One would expect a high school history teacher, residing in Serampore, to take rest at home on a Sunday. But 48-year old Madhuchanda Ghoshal had other plans. She with her sister, Ruplekha, in tow, reached Nandan premises at 4 pm on Sunday.
Madhuchanda had her reasons.
She wanted to catch the exhibition on Mahanayak Uttam Kumar, which is being held at Gaganendra Pradarshashala. The exhibition, titled Nayak: The Hero, one of the major attractions of the 22nd Kolkata International Film Festival, was inaugurated by veteran actor Madhabi Mukhopadhyay on Saturday.
“I am a diehard fan of Uttam Kumar. I have grown-up watching his films. I have fallen in love with him when he played romantic Krishnendu in Saptapadi and loathed him when he played conniving Madhab Dutta in Stree. But that’s the magic of Uttam Kumar. He is evergreen,” said Madhuchanda, blushing like a teenager.
Just like Madhuchanda, a number of middle-aged women and men too are thronging the exhibition hall. But that doesn’t mean youngsters are not in awe of Uttam Kumar. “My mother watches his films and I too followed it. This is how I fell in love with him. He looks so handsome in black-and-white cinema,” said 21-year old Ayesha Mukherjee, a college student.
A life-size photograph of Uttam Kumar from Satyajit Ray’s Nayak welcomes us to the exhibition. A photograph showing the actor playing cricket attracts special attention. One cannot afford to miss the photographs, where the actor is smiling. His hypnotic smile continues to cast a magical spell on the viewers.
Candid portraits of Mahanayak clicked by renowned photographer Nemai Ghosh add a personal layer to the exhibition. Ray’s favourite lensman, Ghosh, recalled the legendary actor as a humble man. “Whenever he met me, he used to ask, ‘Show me what magic you have inside your bag.’ He didn’t like seeing his own photographs. He wanted to see photographs of other people,” said Ghosh, a Padma Shri awardee.
Ghosh, who has also published a coffee table book of photographs on the actor, titled Uttam Muhurta, said the matinee idol didn’t care much from which angle he was being clicked. “He knew the camera like the back of his hand. I liked clicking him when he was unaware. Those are the best photographs,” said Ghosh, who has published many photography books on Ray.
From the colour posters of Bengali films such as Antony Firingee, Sapmochan with Suchitra Sen to the poster of Uttam’s Hindi film Desh Premee, directed by Manmohan Desai, too adorn the walls of Gaganendra Pradarshashala. Desh Premee, also starring Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini, released two years after Uttam passed away.
It goes without saying that most of Uttam’s movie stills on display are with Suchitra Sen. His other heroines, Madhabi and Sabitri Chatterjee, also find space in the exhibition. Madhabi, who acted alongside Uttam in Chhadmabeshi (1971), remembered the matinee idol and said, “People leave the world, but their work lives on.”
Booklets, record covers, magazines and lobby cards too are displayed at the exhibition, which will remain open till November 18.
Even after 36 years (he died on July 24, 1980) of his death, Uttam Kumar’s magic continues. The recent exhibition at KIFF yet again proves that Bengali audience will forever consider him the ultimate matinee idol. Love lives on.