Soumitra Chatterjee, a master of his craft

Salil Tripathi in Mint:

The astonishing part about Soumitra Chatterjee’s long career is not that he won the Dadasaheb Phalke Award this year, but that it took four decades of exceptional performances before national juries began honouring him: a special jury prize in 2001, and a national award in 2007, (besides the Padma Bhushan in 2004). He spurned the first such award, pointing out how popular, mainstream cinema was crowding out the cinema that made you think, and he was right.

If quantity equated quality, Hindi cinema would be India’s best. For provocative cinema that stays with you beyond the three hours at a theatre, we turn to films made in other Indian languages, Bengali being the most prominent. These films bear a closer relationship with life as it is, and not as it is fantasized, although the so-called regional languages too produce escapist fare, and not all Hindi films are mediocre.

And yet, it took 42 years after Chatterjee’s unforgettable debut in Satyajit Ray’s Apur Sansar (The World of Apu, 1959) before he won his first national award. In the last of Ray’s Apu Trilogy, Chatterjee played Apu, now a young man, who joins his friend to attend a family wedding. more

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