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'Suchitra Sen said no to Satyajit Ray'

... and more about the ethereal beauty, Suchitra Sen, who passed away yesterday in Kolkata

Suchitra Sen allegedly did not accept the Dadasaheb Phalke award in 2005 because it required her to make a public appearance.

Suchitra Sen
Suchitra Sen

Sen, 82, who had been ailing for a while, passed away yesterday in Kolkata. The Bengali actress, who has also featured in several Hindi films, stopped stepping out in public since the late ’70s, and went on to the life of a recluse.

Barring her family — that includes daughter Moon Moon and granddaughters Raima and Riya — only West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee got to meet the Mahanayika — as the CM described her — when she was in hospital.

Says veteran Bengali filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta, “We lost her the day she decided to be a recluse. She remained a mystery and the only memory we have of her is through her films. She had refused Satyajit Ray; she never worked with leading Bengali filmmakers like Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen. I could never make a film with her — she would just not fit in. She belonged to the old school of acting.”

Late auteur Satyajit Ray’s son Sandip Ray reminisces, “My father wanted to make the film Chaudhurani with her in the 1960s. She did not do the project and ultimately, the film was never made. I have seen her, but have not interacted with her. My memories of her are of the several Bengali films she did with Uttam Kumar.”

Sen made her Hindi film debut in 1955 as Paro in Bimal Roy’s Devdas, in which she starred with Dilip Kumar. The thespian reminisces, “I have a distinct memory of Suchitra as a demure lady and an actress who sprang to life the minute the camera was focused on her.

She had a an inborn sense of timing and pace that made her responses in the more intense scenes of Devdas absolutely apt and remarkable. We were on the same wavelength while doing our emotional scenes and like me, she, too, did her mental preparation seriously and diligently. She was rather quiet by nature but there were times when she surprised us with her sense of humour and enjoyed a good laugh. I would say she was among the simplest and nicest leading ladies I have worked with.”

Sen had been paired opposite Dev Anand in Bambai ka Babu (1960) and with Ashok Kumar and Dharmendra in Mamta (1966). Her 1975 Hindi film, Aandhi, starring Sanjeev Kumar and directed by Gulzar, sparked a controversy as it was believed to be based on the life of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

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