The maestro Soumitra Chatterjee was born on 19 January 1935 in Krishnanagar. His parents moved to Kolkata while he was still a child. He pursued his education from the University of Calcutta and graduated with Honours in Bengali literature and then continued his MA in Bengali.
Soumitra Chatterjee had started to work in the All India Radio before he had started acting in films. His first opportunity in films was presented by the legendary Satyajit Ray. In 1959, Ray cast him as lead role in Apur Sansar.
Ray and Soumitra worked on fourteen films together. It is said that he had stayed for some years in Satyajit Ray’s old apartment in Kolkata.
While he was still studying, he started to learn acting under the renowned actor-director of the then Bengali theatre, Ahindra Choudhury.
Interestingly, while we see Soumitra Chatterjee as a success he also had his own share of rejections on the way. He was discarded in his screen test for the film Nilachale Mahaprabhu directed by Kartik Chattopadhyay in 1957.
Soumitra outshone in all his performances. He did a number of roles under the direction of globally renowned directors like Mrinal Sen and Tapan Sinha. He received appraisals for Mrinal Sen’s Akash Kusum.
In Tapan Sinha’s Jhinder Bandi released in 1961, we see him excel in a very different image of a villain. It was a difficult act to play against legendary Uttam Kumar who was playing the lead role.
His roles with actress Tanuja in Teen Bhubaner Pare in 1969 and Prothom Kodom Phul has remained as landmark romance movies. His pairing with Sharmila in Ray’s films is truly unforgettable.
In his every on screen avatar, Soumitra Chatterjee has ruled. Furthermore, Soumitra excelled in every other role whether on screen or on stage.
Blessed with versatility and multitude of talents, he is a poet and reciter par excellence. He has also published twelve poetry books. His heartfelt rendition of Tagore’s poems remains a gem to us and as well as to posterity. Today, he is a leading figure of theatre. He is the brightest light that has kept theatrical performance still alive.
Soumitra Chatterjee has been honoured by the ‘Officier des Arts et Metiers’. It is the highest award for arts given by the French government. He has also been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from Italy.
Sangeet Natak Akademi which is India’s National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama awarded him the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. Soumitra Chatterjee has been the winner of Padma Bhushan and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, we are a lucky generation to have such a legend with us.
Like a scintillating star Soumitra Chatterjee has always us given joy and inspiration.