Uttam Kumar’s influence on Bollywood films.
Uttam Kumar, the all time legend of Bengali silver screen who is honoured with the title of “mahanayak” meaning megastar, was one of the most colourful personalities who not only dominated Bengali cinema but had tremendous influence on classical films created in the bollywood. Born in 1926, Arun Kumar Chatterji, better known as Uttam Kumar, made his debue in the Bengali film Dristidan in 1948. Within few years who got the recognition of the carefree hero who could portray the middle class Bengali image according to the characters portrayed by emiment novelists. Satyajit ray, the greatest director, ever to grace Indian Celluloid, said Uttam Kumar, was the only matinee idol, whom a wife wants to have as a husband, a mother wants to have as a son, a sister wants to have as a brother and a daughter wants to have as a father.
Not only did some his films have celebrated golden jubilee, films like Harano Sur, 1957, Saptapadi, 1961, Suno Baranari, 1960, Shankhabela, 1966, Nayak, 1966, Antony Firingi, 1967, Chowrangee, 1968, etc. were the most creative films that were categorised as black and white classics during the golden age of Bengali cinema. He formed the most legendary romantic pair ever to appear on Celluloid with noted actress Suchitra Sen with whom Uttam Kumar acted in 30 films.
Very significantly Uttam Kumar’s films were taken up as base for creating classic films in bollywood at different points of time. The Bengali film Saheb Bibi Golum made in 1955, where Uttam Kumar played the role of Bhutnath was remade in hindi as Saheb Bibi Aur Ghulam in 1962, where Guru Dutt played the role of Bhutnath. He was an observer who watched the aristocracy maintained in Kolkata from mid 18th century to early 19th century. The film depicted the British Raj from the capital, Kolkata, the society existing at that time, Hinduism under the tenets of Swami Vivekanda, the Brahmo Samaj and domination of women during that age.
Uttam Kumar’s legendary film Sabar Opore, released in 1955, involved a crime thriller, where his father Proshanto Chatterji, played by Chabi Biswas was wrongly prosecuted for murder of a lady, and Uttam Kumar had to reopen the case after 12 years and proved before the Court of the law, that the actual murderer was the public prosecutor played by Nitish Mukherjee. Chabi Biswas bewildered the audience after spelling out before the judge that his youth was destroyed by the wrong sentence and asked them to return his 12 years back the period of time he languished in the solitary jail. The same film was remade in hindi under the title of Kala Pani in 1958, where Dev Anand played the role of Uttam Kumar.
Uttam Kumar’s super hit film Agni Parikha, released in 1955, opposite Suchitra Sen, was remade in hindi under the title Choti Si Mulakat in 1967, where Uttam Kumar acted in the hindi version opposite Vaijayantimala. It was related to a couple who were married to each other when they were infants, then the marriage being disowned by a section of the society and the husband and wife falls in love once again when they become matured. Shankar Jaikishan’s composition of music and Rafi’s songs were successful, including songs like “Choti si mulakat me pyar ban gayi.”
Uttam Kumar’s successful film Jivan Mrityu, 1967, where he was wrongly charged in a cheating case by his fellow bank collegues and he took revenge against all of them, was remade in hindi under the title Jeevan Mrityu, where Dharmender played his character. He was travelling in a train and a person fell down from the running train and died. The media wrongly stated that Uttam Kumar had died. He took the make up of a sikh and destroyed the business of all his colleagues. Uttam Kumar's classic film "Lal Pathor" in 1963 based on the historical backgruond of a nawab who marries twice and kills his wives is made in hindi with the title "Lal Patthar", where Raj Kumar played the role of Uttam Kumar. It was shot at Fatehpur Sikri and both the films depicted the royal style of living exhibited by the Feudal lords at that period of time.
Uttam Kumar’s comedy film Bhranti Bilas, 1963, where he had a double role and played the role of the twin brothers under the translated version of Shakespearean play titled The Comedy of Errors, was remade in hindi by Gulzar under the title Angur. There was double role of both the Zamindar played by Uttam Kumar and the servant played by Bhanu Banerjee. In the hindi version Uttam Kumar’s role was played by Sanjeev Kumar and Bhanu’s role was played by Deven Verma. It showed the immense comedy skills possed by Uttam Kumar, who maintained both the personality and sense of humour in the role displayed in the film.
Uttam Kumar’s comedy film Choddobeshi, in 1971, where he depicted a botanist who disguised himself as a driver to irritate his wife’s sister and her husband, was remade in hindi under the title Chupke Chupke, in 1975, by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, where Dharmender played the role of the Botanist. Uttam Kumar’s film Ami Se O Sakha, 1975, where he played the role of a friend of a doctor and loves the same woman whom the doctor loves, is remade in hindi under the title Bemisal, where Amitabh Bacchan played the role of Uttam Kumar. He sacrificed the lady for his friend.
Uttam Kumar’s film Amanush, in 1974, where he depicted the story of fishing community who was wrongly rebuked by the local police officer, was remade in hindi under the same title Amanush by noted Director Shakti Shamanta in 1975. The other film where Uttam kumar acted both in the Bengali version and the hindi version include Anand Ashram. In both these films, Sharmila tagore acted opposite Uttam Kumar. Here the wife of the doctor dies, while giving birth to the child. Uttam Kumar displayed the pathos of the husband after the demise of his wife with same level of excellence which Dilip Kumar used to depict in tragic roles.
The list of films of Uttam Kumar, which influenced bollywood can go on. Very significantly Uttam Kumar had given lips for songs sung by different singers, including Hemant Kumar, Shaymal Mitra, Manna Dey, Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, etc. Even Bhupinder Singh had sung songs for Uttam Kumar titled “zindagi me jab tumhare gham nahi the” and “zindagi, zindagi, o mere ghar ana zindagi” in the film Dooriyan, 1980. It is a pity that as Uttam Kumar had acted in around 205 films within a span of 35 years, he did not get the time to act in major bollywood films. An archive of Uttam Kumar’s works should be created which can depict the rich subject matter presented in his films which had provided inspiration to directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Shakti Shamanta, Gulzar, to reciprocate the stories in bollywood films.