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'In Paris, they called out to him as Apu'

November 17, 2020 19:54 IST

IMAGE: Soumitra Chatterjee in Apur Sansar.

Shabana Azmi, who is in Budapest shooting for a Steven Spielberg Web series, was filled with a sense of unreality when news of Soumitra Chatterjee's death reached her.

"It was a rude reminder that even the greatest have to go," she tells Subhash K Jha.

"I had the rare privilege of playing both his wife and daughter. But then he had the rarest privilege of doing 14 films with Satyajit Ray," she adds.

"I was in a film group that was honoured at the prestigious Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris sometime in the 1980s and it was so incredible to watch the adulation showered on him by French fans."

Shabana was struck by the actor's modesty.

"In Paris, they called out to him as Apu (from Satyajit Ray's Apur Sansar) and Amal (from Ray's Charulata) and rushed to get photographed with him. Soumitrada seemed to to take it all his stride and said modestly, 'It's because Ray made these characters so memorable that I'm reaping the benefits"."

"I was amazed at how lightly he wore his fame. You see the same modesty in Lata Mangeshkar and Steven Spielberg."


IMAGE: Hugh Grant and Soumitra Chatterjee in La Nuit Bengali.

Recalling her experiences of collaborating with Soumitrada as a co-actor, Shabana says, "I had the honour of working with him as his wife in Nicholas Klotz's , co-starring Hugh Grant and John Hurt."

"Much later, I played his daughter in Aparna Sen's 15 Park Avenue. He was charming and great company to be around because he was well read and could speak on many subjects."

IMAGE: Soumitra Chatterjee and Shabana Azmi in 15 Park Avenue.

"I was in touch with his daughter the last few weeks and am deeply saddened by his death," Shabana says.

"I had hoped and believed he would recover. He will be missed greatly. But his great work will live on forever."