SCREEN LEGEND SUCHITRA SEN RELENTS TO ILLNESS
Timeless Screen Idol’s Alluring and Angelic Eyes Close For the Last Time as Bengal Weeps
by S.B. Veda
Calcutta was awash in tears, today as “Maha-nayika” or screen legend, Suchitra Sen breathed her last, this just before 8:30 on January 17th, 2014. She was 82 but her timeless matinee idol image is what will be immortalized due to her self-imposed seclusion after retiring in 1978. Only family, the closest of friends, and some monks at the Ramakrishna Mission knew her as the increasingly spiritual and simple human being that she became as time passed.
Admitted on December 23rd to Bellevue Hospital, Calcutta for a respiratory tract infection, her condition had fluctuated but she was never pronounced out of danger by doctors. Two days ago Mrs. Sen, refused treatment and the counsel of her daughter, Moon Moon Sen as well as the advice of grand-daughters Raima and Riya, who had been by her side continually during her near month long convalescence. Undoubtedly distressed, and in disbelief, they must have understood, in the end, that she had become resigned to her fate – one which awaits us all: the journey from this life to the next.
Her body was taken in a tinted glass hearse with her face covered in flowers, as she would have wanted. She was surrounded by a procession thick with VIPs, and security, through Calcutta’s up-scale area of Ballygunge where she was brought home briefly from the hospital. It ended at Keoratala Crematorium where her earthly remains were set aflame on a Sandalwood Pyre in the evening. The last rights, administered by her daughter, were given in the presence of her grand-daughters, Chief Minister, Mamata Bannerjee and actors Prasenjit Chattopadhyay and Dev.
Blasts like the clapping of thunder from 21 guns, ordered by the Chief Minister to honour her, announced the departure of her soul as the vessel of flesh and bones, which once carried her being was reduced to ash and smoke.
She was known for her memorable roles in both Bengali language and Bollywood films.
Still at dizzying heights of popularity from her fan following, the legendary actor had always maintained her great charm and poise for which she will be ever remembered as perhaps the most elegant and talented matinee idol, which Bengal had ever produced
Choosing to shield herself behind a behind veil of reclusiveness, Mrs. Sen never appeared in public since retiring from acting, three decades ago, remaining a matinee idol for all time.
Suchitra Sen, born Rama Dasgupta in Pabna in present day Pabna District of Bangladesh, on 6 April 1931, started acting in 1952 and reigned as queen of cinema for 26 years. Sen won fame in Bengali films, especially co-starring with actor Uttam Kumar. The two become the icons for Bengali melodramas and romantic movies through the 1960s and the 1970s. Her most memorable Bengali films included Agnipariksha, Saat Paake Bandha, Saptapadi.
Suchitra Sen made her début in Bollywood with the film Devdas in 1955 co-starring with Dilip Kumar, another legendary actor, and won the best actress award for the movie. Another big Bollywood hit was Aandhi, where she played the role of a politician inspired by the life of the then Indian prime minister, Indira Gandhi, winning a National Film Award.
She was the first Bengali actress to be honoured at an international film festival. She was picked as the best actress for her role in Saat Paake Bandha, a Bengali language film, at the 1963 Moscow film festival. The Indian government honoured her with Padma Shri, a top civilian award, in 1972.
The West Bengal government conferred on Mrs. Sen, the state’s highest honour, Banga Bibhushan in her absence, and though she was to be given the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2005, she refused the prize because it came with the condition of receiving it in person from the President of India. Her Garbo-esque seclusion would not be broken even for the highest of honours.
The doe-eyed beauty shunned appearing in public after her retirement from films in 1978. She acted in 57 Bengali and seven Hindi films. After concluding her film career, she became dedicated to a simple peaceful life of spiritual pursuits, actively involved in the Ramakrishna Mission, meditating for at least an hour each day.
Suchitra married Dibanath Sen, an industrialist, in 1947 before launching her successful acting career. Her husband died in the early 1970s.
The screen legend is survived by her daughter, Moon Moon Sen and grand-daughters Raima and Riya Sen, all three being