Veteran Indian actor Soumitra Chatterjee lived a life of many parts

Soumitra Chatterjee’s acting career was characterized by a diversity of roles that very few of his contemporaries could demonstrate. This diversity was the handiwork of several filmmakers, including legendary director Satyajit Ray.

Chatterjee passed away recently at the age of 85 of health complications related to Covid-19. He died at Belle Vue Clinic in Kolkata despite being in the care of a team of 15 of the best doctors in the state of West Bengal.

He was Satyajit Ray’s favourite actor. Alongside Ray, he worked with a range of filmmakers such as Tapan Sinha, Tarun Majumdar, Ajoy Kar and Dinen Gupta.

These are important films not just in his oeuvre but in the history of popular as well as art-house Bengali cinema and helped Chatterjee to straddle both worlds and find success in both the streams.

Chatterjee continued writing, directing and acting in plays even at the peak of his film career. He was unhappy with the state of contemporary Bengali theatre in 1950s and ’60s, which made him explore playwrights from far and wide. These were inspired by the writings of several French and German playwrights, amongst others. The plays he wrote and directed reflected contemporary social concerns. This also went in tandem with his belief in left-wing politics.

In the second half of his career, he also emerged as a popular elocutionist. While acting claimed a lion’s share of his time, his engagement with other arts demonstrated the same commitment.

In the demise of Chatterjee, India has lost a great thespian, but he should also be remembered as an actor who chose to live a full life beyond the screen.