By Subhash K Jha
“As far as I am concerned Suchitra Sen was a true legend, no two ways about it. She withdrew from public life nearly 40 years ago.So we only know her through her films.I last saw her when she was shooting for Gulzar’s Aandhi. I just loved the way she used her voice and her beautiful eyes. Ms Sen brought up her daughter very well. She sent Moon Moon to the best schools, made sure she gave the best possible facilities to her.Her grand-daughter Raima does have a little jhalak of Suchitra Sen.
“Mrs Sen led a beautiful life. She tried to give her daughter the life of comforts that she didn’t have. She was deeply spiritual. All of us past a certain age have a craving for a certain public platform. She didn’t. She left it all behind and led her life away from the public eye. I couldn’t do that. But that was what she chose to do.And she never wavered in her decision. I can’t disengage from public life the way she did. She chose to engage with her spiritual endeavours, with her daughter and grand-children.Her gravitas, that sense of ‘self’ that she had was unparalleled. She was feminine and yet so strong.
“What I remember the most about her is her royal bearing. Above all, I just loved her arrogance. Manikada (Satyajit Ray) was very keen to work with her in Ghair Bhaire. He wanted to cast her with Uttam Kumar. Whereas Uttam did eventually work with Manikda, Manikda and Suchitra Sen never did come together. There was this ‘ego’ tension between them. Both were giants. I wish they had worked together. But mediators created trouble between them. Manikda never had any money to offer her. Uttam-Suchitra were to me the ultimate pair. All their films together were magical. They too had an ego clash.
“Right in the beginning of my career I was working at New Theatre in Kolkata when I came across Mrs Sen. She was giving me a close look(laughs). Then she said to me, ‘You’ve very pretty eyes.’ Coming from her, that was such a compliment. She was truly a star and carried herself like one. Was I influenced by her? I don’t think so. I’ve always been a rolling stone. I always did my own thing. And if you ask me my favourite actresses they are Nutan, Waheeda Rehman, and Meena Kumari.
“I definitely admired Suchitra Sen. Other Bengali actresses like Kanan Bala, Madhabi Mukherjee, Sandhya Roy and Roopa Ganguly were also formidable in their own right. In the same way that British actors are much superior to their American actresses, Bengali actresses are , I think, a class apart.
“Ms Sen was first a star, then an actor. Of course she was very talented. But more than that there was a certain presence about her which was unparalleled. She had an amazing aura. No one knows what she looked like after the 1960s. I hope her privacy is preserved in her death and that her body is not put up for public viewing. I am sure Ms Mamta Bannerjee will make sure of that. It would be such a betrayal of her privacy if her face is now seen by the public.”