Suchitra Sen

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Suchitra Sen


The authors of this article include

The Times of India When Suchitra tore off Soumitra Chatterjee's vest! IANS | Jan 17, 2014 Suchitra Sen: The quintessential enigma despite 59 films IANS | Jan 17, 2014 The Times of India The Times of India The Times of India The Times of India




| April 6, 1931 Rama (pron Roma) Dasgupta alias Krishna is born in Pabna district - now in Bangladesh - to a school headmaster father Karunamoy Dasgupta and homemaker mother Indira Devi at Pabna in Bangladesh. She is their second daughter


| Married to Dibanath Sen when she was sixteen. Aims to be a playback singer. Gives audition at Park Street studio and is chosen. But is offered a role in a movie from the same studio. Both Dibanath and Rama initially hesitant about informing Adinath, her father-in-law. But Adinath approves it without a second thought


| Daughter Moonmoon Sen is born


| First released movie, ‘Saat Number Kayedi’. Assistant director Nitish Roy rechristens her Suchitra. In the same year, first movie with Uttam Kumar, ‘Sare Chuattar’, becomes a major hit. She goes on to pair with the matinee idol in 30 movies


| First Hindi movie, ‘Devdas’ directed by Bimal Roy. The same year, most of her Bengali movies are hits: ‘Sanjher Pradeep’, ‘Samarpan’, ‘Sajghar’, ‘Shapmochan’, ‘Mejobou’, ‘Bhalobasa’, ‘Sabar Upare’


| Establishes herself as Bengal’s screen goddess with ‘Sagarika’, ‘Shuvo Ratri’, ‘Ekti Raat’, ‘Trijama’, ‘Shilpi’, ‘Amar Bou’


| Her role in ‘Musafir’ by Hrishikesh Mukherjee took her presence beyond Bengal. In the same year, she acted opposite Bharat Bhushan in another Hindi movie, ‘Champakali’ by Nandlal Kawantlal


| ‘Chaoa Paoa’, ‘Dwip Jele Jai’. Suchitra Sen recorded two songs with megaphone — ‘Amar notun gaaner nimontrone asbe ki?’ and ‘Bone noy aaj mone hoy’ 1960 | Goes back to Bombay to do ‘Bombai Ka Babu’ and ‘Sarhad’with Dev Anand


| ‘Saptapadi’, with Uttam Kumar, becomes a cult romance. Wins BFJ award


| ‘Saat Pake Bandha’, ‘Uttar Phalguni’. For ‘Saat Pake Bandha’, she became the first Indian to win the best actress award at Moscow International Film Festival.


| Hindi movie ‘Mamta’ with Dharmendra and Ashok Kumar. Her role receives a Filmfare nomination


| ‘Nabaraag’, ‘Fariyad’. She refuses Satyajit Ray’s offer. Also refuses Raj Kapoor’s offer for a film under the RK banner


| Receives Padma Shri


| Last Hindi movie, ‘Aandhi’ (for which she receives Filmfare nomination) and two Bengali films, ‘Shrabon Sandhya’ and ‘Debi Chowdhurani’


| ‘Priyo Bandhobi’, the last movie she does with Uttam Kumar


| Her last movie, ‘Pranay Pasha' releases


| Refuses Dadasaheb Phalke Award


| Conferred Banga Bibhushan, West Bengal government’s highest award

January 17, 2014

Passes away in Kolkata after a respiratory tract infection

The person

Suchitra Sen: Saptapadi, 1963 (A case of clumsy subtitling)

Suchitra was seen as an independent strong woman in personal life and was mother of Filmistan actress Moon Moon Sen and the grandmother of Rima Sen and Raima Sen.

Suchitra was the only celebrity to refuse the Dadasaheb Phalke Award; she did so just to avoid travelling to New Delhi.

The party girl

Suchitra Sen with Uttam Kumar

Her glamorous off-screen lifestyle - she once playfully tore off actor Soumitra Chatterjee's vest at a party - Bengali screen icon Suchitra Sen made heads turn with her moves and stunned her contemporaries.

Filmmaker Aparna Sen recalled how, at a party, Sen had playfully mimicked a scene from "Saat Paakhe Bandha" - the film that fetched her the Silver Prize for best actress at the 1963 Moscow International Film Festival, the first international recognition for a Bengali actress.

"Asit Chowdhury had thrown a party after she won the award. Sharmila Tagore and me, we were very young then and we saw how she, very playfully, re-enacted the scene from the film where she tears (lead actor) Soumitra Chatterjee's vest...all in the middle of the starry gathering. We had never seen something like this."

Behind the scenes

The 3 Ds

Suchitra worked with quite a few leading men of the Hindi film industry. But her favourites were the 3 Ds: Dilip Kumar, with whom she did two films; Dev Anand, with whom she created magic in the song ‘Diwana Mastana’ and Dharmendra, then a nervous newcomer [???: he had already become a superstar with Phool aur Patthar in addition to the very successful Ayee Milan Ki Bela ], whom she quickly put at ease in ‘Mamta’, their first film together


During the shooting of ‘Priyo Bandhabi’, the last Uttam-Suchitra starrer, the temperamental actor is believed to have left the set when co-star Uttam failed to arrive on time. She later asked the producer to deduct the amount lost due to the cancellation from her fee


Uttam Kumar and Suchitra had several ego clashes. Once during the shooting of ‘Pathe Holo Deri’ in Darjeeling, Suchitra objected when a friend of Uttam’s photographed her without permission. The next day, Uttam, too, complained to the director that he was being distracted by the presence of Suchitra’s husband, who was carrying a camera A CARING DIVA

Suchitra helped launch Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s career as a director by agreeing to work in his film ‘Musafir’ without charging a fee

A reclusive retirement

Suchitra Sen (1975: Aandhi)

Contrary to the teary-eyed protagonists she essayed on screen, off it she was the life of the party - till she became a recluse around 1980. Sen continued to act after her husband's death in 1970, but called it a day when "Pronoy Pasha" flopped. However, post her husband's death in 1970, she chose to be absent from the social scene and retired from the industry in 1978.

Her daughter and actress Moon Moon Sen reminisced in an interview about her party-hopping days. "Guests were dropping by and my parents were always late catching a flight. Those days my mother was very glamorous and dressed for the evenings in black lace and red feathers."

"She wanted fans to remember her youthful looks. And she did not want to portray mothers and aunts on screen," her biographer Gopal Krishna Roy told IANS.

Late actor Dev Anand, with whom Sen had shared the screen in "Bambai Ka Babu" (1961), had attempted to get in touch with her during a Kolkata visit. However he was discouraged.

"I did try to meet her...but people discouraged me saying 'She doesn't meet anyone', and after a while I gave up," the actor had said in an interview.

Suchitra Sen (1975: Aandhi)

Sen's other pre-occupations included spending time with granddaughters Raima and Riya- who have carried the legacy forward.

Like the later life Garbo, Sen withdrew from the public eye, refusing to meet even top VIPs and her old friends from the film fraternity. Photographs were almost always a strict no-no. Only her daughter Moon Moon and granddaughters - Raima and Riya - all known actors and a handful of close people had access.

"It was to preserve her youthful image among her countless fans," said Roy.

The older of the two, Raima is often compared to her grandmother.

She even turned down in 2005 the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest honour in Indian cinema, as she would have had to collect it in person from the president.

She kept herself occupied in religious chores, gardening, reading, and devoting her time to the Ramakrishna Mission. When she ventured outdoors, she took all care to camouflage her identity.

In 2012, the West Bengal government's conferred its highest award "Banga Bibhushan" on Sen in absentia.

The actress who had once famously stated, "I'm to be seen only on screen because I am an actress", will always live on, in black-and-white or colour, through her films.

Fans who usually longed for a glimpse of the actress, had once raised their voices against a local TV channel which was about to air some snaps of Sen while she was hospitalised in 2007. It was clear they respected her desire for privacy.


Suchitra Sen made a mark for herself in the Bengali film industry and also established herself in Bollywood. Films were made to cast her in a role that would do justice to her established talent. She has left behind memorable roles in films like Devdas, Aandhi and Mamta. This diva was the first Paro of Bollywood opposite Dilip Kumar In a 26-year career with 59 films, the "Mahanayika" (greatest heroine) worked with Bengal's biggest matinee idol Uttam Kumar to usher in the golden era of Bengali cinema. She also came up with memorable performances in a number of Hindi movies like "Devdas", "Mamta", "Musafir", "Bombai Ka Babu" and "Aandhi".

Sen's seductive appeal - accentuated by her intense and dreamy eyes, subtle gestures, a bewitching smile as also the uniquely romantic way she used her eyes and face in close-up frames - floored countless male fans cutting across age and time barriers.

Among the Bengali speaking people, both in India and Bangladesh as also across the world, Sen's popularity remains unmatched.

The songs she lipped are still a rage, and she is still the reference point for budding actresses, even though her last movie appearance came way back in the 1978 release "Pronoy Pasha".

Acclaimed British film critic Derek Malcolm once said: "She was very, very beautiful. She had this 'still' quality. She did not need to do a lot of 'acting'."

Early career

In 1952 Sen took the nom de plume Suchitra in her first movie "Sesh Kothai". But the film was not released.

With Uttam Kumar

Suchitra Sen's pairing with Uttam Kumar was the most hit pair of the Bengali film industry and the actress reportedly told the producers that her name should appear before Uttam Kumar's in film posters

It was her [second film], a successful comedy "Sharey Chuattar", that saw the coming together of the Suchitra-Uttam team.

The pair went on to enthrall audiences for 20 years. They acted together in 30 movies, including super hits like "Agnipariksha", "Shap Mochan" (1955), "Sagarika"(1956), "Harano Sur" (1957), "Indrani"(1958), "Chaowa Pawa"(1959), and "Saptapadi" (1961).

The film "Saptapadi" showcased her multifaceted talent. She essayed Rina Brown, a drunken Anglo-Indian woman soldier, getting much kudos that paved the way for more unconventional roles.

With other leading men

Interestingly, many of her greatest performances came in films where she was paired opposite heroes other than Uttam Kumar. If it was Soumitra Chattejree in "Saat Pake Bandha", in "Uttar Falguni", in which Sen did the double role of a courtesan and her lawyer daughter, the male lead was Bikash Roy.

Again in "Deep Jele Jai", she played a nurse trying to cure the mentally ill hero - played by Basanta Chowdhury. "Hospital" had Ashok Kumar as the hero.

But there were those like Chatterjee, who had reservations about her acting calibre. "She was beautiful, but I don't consider her as a great actress", he often said.

The strong woman

However, Sen did give strong but restrained performances in most of the 52 Bengali and seven Hindi films she featured in, and was the second Indian actress to get an international award after Nargis' win at Karlovy Vary for "Mother India".

Her excellent depiction of the trauma of a woman unable to hold on to her marriage in "Saat Pake Bandha" won her the Silver Prize for best actress at the 1963 Moscow International Film Festival.

She was a trendsetter in many respects - one instance being her entry into films five years after her marriage to Dibanath Sen in 1947, something unimaginable in those days. The marriage, was, however, said to be rocky.

Hindi-Urdu films

Sen made a well-appreciated debut in Hindi films with Bimal Roy's "Devdas" in 1955 as the elegant Paro opposite Dilip Kumar's Devdas. Despite several remakes, Sen's Paro reigns supreme.

It is said during the film's shooting at Mumbai's Mohan Studios, hundreds lined-up outside to catch a glimpse of her beauty.

Lyricist Gulzar, who had directed Sen in "Aandhi", once said: "(Producer) J. Om Prakash had wanted to cast Suchitra with Sanjeev (Kumar) in a film but I didn't like the story. I said you can't ask her to come all the way from Calcutta to Bombay for a detective film like that."

And then Gulzar made "Aandhi" with the two.

Added to her charm was her boldness, evident in the hit "Aandhi" (1975), in which where her character was modelled on former prime minister Indira Gandhi, fetched her a National Award.

Spurning legendary directors

Such was her demand that the legendary Satyajit Ray scrapped his proposed film "Devi Chaudhurani" as Sen or Mrs. Sen - as she liked to be called - could not provide the dates, says her biographer Gopal Krishna Roy.

Her refusal to act in a film by Raj Kapoor made headlines. "She was moody, and Hindi films were never her first love. May be, that's the reason," said Roy.

Her refusal to act in a film by Raj Kapoor under the R.K. banner made headlines.

It is said that Sen was put off as Kapoor knelt down on the floor with a bouquet in his hand and made her the offer.

"Why should a man bow down like this," she reportedly asked her close circle.

Her most popular films and songs

The yardsticks used to select from her works clearly show a pan-Indian, rather than Bengali, tilt.

Memorable films

Here is The Times of India’s list of the most memorable films of Padma Shri Suchitra Sen.

Aandhi- Suchitra Sen played the lead role allegedly based on the life of India's former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in lyricist Gulzar directed 'Aandhi'. Sen's look in the film was inspired by that of politician Tarkeshwari Sinha. The film was not allowed a full release when Indira Gandhi was in power and was even banned during 1975 emergency.

Agnipariksha- Another memorable Suchitra Sen film is 'Agnipariksha' directed by Agradoot. The film stars Bengali superstar Uttam Kumar opposite Sen. Sen and Uttam Kumar were popular as a lead pair in Bengali cinema and went on to do many films together.

Deep Jwele Jai- Directed by Asit Sen, Suchitra Sen delivers one of her best performances in the film 'Deep Jwele Jai' as a nurse. The film was lauded for its performances and music, especially for the song "Ei raat tomar amar".

Devdas- Already an established star in Bengali cinema, Suchitra Sen made her Bollywood debut with Bimal Roy's 'Devdas' opposite Dilip Kumar. The film was a soaring success and was included in all must see Hindi films of all time. Suchitra played Paro, the love interest of the alcoholic Devdas.

Saat Pake Bandha- One of Suchitra Sen's best performance came from the film 'Saat Paake Badha'. Directed by Ajoy Kar, the film is regarded as one of the all-time great films of Bengali cinema. This film went on to become a big milestone in Sen's career as she won the prestigious Best Actress Award at the Moscow Film Festival.

Uttar Falguni- Suchitra Sen plays a double role in this Bengali drama film. Directed by Asit Sen, 'Uttar Falguni' was awarded the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Bengali. Interestingly, the film was remade in Hindi as 'Mamta' by Asit Sen himself with Suchitra Sen in the lead again.

The most popular songs filmed on Suchitra Sen


Rahen Na Rahen MamtaLata Mangeshkar

Tere Bina Zindagi Se AandhiKishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar

Ei Raat Tomar Amar Deep Jwele Jai Hemant Kumar Tum Aa Gaye Ho Noor Aa Gaya AandhiKishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar

Tumi Je Amar Harano Sur Geeta Dutt

Is Mod Se Jate Hain Aandhi Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar

Aaj Dujanar Duti Path Harano Sur Hemant Kumar

Diwana Mastana Hua Dil Bambai Ka Babu Asha Bhonsle, Mohammad Rafi

Ei Path Jodi Na Shes Hoy Saptapadi Hemant Kumar, Sandhya Mukherjee

Surjyo Dobar Pala Ase Jadi Indrani Hemant Kumar

Amar Shwapne Dekha Rajkonya Sagarika Shyamal Mitra

Bose Achi Potho Cheye Shap Mochan Hemant Kumar

Jhar Uthechhe Baul Batas Shap Mochan Hemant Kumar

Ei Sundar Swarnali Sandhaye Hospital Geeta Dutt

Neer Chhoto Kshati Nei Indrani Geeta Dutt, Hemant Kumar

Chal Ri Sajni Ab Kya Soche Bambai Ka Babu Mukesh

Gulzar's reminiscences

Suchitra was ‘Sir’ to my entire crew

Gulzar Pays Tribute To The Legend Who Died On Friday

(As told to Ratnottama Sengupta )

She’s the only one actor for whom we — all of us on the sets of Aandhi — would stand up.

She’s the only one actor who was always referred to as Mrs Sen.

She’s the only one actor I have always addressed as ‘Sir’.

Let me talk about this ‘Sir’ business first.

When Suchitra Sen came on the sets of Aandhi the first day, I got busy explaining the scene to her. “Yes Sir,” she responded. I was embarrassed. “The tradition in India,” I told her, “is to address the seniors as ‘Sir’, so I will address you as ‘Sir’.” No, she said, “you are the director, so you are my ‘Sir’.” Soon she was ‘Sir’ to every unit member!

It wasn’t ‘respect at first meeting’, though. We had a stormy encounter when I first met her in the early 60s, to narrate a script I had penned for producer Sohanlal Kanwar. She heard me in silence, then demanded a few changes. “I don’t like this, that situation should be changed, this character should say that...” I was peeved. “I have worked on the script for six months…I can’t make these changes... After all, I’ve learnt from icons like Bimal Roy!”

She didn’t do that film.


Born Rama Dasgupta, entered films as Suchitra in 1952 and went on to act in 52 Bengali and 7 Hindi films

She played Paro to Dilip Kumar’s Devdas, winning a national award; and opposite Sanjeev Kumar in Aandhi, in a role resembling Indira Gandhi

Paired with Uttam Kumar in 30 films, the duo became Bengali cinema’s first couple

Remained a recluse after she quit acting in the 70s. Died in a Kolkata hospital on Friday after prolonged illness at 83

The most respected actress

Many years later, when I had graduated from writing Aashirwad, Khamoshi, Anand and Guddi to directing Mere Apne, Koshish, Achanak and Parichay, producer J Omprakash asked me to do a film with Sanjeev Kumar and Suchitra Sen. He had a script by Sachin Bhowmik which I didn’t like. But Sanjeev Kumar was very keen toworkwithMrs Sen. “Kisi tarah unko wahan se bulana hai,” Om prakash ji told me. I said, “Give me a different script.” I had an idea on which I started work — and no, it didn’t take off from Kamleswar’s Kaali Aandhi which was written after the film’s release.

I developed the plot around the chance meeting of a married couple after yearsof separation during which the wife has become a leading politician who, during an election campaign, happens to stay in the hotel run by her estranged husband. When the script was ready I went to Kolkata.

The minute she saw me Mrs Sen said, “Aami kichhui bolbo naa (I won’tsuggest any change this time). Promise, promise, promise — teen sattyi — I’ll do exactly as youtell meto!”

This ‘Mrs Sen’ bit I picked up in Kolkata when I went to script Rahgir for Tarun Majumdar. Every one, even Hemant Da (Mukherjee) would talk of her as ‘Mrs Sen’. And though she had not stepped into the studio for years, they would talk of ‘Mrs Sen’s makeup room’ and Mrs Sen’s choice of food — maachh, naturally. This respect for an actress was unique. No other actress before her or since has been accorded this status — not even highly regarded names like Nutan, Nargis or Suraiya.

It’s true that some of this regard — or awe, some may say — was created by keeping people at a distance. She was very reserved because she was very careful with her personal life. But, though she habitually kept people at abeyance, once she accepted someone, s/he became part of her ‘family’.

At this hour, a line won’t leave me. Tere bina zindagi bhi koi zindagi to nahin... Life — of one whole generation, even beyond barbed wires — lost much of its life when she quit the screen. And those who’ve not recognized this are losers, be they called Phalke or Padma.

Sir wouldn’t lose her sleep over this.

Complete filmography

1953 Kajari

1953 Satnambar Kayedi

1953 Sharey Chuattar Romola

1954 Agni Pareeksha

1954 Annapurnar Mandir

1954 Balaygras Manimala

1954 Bhagaban Shrikrishna Chaitanya Bishnupriya

1954 Dhuli Minati

1954 Grihapravesh

1954 Maraner Pare Tanima

1954 Ora Thakey Odharey

1954 Sadanander Mela Sheela

1955 Bhalobasa

1955 Devdas Paro

1955 Sabar Uparey

1955 Sajghar

1955 Shap Mochan Madhuri

1956 Ekti Raat Swantana

1956 Sagarika Sagarika

1956 Shilpi

1956 Trijama Swarupa

1957 Champakali

1957 Chandranath Saraju

1957 Harano Sur Dr. Roma Banerjee

1957 Musafir Shakuntala Verma

1957 Pathey Holo Deri Mallika

1958 Indrani Indrani

1958 Rajlakshmi O Srikanta Rajlakshmi

1958 Surya Toran Aunita Chatarjee

1959 Chaowa-Pawa

1959 Deep Jweley Jai Radha

1960 Bombai Ka Babu Maya

1960 Hospital Sarbari

1960 Sarhad

1960 Smriti Tuku Thak Shobha

1963 Saat Pake Bandha Archana

1963 Saptapadi Rina Brown

1963 Uttar Falguni Debjani / Pannabai / Suparna

1964 Sandhya Deeper Sikha Jayanti Bannerjee

1966 Mamta Devyani - Pannabai / Suparna

1967 Grihadaha Achala

1969 Kamallata Kamallata

1971 Alo Amar Alo Atashi

1971 Fariyad

1972 Har Mana Har

1974 Debi Chowdhurani Prafullamukhi

1974 Shravan Sandhya

1975 Aandhi Aarti Devi

1976 Datta Bijoya

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