Great Suchitra Sen no more!

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Neena Badhwar

The only ”˜Paro’ of Sharat Chander Chattopadhayay’s novel ”˜Devdas’ can be none   but the one and only Suchitra Sen ”“ the   most beautiful Bengali actress who acted in about seven Hindi films and all of them quite memorable. Her screen presence, her acting and her ethereal beauty carried a mystique yet we all of the Hindi belt waited for her movie releases and after seeing them in cinema halls we saw them again and again on TV, DVDs and now even on youtube.

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A memorable performance – Suchitra Sen as Paro in Devdas with Dilip Kumar

Though Suchitra is no more as she breathed her last with her family around her, the 82-year old actress was a very private person rather a recluse as she said goodbye to screen life in 1978 after scaling the heights of Bengali as well as Hindi cinema. Suchitra Sen refused some of the biggest film makers like Raj Kapoor, Satyajit Ray not because she did not want to but only because she had no free dates to work with them. Suchitra paired with Dev Anand (Bombai ka Babu ); Dilip Kumar (Devdas); Ashok Kumar & Sanjeev Kumar (Aandhi); Dharmendra & Ashok Kumar (Mumta)  as she not just was a beautiful face but proved to be a competent actress as well as she worked with top actors in Bollywood and at times handled double roles (in Mumta) quite capably as her movies became hit.

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With Dharmendra

”˜Rahen na rahen hum, mehka karenge ban ke kali’  and that’s how her image stayed that of a beautiful actress who left an ever lasting impression on us movie buffs. Dilip Kumar, Sanjeev Kumar and Ashok Kumar were challenging actors but Suchitra stood splendidly against them and created a great chemistry as well as a fresh face who was stunning as she fitted traditional as well as roles of a modern girl.

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Once in an interview Suchitra Sen had said, “I’m to be seen only on screen because I am an actress” and that is what she exactly meant for all her fans who could not have enough of this elusive, reclusive actress who retired 35 years ago and  was never seen in public life ever since. Only a mention of her ever so rarely made news that Suchitra spends her time at home with family and visits and works for Rama Krishna Math in Kolkotta quite regularly

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She received the Best Actress Award for the film  Devdas  (1955), which was her first  Hindi  movie. Her Bengali melodramas and romances, especially with Uttam Kumar, made her the most famous Bengali actress ever.  Her films ran through the 1960s and the 1970s. Suchitra Sen was discovered in 1952 after 5 years of her marriage to Dibanath Sen with whom she had a daughter Moon Moon Sen and grand daughter Raima Sen.   She continued to act in films, such as the Hindi hit  Aandhi  (1974), where she played a politician.  Aandhi  was inspired by India’s Prime Minister  Indira Gandhi. Sen received a  Filmfare Award  nomination as Best Actress, while  Sanjeev Kumar, who essayed the role of her husband, won the  Filmfare  as Best Actor.

One of Suchitra’s best known performances was in  Deep Jwele Jaai  (1959). She played Radha, a hospital nurse employed by a progressive psychiatrist, Pahadi Sanyal, who is expected to develop a personal relationship with male patients as part of their therapy. Sanyal diagnoses the hero,  Basanta Choudhury, as having an unresolved Oedipal dilemma. He orders Radha to play the role though she is hesitant as in a similar case she had fallen in love with the patient. She finally agrees and bears up to Choudhury’s violence, impersonates his mother, sings his poetic compositions and in the process falls in love again. In the end, even as she brings about his cure, she suffers a nervous breakdown. Asit Sen  remade the film in Hindi as  Khamoshi  (1969) with  Waheeda Rehman  in the Suchitra Sen role opposite Dharmendra and Rajesh Khanna.

Her international success came in the year of 1963, when she won the best actress award in Moscow Film Festival for the movie  Saat Paake Bandha. In fact, she is the first Indian female actress to receive an international film award.

Suchitra Sen was admitted in December in Kolkatta hospital suffering with lung infection and succumbed to her final journey on January 17, 2014 when she had a heart attack. She died as quietly as she lived as her fans lined up to get a tiny glimpse yet were disappointed as Suchitra, as per her wishes, was given a private farewell and a funeral living true to her image of a ”˜Greta Garbo’ of India.

Alas Suchitra has gone but little does she know, or may not have known, having cut herself off from the outside world that we, the millions of fans in India and abroad, still watch her movies with keen interest. May her soul rest in peace!


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