'Soumitra Chatterjee has shown all of us the way'
There's been quite a buzz around legendary Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee being felicitated with the Dadasaheb Phalke award for his exemplary contribution to cinema.
The veteran's repertoire of films includes filmmaker Satyajit Ray's Feluda series of films in which he played the title role.
Actor Sabyasachi Chakrabarty stepped into his shoes, and played Feluda in Ray's son Sandip's versions of the iconic sleuth, and is understandably kicked about the recognition coming Chatterjee's way.
Here, Chakrabarty talks about his impression of the senior actor and their working relationship.
Soumitra kaku's (a Bengali world for uncle) contribution towards film, theater and literature, put together, is so vast that there is probably no one more deserving than him (for the Dadasaheb Phalke award).
Since the time he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, we, his fans, have wished and waited for him to be honored with the Dadasaheb Phalke award. It has finally happened this year, and the fact that our joy at this is boundless is evident.
We are planning various ways to felicitate him. He must be tired of the number of invitations he has been receiving for events wanting to honour him.
But I will say this. He is an inspiration, not just for me, but for the entire Tollygunge film industry. He is what I call an all rounder, and we all want to be like him.
We don't have that kind of learning, that kind of education, nor that kind of talent. We can't even act that well, but we will keep trying. We follow in his footsteps.
Image: Soumitra Chatterjee as Feluda in Sonar Kella
'His acting made me feel that I'd be incomplete if I didn't play Feluda'
In fact, my career started with Soumitra Chatterjee. He acted in the first television serial I was part of; he was there in my first film, Tapan Sinha's Antardhan.
Watching him made me realise that Feluda was a character I wanted to play, too. Soumitra Chatterjee inspired me. Of course, nothing beats Satyajit Ray's writing, but it was Soumitra's acting that made me feel that my life would be incomplete without essaying this character. I have been a hard core fan of his since Sonar Kella and Jai Baba Felunath (the two Feluda films directed by Satyajit Ray).
When I got the opportunity to play Feluda, after visiting Sandip Ray (who directed Sabyasachi as Feluda in several films, starting with Baksho Rohoshya), the first thing that I did was meet Soumitra Chattopadhyay.
I told him, "Soumitro kaku, I have got an opportunity to play Feluda. I don't know how well I will be able to essay it, but I want to hear how to go about it from you."
We were shooting for the same television serial that day. He sat me down and told me what Satyajit Ray had told him about the characterization. I had taken suggestions from him about how I should play the character, and his lessons help me to this day.
He has not just shown me the way; he has done the same for many others. He is the president of the West Bengal Motion Picture Artists Forum and we are forging ahead under his guidance.
Image: Sabyasachi Chakrabarty (right) as Feluda in Gorosthaane Shabdhaan
'His work will be a lesson for many actors, actresses and directors'
When it comes to theatre, there are so many people that he has mentored, and so many wonderful plays that he has acted in... Maybe we should document this in some way; it will be a lesson for many actors, actresses and directors.
His work in theatr shows what a deep thinker he is, what a scholar he is. Coming to his writings, one day suddenly he asked me if I wanted to listen to a poem that he had written. I said, 'Please do.' He opened his book and recited the poem for me, as he has done before many others.
I recalled that when a friend was planning to publish a book on writings and poems centered around Birbhum (a district in West Bengal), right from Rabindranath Tagore to more contemporary writers. Since I knew Soumitra kaku, I had requested him to write a poem about Birbhum. He had written one, which was published in the book, and I think it just made the book more prestigious.
One can speak about Soumitra kaku endlessly, but to sum it up, I will only say this: Our joy about him receiving the Dadasaheb Phalke Award is boundless, and we still want to continue learning from him just as we have till now.
I believe that he will work for many years to come and lead us through all those years.
Video: Dipak Chakrabarty