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Book Review: Suchitra Sen:The Legend and the Enigma

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First published: April 6, 2016, 4:35 PM IST | Updated: April 6, 2016
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Book Review: Suchitra Sen:The Legend and the Enigma

There are actresses and actresses … stars and stars … and then there are luminous personalities whose very screen presence paralyses the critical faculties! They re-write the curriculum and romance, public (popular) imagination in a manner that challenges both logic and analysis. Charisma? Personal Magnetism? Magic? Call it what you will, it unfailingly defies definition but is instantly recognisable to one and all when it crashes into your radar.

Suchitra Sen was one such sublime creature who, even after 30 years of exiting the silver screen, remained Bengal’s unquestionable Queen of Hearts, the Mahanayika, whose death in year 2014, triggered the kind of frenzy and public grieving matched only at the demise of two other screen icons – Satyajit Ray and Uttam Kumar. Even Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee (an acknowledged die-hard fan) saluted the memory of the legendary “Mrs Sen” with a glorious function attended by all who were associated with the amazing late super-star.

Noted film critic, journalist, author and scholar, Shoma A Chatterjee does all of Sen’s countless fans a great service by penning this biography – arguably the first one – at least in English. Bios, as a genre, tend to be titillating, reader-friendly PR jobs or soporific, snore-inducing tones boring the pants off readers with grave – unwanted – exhibitions of gyaan, mostly unrelated to the subject! A sensitive and seasoned writer on serious cinema – winner of the National Award, 1991, Best Film Critic and a regular member on the panel of film juries at the biggest International Festivals across the globe – Chatterjee brilliantly delineates the subjects/themes in the journey to understand both the legend and the enigma. From ‘Saat Number Kaidi’ in 1953 (ever heard of it, guys?) to ‘Pronoy Pasha’ (her swan song in 1978), the author takes the reader through a fascinating journey into the making of a deathless icon who seemed to have been nurtured on the camera, whose re-runs continue to make oldies swoon with nostalgic delight while zonking Gen Y into nodding … real cool! To both the serious cineaste and devoted fan – boy, of special interest – hands down – will be the creation and staying power of the Uttam-Suchitra romantic pairing – a super Jodi that graced over 30 films, most of them super-hits. Also, the metamorphosis from star to actress – a suspect area even today to most serious/informed viewers of Bengali cinema – and her mysterious reasons to, both, exit the (screen) scene and remain aggressively incommunicado – a la Garbo? – till the end. Along the way, her persona’s role in the working women scene of that era and many other dimensions that comprise the soul defining the legend and the enigma.

An engaging, absorbing and informative narrative – replete with very interesting & illuminating anecdotes as well as insightful analysis of some of her biggest hits, with and without Uttam Kumar – this biography is a must read for all fans of SS & lovers of Bengali cinema, keen to know about the times that shaped the legend and the enigma.

Priced at Rs 350 – Harper Collins – it’s a real steal for all fans – past and present – whoever hummed the iconic, romantic ‘Ei Pawth Jodi Na Shesh Hoy’ … a template of the ultimate in love on a passionate, enchanting overdrive!

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