With the sad demise of Tapen Chatterjee, an era in Bengali cinema has come to an end. Tapen was famous for playing the role of Goopy Gyne in Satyajit Ray’s Goopy-Bagha trilogy for children. The Goopy Bagha era had spelled magic on Bengali kids, more than what Harry Potter ever did to kids worldwide. Generation after generation, Bengali kids breathe and dance to the songs of Goopy and Bagha. While Tapen played Goopy the singer, Rabi Ghosh played Bagha, the drummer; and they set out in the magical-musical world of ghosts and kings.
Goopy and Bagha were much simpler, and golden-hearted than the other literary creations of Ray- the genius Shanku, the cool Feluda, and Apu. Tapen Chatterjee and Rabi Ghosh were masterful actors with brilliant comic timing, and their chemistry unmatched. With master Ray’s perfect direction in place, Goopy and Bagha captured the essential Bengali character. They would break out of prison by offering the guard a tasty fish and stop wars by raining magical sweets from the heavens.
I wonder how something so ‘childish’ could have such layers and meanings below their surface. Even today, when I’m depressed I remember Bagha saying- ‘Tumi koro giye chinta. Pet bhore khabo, pran bhore ghurbo’ (Why worries! I’ll eat till my stomach is full. I’ll wander (sing and dance) till my last breath). The sadness we feel today is not just for the passing of a true artist. It marks the end of a magical age when movies were works of art, stories were simple, soul ruled over special effects, and characters stayed in our hearts long after the end credits had rolled. It is hard to digest that for the final time- Goopy will sing no more!