Two late legendary films makers – one dubious distinction of having being turned down by none other then the legendary drama queen Suchitra Sen. Satyajit Ray had to give up on his dream project ‘Devi Chawdhurani’ with the Bengali cinema queen when she cited date problems while Bollywood’s original showman, the late Raj Kapoor was also politely given a no when he wanted to sign Suchitra Sen for a film under the RK banner. Only, an actress par excellence could refuse to work with these two legendary film makers and such was the power of Suchitra Sen.
Today marks the 80th birthday of the legendary actress. However, keeping in mind her reclusive nature, all celebrations will be a muted one. But the millions of her fans who through the years have been kept enthralled with the repeated reruns of her classical films, will today too get a dose of some of her favorite Bengali films on Bengali satellite channels.
With a super cool debut opposite another legend of Bengali cinema Uttam Kumar in 1953 with the film ‘Sharey Chuattor’, the movie was a huge hit and established the pair as one of the most sought after pairs by the film makers as well as the audiences. Together, Suchitra Sen and Uttam Kumar ruled the Bengali cinema for more then 20 years.
Suchitra Sen forayed in Bollywood in 1955 opposite the superstar Dilip Kumar in the classic story, ‘Devdas’. The film fetched Suchitra her first Filmfare Best Actress Award. Two more nominations followed for the films ‘Mamta’ (with Dharmendra) in 1967 and for ‘Aandhi’ with another late legend Sanjeev Kumar. She however lost to Waheeda Rehman to her role in ‘Guide’ and to south siren Lakshmi to her role in ‘Julie’ in 1976. However, destiny had been kind to her earlier when her Bengali film, ‘Saat Pake Bandha’ won her the Best Actress Award at the Moscow International Film Festival in 1963. This was the first for an Indian actress and quite an honor for Suchitra. But recently, Suchitra Sen due to her reclusive nature turned down the illustrious Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2005 which demanded that she personally attend the award’s function.
With her role in ‘Aandhi’ directed by Gulzar, Suchitra Sen was thrown in a bit of a controversy as her role was said to be loosely based on the life of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The film was banned for a short duration but luck favored and the movie got released and won nominations for both the lead actors, Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar. While Suchitra lost, Sanjeev Kumar won the Filmfare Best Actor Award.
Suchitra’s daughter Moon Moon Sen followed her mother’s footstep and became a part of the Bengali cinema as well as Bollywood. Her daughters Riya and Raima Sen too kept the Sen legacy alive by being a part of the film industry. However neither Moon Moon Sen nor her daughters have been able to match the legacy of Suchitra Sen. It will be tough for the Bengali cinema to produce another legend as big as Suchitra Sen who had dominated the Bengali cinema for nearly three decades. It will also be tough to produce another leading pair like Suchitra Sen – Uttam Kumar who were an institution in their own.
Today, Suchitra Sen is happy to be part of Ramkrishna Mission and away from the media and the public glare. However, her fans surely will wish that today she makes that one rare appearance so that they can have the darshan of the diva on her 80th birthday!