“It is the demise of a leading light of the Bengali film industry…There isn’t – there won’t be another hero like him.”
Satyajit Ray on Uttam Kumar
‘Mahanayak’ Uttam Kumar was Uttam Kumar, the only one of his kind. One of the most sought-after heroes/actors of his times, he had everything to be a superstar. In fact, his charisma and charm were like that of a superstar. Generally regarded as one of the brightest stars of Bengali cinema, Uttam Kumar’s career started with Drishtidan (1948). It was his Nayak (1966) with the master filmmaker Satyajit Ray, which earned him international fame. People feel the film bears resemblance to Uttam Kumar’s own life. He excelled in the role of Arindam Mukherjee. In the following year, he worked with Ray in Chiriyakhana.
It is to be mentioned here that the charismatic Uttam Kumar was the first-ever recipient of the National Film Award for Best Actor for his performances in Antony Firingee and Chiriyakhana in 1967. He tried his hand at production, singing, composing music, screenplay writing and directing. The success of his films as a producer that includes Harano Sur, Saptapadi, Bhrantibilash, Jotugriha (1964), Grihadah was a testimony of that. Reruns of his films on television decades after his death are still eagerly watched. Uttam Kumar’s time is considered by most as the ‘Golden era of Bengali cinema’.
It was his on-screen chemistry with Suchitra Sen which clicked the most with the audience. Both of them together constituted the evergreen and popular romantic pair of Bengali Cinema till date. Some of Uttam’s famous films co-starring Suchitra Sen include Share Chuattor, Agni Pariksha, Shilpi, Saptapadi, Pathe Holo Deri, Harano Sur, Chaowa Paowa, Bipasha, Jiban Trishna, Sagarika, Trijama, Indrani, Sabar Upare, Surjyo Toron, Rajlakshmi O Sreekanto, Ekti Raat, Grihadaha, Kamallata, Har Mana Har and Alo Amar Alo.
It was while filming Ogo Bodhu Shundori in 1980 when he suffered a stroke and was admitted to the Belle vue Clinic. Though the doctors did their best for 16 hours, he died that night on July 24, 1980. He was only 53!