An Ode to Apu

Most of us bid farewell with striking sadness to Soumitra Chatterjee who epitomised in our minds one of the most memorable characters of all time. Apu from ApurSansar, Soumitra’s debut performance, would persist in becoming a trademark of acting excellence.

Soumitra Chatterjee was born in Calcutta in 1935 in a town surrounded by burgeoning Theatre culture. While pursuing his studies in literature, he trained as an actor under Ahindra Choudhury. After that, Soumitra worked with Satyajit Ray on a total of 15 films over three decades. It could be said that Soumitra was to Satyajit Ray what Toshiro Mifune was to Akira Kurosawa or what De Niro was to Martin Scorsese. Soumitra, apart from being known to be the ‘Actor-Star’ or the ‘Thinking man’s Actor,’ was also a notable director, playwright, writer and poet. He published several books such as ‘Search Of Character,’ ‘Pioneer,’ ‘With Manik Da’ and poetry collections such as ‘Midnight Signal’ and ‘Words in my Garden.’ He received critical acclaim for his directorial debut ‘Streeki Patra’ in 1986.

A multitalented individual who was rightly Identified as One of the people who changed the face of Indian Cinema. Soumitra was critically acclaimed for his collaborations with other giants of Indian Cinema too. He played Ajay Sarkar- a middle-class young man trying to move up the social ladder- in Mrinal Sen’s Akash Kusum(1965). As recently as 2006, Soumitra Chatterjee was awarded the National Award for Best Actor for his performance as ShashankaPalit in Suman Ghosh’s ‘Podokkhep.’To cite the numerous awards he secured over an illustrious career would be a vain attempt. But the most important mentions cannot be ignored; he won the SangeetNatakAkademi Award in 1998, Padma Bhushan in 2004, DadasahebPhalke Award in 2012. He became the first Indian to be awarded the French title distinction of Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters. Soumitra turned down the 2001 special jury award for the film ‘Dekha’, pointing out the committee’s bias in neglecting his much powerful earlier spectrum of great works. The 85-year-old legendary actor who actualised characters for an entire generation succumbed to the Covid Pandemic on November 15, 2020; a Lifespan that translated the melancholy of Apu and courageous romance of Amal.Soumitra Chatterjee will always have a place in the hearts of people who looks at Cinema in the hope of finding solace in being able to identify and relate

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