Screen legend Suchitra Sen, one of the biggest cultural icons for Bengalis, died of heart attack yesterday after having captured the public's heart for three decades through her ethereal beauty and intense celluloid performance, marking the end of an era in cinema.
The condition of Sen, 82, who was suffering from lung infection and related complications and was undergoing treatment at a super-speciality hospital in Kolkata, deteriorated late last night, leading to a massive heart attack at 9:25 in the morning, her family sources said.
The actress, who symbolised the golden age of Bangla cinema with memorable films like “Agnipariksha”, “Devdas” and “Saat Paake Bandha”, was admitted to the hospital about two weeks ago.
Often described as the Greta Garbo of Indian cinema, Suchitra Sen, born in Pabna, Bangladesh, had turned a recluse after bringing an end to her celluloid career in late 1970s. A follower of the Ramakrishna Mission order, Sen spent her retired life in meditation and prayer.
No other heroine in Bengal since Kanan Devi had captured the hearts of Bengalis as Sen did. In an era of black and white movies, her intense performances catapulted her to stardom.
Such was the popularity of Sen that during Durga Puja, idols of Lakshmi and Saraswati were known to have been modelled on her face.
Beginning her career with Bengali film “Shesh Kothaye” in 1952, Sen went on to receive a national award for her performance in Bimal Roy's 1955 Hindi classic “Devdas”, playing the defiant Paro to Dilip Kumar's Devdas. She formed an unbeatable romantic pair with Uttam Kumar and the duo gave a string of memorable hits -- “Harano Sur” (1957), “Agnipariksha” (1954), “Saptapadi” (1961), “Grihadaha” (1967), “Indrani” (1958), “Sagarika” (1956), “Bipasha” (1962), “Komol Lata” (1969), “Alo Amar Alo” (1972), “Har Mana Har” (1972) and “Priyo Bandhobi” (1975). Together, they featured in a total of 30 films between 1953 and 1975.
Sen acted in 52 Bengali and seven Hindi films. “Champakali”, with Bharat Bhushan, “Sarhhaad” and “Bombai Ka Babu” with Dev Anand and “Mamta” were some of her other notable Hindi films. However, her most famous Hindi film after “Devdas” was 1974's “Aandhi” by Gulzar.
After her 1978 movie “Pronoy Pasha” with Soumitra Chatterjee flopped, Sen quietly left the arch-light and even reportedly declined India's highest film honour the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2005 preferring not to make a public appearance.
In 1963, Sen became the first Indian actress to be honoured at an international film festival — best actress award for “Saat Paake Bandha” at Moscow film festival.
Born as Rama Dasgupta in Pabna, Bangladesh in 1931 to Karunamoy and Indira Dasgupta, Suchitra married Dibanath Sen from an aristocratic family in 1947 before launching a successful acting career. Initially, Sen was more interested in singing than in acting. In 1951, she auditioned as a playback singer but was instead offered a role by director Sukumar Dasgupta whose assistant director Nitish Roy named her Suchitra by which name she went on to achieve celebrity status.
Her first film “Sesh Kothaye” (1952) remained unfinished and “Shat Number Koyedi” with Samar Roy as the hero in 1953 was her first film to hit cinema houses. That year three other films of hers were also released — Niren Lahiri's “Kajari”, “Bhagaban Sri Krishna Chaitanya” and Nirmal Dey's “Sarey Chuttar” opposite Uttam Kumar. In 1954, “Agnipariksha” played to packed houses for a record 15 weeks and the Suchitra and Uttam were on their way to success. The pair then had a string of runway successes due to their on-screen chemistry. But Suchitra's talent ensured the success of her films even without Uttam as her co-star.
Suchitra Sen-starrer “Uttar Phalguni”, “Sandhya Deeper Shikha”, “Deep Jeley Jai”, with Basanto Chowdhury and “Hospital” with Ashok Kumar, were also hits.