Thursday, November 22, 2007

Arundhuti Debi

Arundhuti Debi – the most aristocrat actress of Golden age of Bengali Cinema.

Arundhuti Devi (Mukherjee) born in 1925, is one of the most aristocrat actress to grace the silver screen during the golden age of Bengali cinema. She was educated in Biswabharati, (Rabindranath Tagore’s renouned University at Shantiniketan) and made a dramatic debue in director Karthick Chatterjee’s travel-based film Mohaproshaner pathe which was written by Proboth Sanyal. Bosonto Chowdhury, the hero of the film also made a sensational debue and both of them provided life in the role of the travellers who were bohemians as depicted in the film.

Within a short time Arundhuti Devi switched herself to a serio-comic film Chele Kar, 1954, directed by Chitta Basu. The story involved a small child of a needy family venture into the streets of Kolkata and caught hold of a wealthy bachelor person Bikash Roy, whom he calls father. The entire film hovers around that theme and at the end of the film both Bikash Roy and Arundhuti Debi falls in love with the child. The acting of Chabi Biswas, the greatest actor of Bengali silver screen, in the role of the grandfather of the small child named Tomato, was amazing as he portrayed both the personality of a father of patriarchal society and blended the sense of humour with the anger in the role.

Within a short period of time Arundhuti Debi created an image of thoughtful, understanding women in that age who could understand the complexities of life. After providing a serene performance in Asit Sen’s Chalachal, in 1956, opposite Nirmal Kumar, another thoughtful actor of that age, Arundhuti Debi got acclamation from the film lovers of Bengal with her powerful performance in her husband (Prabhat Mukherjee)’s film Bicharak, in 1957.[1] In the same film Uttam Kumar played the role of the Judge (bicharak) who had previously married the elder sister of Arundhuti Debi, played by Dipti Ray, who was suspicious about the relationship of her husband with her sister. In fact Uttam Kumar had attachment towards Arundhuti Debi. In the mean time fire broke out in the house on one day while Dipti Roy was sleeping. She laid her hand toward Uttam Kumar for help the way a drowning person catches straw. Uttam Kumar could help her, but the thought of attraction towards the sister was playing in his mind and he took his hand away. That provided him the opportunity of marrying Arundhuti Debi. While hearing a murder case which had a similar story line, Chabi Biswas, the public prosecutor, raised the same issue. Uttam Kumar recollected his past and the guilty conscience told him that he could have helped his wife if he wanted. Chabi Biswas’s standard of performance superseded the skills of professional pleaders in the court of law and Arundhuti Debi again kept her mark while consoling her husband about his previous deeds. Arundhuti Debi again showed her depth of thinking in the film Pushpadhanu opposite Uttam Kumar, where being duped by her first husband and bearing the burden of a small child whom she could not give his father’s identity, she renunciated her wealth after disclosing before Uttam Kumar her unfair past. Arundhuti Debi made a sensational performance in Tapan Sinha’s Khudito Pasan, where there was no dialogue for her. He used to come in dreams of the author and displayed the feelings of an unsatisfied soul who wanted to portray the events in her previous birth.

In 1959, Arundhuti Debi got an opportunity to perform in a film totally based on aristocracy titled Sasibabur Sangsar. Chabi Biswas acting in the pivotal role, displayed the agony of a karta of a hindu undivided family, who loses supremacy after retirement. He gave an immortal soliloquy about the definition of family, where he said in the outside world, the bread earner is known by his designation, but the same person when he returns home is a father, a father –in –law, a husband and the protector of the family under whose light and shade the happiness and sniffles of life revolve. In that classic film, Aundhuti Debi, the daughter-in-law faced a personality clash and convinced Chabi Biswas that the world had changed, and the displacement of members of the family for better jobs and new ventures is catered towards seed of development without disrespecting the values maintained by Chabi Biswas in his illustrious career.

Arundhuti Debi won the Bengal Film and Journalist Association Award (BFJA) for her classic performance in the film Bhagini Nivedita. She displayed the spiritual awakening of Bhagini Nivedita, who inspite of being an European realised the spiritual sermons of Swami Vivekananda and devoted her life towards social awakening and education of women in Bengal.

At the same time she acted with Uttam Kumar is successful films like Manmayi Girls School where she had to act as the wife of Uttam Kumar to get accommodation as the landlord required such a condition for allowing tenants in his lodge. In Tapan Sinha’s films Jhinder Bandi and Jotu Griha, she provided unparallel performance where the sorrow, the pains, the romantic appeal, everything was displayed with aristocracy. Also in the film Harmonium, in 1975, she displayed the elegance of a royal family inspite of being a widow who bought the harmonium for her little daughter to carry on the noble culture maintained by her ancestors.

In the late 60s, Arundhuti Debi launched her career as a director, and there too, her classic films Chuti and Megh O Roudra, based on classic literature of Tagore, got critic’s acclamation. Even her other films like Nyay Dando, where she brought up the daughter of a prisoner who was wrongly sentenced to prison by Radhamohan Bhattacharya who played the role of District Judge showed her capability to feel the character that had to be portrayed in the respective situation.

Although Arundhuti Debi, did not have the popularity of Suchitra Sen, the most successful actress of Golden age of Classical cinema, nor did she form any everlasting pair in that age, yet her performance had classical touch and carry the same impact in the same the way in which Pandit Ravi Shankar’s sitar or Bismilla Khan’s Shehnai mould the souls of listeners. Arundhuti Debi’s films should be restored for future generations to learn the art of skilful, thoughtful, powerful acting.

[1] Incidentally Chalachal was remade in hindi by Asit Sen with the title Safar in 1970, where Sharmila Tagore played the role of Arundhuti Debi.

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