Uttam Kumar and Soumitra Chatterji

There is an old debate over who is the greatest actor in Bengali cinema. While Uttam Kumar is known for his charisma and magical performances, Soumitra Chatterjee is the favourite of the intellectual Satyajit Ray fans all over the world. If Uttam Kumar-Suchitra Sen pair is seen as the most romantic in Indian cinema, then Soumitra Chatterjee-Sharmilla Tagore pair holds its own tragic charisma.

Playback singers like Hemant Kumar, Shaymal Mitra, Manna Dey and Kishore Kumar rose to success by giving playback for Uttam Kumar! The new age directors of Bengal like Ajoy Kar, Tapan Sinha, Pinaki Mukherjee, Agradut, Agragami could freely experiment in Bengali films only due to Uttam Kumar’s screen presence! The careers of best actresses of Bengali films like Suchitra Sen, Arundhuti Debi, Sabitri Chatterji, were related to Uttam Kumar as they complimented his powerful performances. Uttam Kumar won the first ever national Award for best actor- for his performance in Satyajit Ray’s “Chiriakhana” and the film “Antony Firingi” in 1967, the year the Awards were introduced.

Whereas Soumitra Chatterjee’s performances in the films like Apur Sansar, Sonar Kella, Charulata, Joy Baba Felunath, Abhijaan, were highly appreciated by the intellectual audience. His centrality to Ray’s work is akin to other key collaborations in the history of cinema – Mifune & Kurosawa, Mastroianni & Fellini, De Niro & Scorsese, Max von Sydow and Ingmar Bergman, Jerzy Stuhr and Kieslowski… Soumitra Chatterji received the ‘Officier des Arts et Metiers’, the highest award for arts given by the French government, and a lifetime achievement award from Italy. He turned down the honorary Padma Shri award from the Indian government in the seventies; more recently, in 2004, he accepted the prestigious Padma Bhushan award. He was a very cultured, educated, soft personality, and is still respected for his selective performances.

The battle over the acting capabilities of the two legends led to injustice towards the other great actors of Bengali cinema like Anil Chatterji, Bosonto Chowdhury, Nirmal Kumar, Bikash Roy and Kali Banerjee. People consider them as character artists, but when they played central characters they proved their acting skills time and again. All these actors should have been honoured and recognized, but are unfortunately lost in the Uttam-Soumitra battle!

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7 responses to “Uttam Kumar and Soumitra Chatterji

  1. Thought of watching bengoli cinema..bhalo bhachii

  2. Pingback: art | entertainment | Scribido-India's Youth Magazine

  3. Pingback: art | entertainment | Sourav Roy

  4. pravash dagra

    it is the carisma of uttam kumar that the director is high or low profile it was not matter for his exelence performance .soumitra worked mostly with satyajit roy,mrinal sen who r the best.it is not proven that soumitra’s performance was same for all kinds of directors.soumitra is popular only for satyajit roy in the world,but uttam kumar is the mahanayak only for his own talent

  5. SANTANU BANERJEE

    Uttam Kumar is the most accepted Mahanayak of Bengali cinema with or without the patronage of Great directors. The people of Bengal only accepts him as the uncrowned King of Bengali cinema. On the other hand Soumitra Chatterjee is a great actor nurtured by Great directors. His contribution to popular cinema is not worth mentioning as compared to Uttam Kumar. After Uttam Kumar’s death, Bengali cinema was as its low which could not be revived by actors like Soumitra. Later on Prosenjit single handedly revived the Bengali cinema. Hence, Soumitra is not at all comparable with Uttam Kumar.

  6. i think it would be really biased to compare them. they both were legends in their own way. uttam kumar had tremendous stage presence, voice modulation,and confidence,but that does’nt mean soumitra chatterjee was any behind in such traits.he was more of a kind of method actor,more cerebral, he would indulge into the skin of the character to make it look real. And the fact that he showed his prowess with only great directors is not completely true. Actually i think it takes more amount of talent to work with such perfectionists….like Ray , Sen etc.

  7. Uttam Kumar was the only actor in the Bengali film industry who could turn an ordinary movie into a hit by his sheer screen presence and acting talent. I do not remember SC had done the same without the support of directors like Satyajit Ray. This fact is also proven by the fact that the Bengali industry went down the hill with the sad demise of Uttam Kumar, and SC was not enough to provide the same support to the film industry. I know no actor, other than Uttam Kumar, who even after being framed as a flop master during his initial times, made it into the top only by sheer hard work and his acting talent. SC was quite lucky in that regard. No doubt SC is a powerful actor but never could scale up to the same height as that of UK when acting with ordinary directors.

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