In this file photo taken on January 31, 2018, actor Soumitra Chatterjee smiles after receiving France’s highest national order of Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur’ during an event in Kolkata.—AFP
In this file photo taken on January 31, 2018, actor Soumitra Chatterjee smiles after receiving France’s highest national order of Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur’ during an event in Kolkata.—AFP

NEW DELHI: Bengali movie actor Soumitra Chhatterjee, globally applauded for his work with Satyajit Ray and many other legends of Bengali cinema died in Kolkata on Sunday.

The 85-year-old thespian was admitted in a city hospital on Oct 6, after he tested positive for Covid-19.

Born in 1935, Chatterjee learned acting from noted theatre personality Ahindra Choudhury. Though first rejected for the role of Apu, Chatterjee finally made his acting debut with Satyajit Ray’s Apur Sansar (1959), which was the third part of Ray’s celebrated Apu Trilogy. The two worked together in fourteen films including Abhijan, Charulata, Kapurush, Aranyer Din Ratri, Ashani Sanket, Sonar Kella and Joi Baba Felunath.

Chatterjee also had successful collaborations with Bengali directors like Mrinal Sen and Tapan Sinha. Sen’s Akash Kusum (1965) and Sinha’s Jhinder Bandi (1961) got Chatterjee equal laurels. Among contemporary filmmakers, Chatterjee teamed up with Goutam Ghose, Aparna Sen, Anjan Das and Rituparno Ghosh among others. Chatterjee is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

The Dadasaheb Phalke award-winning actor is best known for his collaborations with Oscar-winning director Satyajit Ray. Soumitra Chatterjee is also the first Indian film personality conferred with the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France’s highest award for artists.

In 2017, exactly thirty years after auteur Satyajit Ray was honoured with France’s highest civilian award, the coveted Legion of Honor, Chatterjee also received the prestigious award.

He acted in more than 210 films in his career till 2016. He also garnered critical acclaim for his directorial venture Stree Ki Patra (1986) which was based on Streer Patra, a Bengali short story written by Rabindranath Tagore.

People of Kolkata marched with candles along with the vehicle that carried the body of Chatterjee for his last rites performed at Keoratala burning ghat.

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2020

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