Swatilekha Sengupta, a veteran Bengali actor and stage personality, passed away at the age of 71 in Kolkata, reports said Wednesday. Her death is being mourned as a big loss to India’s art and culture scene.
As per reports, Sengupta had been battling kidney-related issues for some time now and was in hospital seeking treatment.
She was known for her pairing opposite film doyen Soumitra Chatterjee, who passed away last year in November. The two starred together in Satyajit Ray’s 1985 film Ghare Baire while Belashuru was their forthcoming venture together.
Condolences are pouring in for Sengupta on social media, with industry colleagues and fans calling it the end of an era. “My mom was a great human being and artist. Her work will be remembered. brilliant student. She was a gold medalist. She helped a lot of people,” Sengupta’s daughter Sohini was quoted saying after her demise.
তুমি রবে নীরবে হৃদয়ে মম…
বাংলা নাট্য জগতে শোকের ছায়া…
Noted Bengali actor Swatilekha Sengupta leaves a deep void in the world of theatre. The loss is irreparable. We will miss you. pic.twitter.com/Tdh9yW98TF
— Sreerupa Mitra Chaudhury (Nirbhoy Didi) (@sreerupa_mitra) June 16, 2021
Remembering Swatilekha Sengupta
Sengupta belonged to the era when Bengali theatre was at a performatively rich and culturally important peak. As one of the most erudite names in the industry then, Sengupta carved a place for herself as an icon. In 2011, she was honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for her contribution to the field.
In the last decade, Sengupta’s most prominent appearance was in the 2015 drama film Bela Seshe. Despite recent roles, she is remembered most fondly as Ghare Baire’s Bimala, a married woman caught in the crosshairs of her life that is with her husband and life that could be with their revolutionary neighbour Sandip (Chatterjee).
For its progressive themes, the film was a landmark, as was its base novel by Tagore when it was first published in 1916. Sengupta in an interview revealed she sunk into depression and contemplated suicide following the criticism her role attracted.
“I don’t remember everything, but it was a difficult phase. I had heard that some agitated women actors of the time wanted newspapers to carry critical pieces on me,” she said in 2017.
Sengupta hailed from Allahabad but after completing her education and working as a lecturer, she moved to Kolkata where a career in film and theatre began. And the rest is history.