Smriti Tuku Thaak||Shobha|
|1960||Bombai Ka Baboo||Maya||Hindi language|
|1963||Saat Paake Badha||Archana|
|1963||Uttar Fhalguni||Debjani / Pannabai / Suparna|
|1964||Sandhya Deeper Sikha||Jayanti Bannerjee|
|1966||Mamta||Devyani / Pannabai / Suparna||Hindi language|
|1970||Megh Kalo||Dr. Nirmalya Roy|
|1972||Alo Amaar Alo||Atashi|
|1972||Haar Maana Haar||Neera|
|1975||Aandhi||Aarti Devi||Hindi language|
- 1963 – Awarded 3rd Moscow International Film Festival – Best Actress Award for Saat Paake Bandha
- 1963 – Nominated Filmfare Best Actress Award for Mamta
- 1972 – Awarded Padma Shri for notable contribution in arts
- 1976 – Nominated Filmfare Best Actress Award for Aandhi
- 2012 – Awarded Banga Bibhushan for lifetime achievement in film acting