End Of An Era: Co-Actresses Mourn The Death Of Acting Legend Soumitra Chatterjee

Chatterjee, one of India's most acclaimed actors, had worked with a long line of skilled contemporaries in his career, both from Bengali as well as Hindi cinema.

Tanvi Akhauri
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Soumitra Chatterjee tributes

Soumitra Chatterjee, a doyen of Indian cinema known for a prolific, six decades-long career primarily in Bengali films, passed away on November 15 aged 85 in Kolkata. The legendary actor had reportedly contracted the coronavirus following a film shoot of his biopic titled Abhijaan, and had unfortunately developed health complications. Remembered fondly as the complex Apu and the shrewd Feluda - from his iconic collaborations with filmmaker Satyajit Ray - Chatterjee's death is being mourned as an irreparable loss, with tributes flooding in from all quarters.


The award-winning actor's daughter, Poulami Bose, marked the occasion by saying "she had lost not just her father but her best friend." She was quoted in The Telegraph, paying a tribute to her beloved Bapi, saying, "He will live among us forever. We will celebrate his life. I’m telling everyone not to feel sad. We shall consider his life an ideal one and celebrate it."

Bose, however, has appealed to people in a Facebook post not to visit their home with condolences. "Please keep the pandemic in mind and pray from the safety of your homes," she wrote.

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Co-Actresses, Others Pay Tributes

Chatterjee, one of India's most acclaimed actors, had worked with a long line of skilled contemporaries in his career, both from Bengali as well as Hindi cinema. His death has thus invited a volley of tributes from all corners of the industry. Amitabh Bachchan expressed grief over "one of mightiest pillars of the Film Industry" having fallen, while Satyajit Ray's son Sandip Ray said, "I lost a member of my family."


Actresses and artists from Chatterjee's generation, as well as those much younger, are remembering him as an actor whose death has left a void. Sharmila Tagore, who made a joint debut on celluloid with Chatterjee as Apu's wife Aparna in Ray's 1959 film Apur Sansar, said, "He was one of my oldest friends... We would talk for hours on sports, history, our vision for India. He was so learned. There was so much to learn from him. I’m very sad today." Tagore's daughter, Soha Ali Khan, also posted tributes for Chatterjee on her Instagram.

Shabana Azmi was quoted saying, "I had the honour of working with him as his wife in Nicolas Klotz’s film La nuit Bengali (The Bengali Night, 1988) co-starring Hugh Grant and John Hurt... He was charming and great company to be around because he was well-read and could speak on many subjects. I was in touch with his daughters the last few weeks and I am deeply saddened by his loss. I had hoped and believed he would recover. He will be missed greatly."

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Here is a round-up of some social media reactions: 

Politicians too paid tributes to Chatterjee, proving the national significance he held. Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Kathak dancer-turned-politician Sharmistha Mukherjee posted the following messages on social media:

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Remembering Soumitra Chatterjee

"If I stop acting, I won’t exist." This was what Chatterjee, then aged 81, had said in an interview once. And one has no reason to doubt the veracity of his claim, going by the magnitude of work he delivered in an impressive career of over 60 years. He was introduced by Ray to the screen in 1959 with Apur Sansar, the third in the unsurpassable Apu Trilogy that is till date considered as some of the best films ever made. After the thundering success of this collaboration, Chatterjee worked with Ray a total of 14 times, among which were the famed Feluda films - Sonar Kella and Joi Baba Felunath - created and directed by Ray.

Soumitra Chatterjee went on to work with most notable filmmakers and actors in Bengali cinema, including Mrinal Sen in Akash Kusum and Ajoy Kar in Parineeta, which are counted among his best works. For his unparalleled contribution to cinema and the arts, Chatterjee won many accolades, including the Padma Bhushan (one of India's highest civilian awards), Dadasaheb Phalke Award (India's highest award for cinema), and Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur (one of the highest honours for arts in France).

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As his co-actresses attested, Chatterjee was well-versed in arts other than film. In that regard, he also authored several books, dramas, and poetry collections.

Chatterjee's funeral, preceded by a procession attended by countless fans of the legend, was held amidst state police honours, sombre Rabindra sangeet, and presence of several from the Bengali film industry. Pictures from the site communicate it was a farewell fit for a king. And rightly so, because Chatterjee was nothing less.

Views expressed are the author's own. 

indian cinema acting legend Soumitra Chatterjee Bengali cinema