Despite her Garboesque seclusion of 32 years, millions of Bengalis still remain smitten by her unsurpassed beauty and screen aura of the black and white celluloid era. Her legendary romantic pairing with late Uttam Kumar created box office history in Bengali cinema.
“She has shunned the world of glamour and recognition. She has many wounded feelings,” Gopal Roy, a close friend of Suchitra and the only Indian journalist who has some access to the living legend, told IBNS.
[ReviewAZON asin=”B0014KWP4Y” display=”inlinepost”]Her oeuvre of Bengali films apart, Suchitra acted in Hindi films like “Devdas” (with Dilip Kumar in 1955), “Musafir” (1957), “Champakali” (1957), “Bombai Ka Babu” (with Dev Anand in 1960), “Mamta” (with Ashok Kumar and Dharmendra in 1966) and the phenomenal 1975 Gulzar film “Aandhi” where she starred opposite late Sanjeev Kumar (one of her few friends in filmdom), playing with élan a female politician resembling late prime minister Indira Gandhi.
“She takes no interest in all this now. The life she leads now is spiritual and has been doing so for the past three decades. The last time I saw her was six years ago. Of what I know, not even her daughter and granddaughters can go to her room any time,” said Roy, who wrote four books on Suchitra Sen, including “Suchitrakatha” (Words of Suchitra), “Sonali Nayika Suchitra Sen” (Golden Heroine Suchitra Sen) and “Romantic Juti” (Romatic Pair).
“Even in this age of media explosion, none can ever take a photograph of hers. Earlier she used to take a walk in the lawns of the house on Ballygunge Circular Road. But since 1996, when the house was demolished and an apartment building came up, she does not even venture for a walk,” Roy told IBNS.
A follower of the Ramakrishna Mission order, Suchitra now spends time in meditation and prayer. In 1989, when Bharat Maharaj of the mission passed away, she was seen publicly walking all the way to the crematorium from Belur Math near Kolkata.
“I feel that Suchitra has many wounds. Once she was slighted here in Kolkata after her name was thrown up for inauguration of an international film festival.
“It is also true that Hiralal Sen, who is hailed by some as the pioneer of Indian cinema instead of Dada Saheb Phalke, was a relative of Suchitra Sen. Hiralal Sen, who made at least 25 films, including feature and ad films from late 19th century to early 20th century, was actually her uncle-in-law,” revealed Roy.
Interestingly, Suchitra Sen is the first Indian actress to be awarded in an international film festival (best actress award for the Bengali movie “Saat Paake Bandha” at the 1963 Moscow film festival). She had also received a best actress award for the Hindi film “Devdas” in 1955 (she played Paro).
Suchitra Sen made her debut in films in 1952 with an unreleased film, but her first released film was opposite Uttam Kumar – “Sharey Chuattor” (Seventyfour and half), a comedy. The film became a box-office hit. It is remembered for launching Uttam-Suchitra as a lead pair.
They went on to become the icons of Bengali melodramas for more than 20 years, becoming almost a genre in themselves. Their performances in films like the 1961 classic “Saptapadi” are still most popular in Bengal.
Suchitra Sen retired from the screen in 1978 after a career of over 25 years.