The black and white film era was definitely the Golden Age of Bengali cinema. One of the most cherished actors of this era was Subhendu Chatterjee.
When Subhendu Chatterjee made his debut in 1965 with Akash Kusum and Kanch Kata Hirey, the big screen was already ruled by the superstars of Bengali cinema Uttam Kumar and Soumitra Chattopadhyay. But people noticed him. People loved his calm innocence and tall dark looks. He did not compete with the big players for the leads; instead he complemented them with his superb acting skills and refined looks.
Subhendu Chatterjee family and life
Subhendu Chatterjee or rather Dr. Subhendu Chatterjee studied to be a doctor. He graduated with an MBBS degree in 1960 from the Calcutta Medical College and started to work like another normal person. But all this while, his true passion had been acting. He had worked closely with Gyanesh Mukherjee in theatre and drama. It only took a little nudge and a chance that he made his debut in a Bengali film.
Subhendu Chatterjee started acting in supporting roles and later acted in the lead ones. Whatever the role would be, he had an air of the old time gentleman and a serene charm. His mild-mannered personality coupled with a gentle smile was all that was needed to win the hearts of the moviegoers. From dhuti to suit, he dazzled in every costume, yet in a sweet as well as in a manly way.
In his lifetime, Subhendu Chatterjee acted in about 135 films only but his scope of work was bigger than Bengali films. He was an ace actor on stage. His theatres were quite popular. His role in plays like Bilkish Begum and Amar Kantak were well appreciated by the spectators and the critics. He often acted in Bengali telefilms. In several ways the veteran actor had always enriched the art and culture of Bengal and its heritage.
Another of his great talent was his voice. He was an excellent singer. He sang several songs composed by the masterful Hemanta Mukherjee. Here are eight beautiful songs sung by Subhendu Chatterjee in the past that shows what a great artist he truly was.
Subhendu Chatterjee’s personality and screen presence blossomed with age and experience. One of his most unforgettable memories was in a Feluda story made for the TV, Dr. Munshir Diary. He played the role of a psychiatrist who engages Satyajit Ray’s super sleuth while writing a book.
Subhendu Chatterjee’s eldest son, Saswata Chatterjee has also inherited his father’s acting talents. Today he is one of the most well known and valued actors of Bengali cinema and television.
Subhendu Chatterjee movies
Probably every movie that Subhendu Chatterjee has acted in, he has touched it with a class. We have picked six films from his career that are our favourite. Do you have a favourite Subhendu Chatterjee movie? Let us know in the comments.
Aranyer Din Ratri
Subhendu’s first film with Satyajit Ray was Chiriakhana, the Byomkesh thriller with the lead as Uttam Kumar. Satyajit Ray’s Aranyer Din Ratri was his second film and needless to say, his gentle personality got justice in this classic film. He was Sanjoy, the most sober and serene of the foursome who had come to the forest bungalow for a holiday break.
The four friends Ashim, Sanjoy, Shekhar and Hari are close friends but each is different in nature. Ashim, played by Soumitra Chatterjee is the unspoken leader of this pack. Hari is rash and unpolished and Sanjoy is his contrary character in many ways. The role of Shekhar was played by the genius Rabi Ghose, and in many ways he is opposite to all sophistication that Ashim is. Yet, even after all these differences; these four have a deep bond with each other.
However, life unfolds in its own ways. As these friends plan to forget their city life stress and chill their brains out in their vacation, destiny plays its twists.
Chowringhee was a major movie in the life of Subhendu Chatterjee. Although stalwarts like Utpal Dutt and Uttam Kumar were enough to dominate the film, it was actually Subhendu who stole the show. He plays Shankar, the mild and sensitive guy who joins the Shah Jahan, a luxury hotel in Kolkata. The film revolves around the characters who visit the hotel. On one hand is the honest, tranquil and gentlemanly Shankar working in the hotel whereas on the other side are those people, celebrities and businessmen who visit the hotel and whose presence and acts also make the hotel and its staff get involved in unseen ways.
In Chowringhee, there was a rich cast who played the various characters. Apart from Uttam Kumar and Utpal Dutt, there was Tarun Kumar, Anjana Bhowmik, Biswajit Chatterjee, Supriya Choudhury, Bhanu Banerjee, Jahar Roy and Haradhan Banerjee. But it was the vantage point of Shankar that was critical in this drama.
It is interesting that the film Chowringhee was based on the novel Chowringhee written by the famous author Mani Shankar Mukherjee. He called himself Shankar the author and he named the protagonist after himself.
Chhadmabeshi is one of the most entertaining Bengali movies made till date. Subhendu plays the role of Subimal, the friend and co-plotter of Abanish Sen (Uttam Kumar). Botany professor Abanish Sen decides to play a practical joke on his brother in law Prasanta Ghosh. Prasanta is a successful advocate, played by the ingenious Bikash Roy.
Prasanta and his family have not met the newly married groom Abanish and taking this opportunity, Abanish poses as a driver and sends Subimal as himself. A light and entertaining comedy film, it is worth watching many times.
Amrita Kumbher Sandhane
One of the hard hitting Bengali films, Amrita Kumbher Sandhane is one of the more interesting movies Subhendu Chatterjee had acted in his life. This 1982 film is based on the Kumbha Mela and made on a story by author Samaresh Basu. The film had a rich cast of Aparna Sen, Bhanu Bandopadhyay, Samit Bhanja, Ruma Guha Thakurta, Mahua Roychoudhury and Anup Kumar.
Call it madness or faith, Kumbha Mela is one point where life takes myriad forms. Subhendu is a doctor who makes the journey to Kumbha Mela and we experience this great Indian drama of life from his eyes and through the various characters.
The award winning Lal Dorja is one of the later movies of Subhendu Chatterjee. He plays the role of an old dentist, Dr. Nabin Dutta. He is going through an unpleasant phase in his life where he is on the verge of getting divorced and on top of that, he suffers from pathophobia. This phobia makes him feel a kind of fear that he will become diseased and crippled for life.
In this crisis, he remembers a recurring memory of his childhood spent in Cherrapunji. There was a red door which probably holds the answer to today’s problems.
Pratham Kadam Phool
In this Soumitra – Tanuja romantic drama, Subhendu Chatterjee plays the role of the friend in need. Sukanto (Soumitra Chatterjee) and Baren (Subhendu) are good friends from school. They meet after many years and at a time when Sukanto is going through a tough time maintaining his relationship with his beloved Kakoli (played by Tanuja).
To make things more complicated Kakoli’s beauty and grace attracts the attention of Baren and his family and Kakoli also takes up a job under Baren in his office. Although Kakoli is true to her lover, Sukanto and his family are not being helpful to her. On a bad day of complaints and allegations, Kakoli walks out of Sukanto’s life. Although Sukanto misses her, it was Baren who helps to sort the misunderstandings out and bring Sukanto and Kakoli back together. Pratham Kadam Phool remains one of the most memorable movies of Subhendu Chatterjee.