Few deserve the coveted Dadasaheb Phalke Award for lifetime contribution to Indian cinema as much as the iconic Bengali actor, Soumitra Chatterjee (77), whose name has been cleared for its 2011 edition.
Chatterjee was the pivot around which many of Satyajit Ray’s cinematic plots were woven, making many consider him as the alter ego of the legendary director. He acted in as many as 14 of Ray’s films after debuting in the director’s second cinematic venture, Apur Sansar, in 1959.
Born in 1935 at Krishnanagar, West Bengal, Chatterjee also worked with other famous Bengali directors such as Mrinal Sen and Tapan Sinha.
Be it as a revolutionary embroiled in a relationship with his friend’s wife (Ghare Baire), the mentally challenged son of a father on his deathbed (Shakha Proshakha), or as detective Feluda (Sonar Kella and Joy Baba Felunath), Chatterjee played each of his roles to perfection.
Chatterjee is also an acknowledged figure as a playwright and director in the world of Bengali theatre. No stranger to awards, the actor received honours from France and Italy, and won the Best Actor award at the National Film Awards in 2007.
Chatterjee said, “Dadasaheb Phalke is an award that has not been sullied by petty politicking. I am reminded of all my seniors — from Ray to Tapan Sinha — from whom I have learnt a lot.”