Suchitra Sen, the iconic beauty and an utterly talented actress of her times, was born today, back in 1931. While she breathed her last in 2014, her legacy in Bengali and Hindi cinema refuses to leave the hearts of cinema goers in India and perhaps the world over.
For most of her life, she remained a mystery to her fans and even close ones. Even during the final moments of her life, her daughter Moon Moon Sen and grand-daughter Raima Sen were not allowed to invade this solitude.
Honoured with a National Award for her role in Bimal Roy’s ‘Devdas’, Roma aka Suchitra was born on April 6, 1931 in Pabna, in what is now Bangladesh. Her father Karunamoy Das Gupta was a teacher by profession. Suchitra was the fifth child among three brothers and five sisters. At the age of 16, she was married to a well-reputed lawyer from Kolkata, Adinath Sen’s son Dibanath Sen. Suchitra had never dreamed of acting in films. But director Asit Sen, who was a family friend, always strongly felt that she had all the qualities of becoming an unrivalled actor.
Later, Suchitra’s husband pushed her towards movies, perhaps seeing some potential in his young and beautiful bride. When she was 21 years old, Suchitra appeared on the silver screen for the first time. Her daughter Moon Moon Sen was then seven months old. Her first film was ‘Shesh Kothay’. But this film was released 20 years later with the title ‘Shrabon Sandhya’. Her first released film was ‘Saat Number Qaidi’ (1953), in which she featured alongside the then superstar of Bangla cinema, Uttam Kumar. The film proved to be a huge hit. Moreover, with this film, Bangla cinema got its wonderful and successful pair in Suchitra and Uttam Kumar. They worked together in 25 films over the next 30 years and in a way ruled Bangla cinema. The most fabulous film of her career came in 1963, ‘Saat Paake Bandha’. For her wonderful performance, she received the title of ‘Best Actress’ at the Moscow Film Festival. She was the first Indian actress to have received this award in Russia.
With Bimal Roy’s Devdas’, she arrived in the Hindi film industry with a bang. Although Roy’s first choice for the character of Paro was Meena Kumari, she is said to have been too occupied with her previous commitments. Then Bimal Roy tried getting Madhubala for the role but at the time, Dilip Kumar and Madhubala’s relationship had strained. At last Bimal Roy’s search for a mix of beauty like Madhubala with the tragic image of Meena Kumari ended on Suchitra Sen. The film was released in 1955 and Suchitra Sen’s portrayal of Paro brought the character to life.
Asit Sen’s film Mamata (1966) is still remembered for its melodious music and subtle performance by Suchitra Sen. One of its songs ‘Rahen na rahen hum…’ succinctly portrays Suchitra Sen’s sublime beauty and acting prowess. But Suchitra became one of the leading actresses of Hindi cinema with her performance in ‘Aandhi’ (1975). After ‘Aandhi’, many filmmakers approached her with offers but she did not accept any because she did not like the roles.
On the personal front, her life was thrown off gear. Her husband had left for America and passed away there. Suchitra gradually withdrew from the outside world.
After Bangla film ‘Pranay Paasha’(1978) with Soumitra Chatterjee flopped, she wrapped herself completely in loneliness. She even stopped going out of her house. In 2005, she refused to accept the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award because she did not want to appear on any public platform. She led a life of secrecy, away from prying eyes, until her death in 2014. But her iconic beauty and performances will always remain with us as an integral part of the mesmerising world of cinema.