Kolkata, Jan 17: Whether refusing filmmaker Raj Kapoor’s offer of a movie or her glamorous off-screen lifestyle – she once playfully tore off actor Soumitra Chatterjee’s vest at a party – Bengali screen icon Suchitra Sen, who died Friday, made heads turn with her moves and stunned her contemporaries.
Filmmaker Aparna Sen recalled how, at a party, Sen had playfully mimicked a scene from “Saat Paakhe Bandha” – the film that fetched her the Silver Prize for best actress at the 1963 Moscow International Film Festival, the first international recognition for a Bengali actress.
“Asit Chowdhury had thrown a party after she won the award. Sharmila Tagore and me, we were very young then and we saw how she, very playfully, re-enacted the scene from the film where she tears (lead actor) Soumitra Chatterjee’s vest…all in the middle of the starry gathering. We had never seen something like this.”
Sen died Friday of cardiac arrest at a city nursing home here.
Her refusal to act in a film by Raj Kapoor under the R.K. banner made headlines.
It is said that Sen was put off as Kapoor knelt down on the floor with a bouquet in his hand and made her the offer.
“Why should a man bow down like this,” she reportedly asked her close circle.
Moreover, films were made to cast her in a role that would do justice to her established talent.
Lyricist Gulzar, who had directed Sen in “Aandhi”, once said: “(Producer) J. Om Prakash had wanted to cast Suchitra with Sanjeev (Kapoor) in a film but I didn’t like the story. I said you can’t ask her to come all the way from Calcutta to Bombay for a detective film like that.”
And then Gulzar made “Aandhi” with the two.
Contrary to the teary-eyed protagonists she essayed on screen, off it she was the life of the party – till she became a recluse three decades ago.
Her daughter and actress Moon Moon Sen reminisced in an interview about her party-hopping days. “Guests were dropping by and my parents were always late catching a flight. Those days my mother was very glamorous and dressed for the evenings in black lace and red feathers.”
However, post her husband’s death in 1970, she chose to be absent from the social scene and retired from the industry in 1978.
“She wanted fans to remember her youthful looks. And she did not want to portray mothers and aunts on screen,” her biographr Gopal Krishna Roy told IANS.
Late actor Dev Anand, with whom Sen had shared the screen in “Bambai Ka Babu” (1961), had attempted to get in touch with her during a Kolkata visit. However he was discouraged.
“I did try to meet her…but people discouraged me saying ‘She doesn’t meet anyone’, and after a while I gave up,” the actor had said in an interview.
Sen’s other pre-occupations included spending time with granddaughters Raima and Riya-who have carried the legacy forward.
The older of the two, Raima is often compared to her grandmother.
“Yeah! May be, because I look like Suchitra Sen (smiles). And hence, they expect me to catch up with her acting stature sometime in future,” Raima has said in the past.
“No, she does not in any way give inputs or interfere in our career. But yes, she has seen Rituparno Ghosh’s `Nauka Dubi’, where both of us acted (Raima and Riya) and told us- ‘I am proud of both of you’.”
Moon Moon maintains that she can’t see the three Sen actresses “living up to the legend that she created”.
Fans who usually longed for a glimpse of the actress, had once raised their voices against a local TV channel which was about to air some snaps of Sen while she was hospitalised in 2007. It was clear they respected her desire for privacy.