Today would have been Suchitra Sen's 85th birthday. Though she departed from the film scene sometime ago, the late charismatic actress is well remembered for her outstanding performances. In the space of a few seconds a range of a dozen emotions could flicker across a silent close-up of Suchitra Sen's face. She was one of the great silently emotive actresses of Bangla cinema. "She is the face that launched umpteen hits. She was a rage, the kind that only Marilyn Monroe succeeded in being in Hollywood," critics said.
Indeed, one only has to recall her film hits to realise the truth of this statement. There are "Sharey Chuattar", "Sagarika", "Harano Sur", "Saptapadi", "Deep Jeley Jai" (remade in Hindi as Khamoshi), "Uttar Phalguni", "Aandhi", "Devdas" and "Saat Pakey Ba(n)dha".
Suchitra's ethereal beauty, coupled with her unparalleled talent and, above all, her on-screen chemistry with the late Utttam Kumar, gave her an eternal place in Bangla cinema. She fitted perfectly into the mould of the articulate, if tragic, heroine carving out an independent space outside that of family and tradition.
Born as Roma Sen, Suchitra made her debut in the unreleased "Shesh Kothay" in 1952. In the following year, she starred opposite Uttam Kumar for the first time in "Sharey Chuattar". This comedy film, the breakthrough film of director Nirmal Dev, was hugely popular. However, it is remembered more for launching the star pair of Suchitra and Kumar. Following this hit, the duo starred in films such as "Shap Mochan", "Sagarika", "Harano Sur", "Saptapadi", "Bipasha" and "Grihadaha".
Suchitra's forays into Hindi films were few but memorable. She made her Hindi film debut as Paro in Bimal Roy's "Devdas" opposite Dilip Kumar in 1955. Her next Hindi film was Hrishikesh Mukherjee's "Musafir", which received a lukewarm response at the box office.
Gulzar's controversial film "Aandhi" (1977) turned out to be Suchitra's swansong. In the film she played a politician whose marriage fell asunder because of her busy political career. Some of the obvious parallels between her character and that of then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, led to "Aandhi" even being banned for some time. Cast with the talented Sanjeev Kumar, Suchitra gave a mellow, mature performance as a politician.
The charismatic actress led a reclusive life in Kolkata till her death in 2014. A devotee of Ramkrishna Mission, Suchitra occupied herself with meditation and prayer. Carrying on in the film world after her are her daughter Moon Moon Sen and granddaughters Riya and Raima.
Compiled by Cultural Correspondent