Saturday, December 20, 2008

Manju Dey - the towering actress of Bengali films

Manju Dey – the towering actress of Bengali films.

Manju Dey was considered one of the towering actresses of Bengali films of the 50s and 60s. Along with an enterprising screen presence she also had a mellifluous voice. She mesmerized the viewers with her powerful performance in the film Jighansha, directed by renowned Bengali director Ajoy Kar. The film was based on the detective story of Arthur Conan Doyle titled The Hound Of Baskervilles. In the early 50s, the black –white classic took the Bengali audience by storm.

Manju Dey played the role of the daughter of Bikash Roy, who was one of the successors of the princely estate who was deprived of his right over property. He stayed in the same estate in the disguise of an old botanist. He used Manju Dey, his daughter to act as witch who sang spooky songs around marshy land and drew the prince towards that area when Bikash Roy hired a serial killer to kill him. The detective in the film played by Shishir Botobyal, who played the same role as Sherlock Holmes in The Hound Baskervilles detected the identity and solved the mystery. The same film was remade in hindi with the title Bees Saal Baad, where Wahida Rehman played the role of Manju Dey and Biswajeet played the role of the prince.

Manju Dey impressed the viewers with her role in Mrinal Sen’s film Neel Akasher Niche. She played the role of wife of Bikash Roy, a middle-class Bengali and was sympathetic towards Kali Banerjee, a Chinaman in the film who came from China and settled in the streets of Kolkata to sell his produce. The film required the depth of acting from Manju Dey in respect of showing compassion towards a foreigner who had come from a distant place and struggled to earn his livelihood in Kolkata.

She was sublime in the film Biyallish (42), opposite Pradeep Kumar. The film was based on the Indian freedom struggle and how the domestic wives of the nation participated in the freedom movement. She and her husband Pradeep Kumar was tortured by British officer played by Bikash Roy and yet she was firm in her commitment.

She established herself as a successful director with the film Abhishapto Chambal based on the novel by Tarun Bhadhuri, the father of Jaya Bhaduri. She acted in the film and showed her powerful personality. She learned horse-riding and acted along with other dacoits like Shekhar Chatterjee and others. Pradeep Kumar played the role of the husband of Manju Dey in the film and impressed with his manly performance. He died and after that it was left upto Manju Dey to take revenge against the alleged offenders. Her other successfully directed film included Shajarur Kanta (Porcupine’s thorn), which was a crime-thriller and impressed the viewers again.

Manju Dey also contributed in the classic films in the 50s including Tapan Sinha’s film Kabuliwala based on the epic novel of Rabindranath Tagore. She played the role of the mother of the little girl Mini, who had attachment towards an Afghan fruit-seller played by Chabi Biswas. Later on Chabi Biswas was imprisoned and after being released from jail came to their house. All preparations were made for the marriage of Mini. Manju Dey advised her husband played by Radha Mohan Bhattacharya to give the money that was saved for the lighting in the marriage to be given to Chabi Biswas so that he could go back to his own country and meet his own daughter who was of same age of Mini.

Manju Dey was used in off-beat films and experimental roles in her illustrious career and although her position was not same as the greatest actress of Bengal, that is Suchitra Sen, whenever her films like Kar Pape opposite Asit Boron, Upahaar opposite Uttam Kumar, etc., are revisited it will be inferred that she was one of the most dynamic actresses of Bengali films during the classic period. According to critics, other than Suchitra Sen and Arundhuti Debi, Manju Dey had the most dynamic personality and for those reasons her films should be preserved and restored.


pitu said...

hers was great screen films like Ardhangini, Bou Thakuranir Haat and Jighangsah she excelled.will be remembered by her friends.

Suvadip B said...

I would like to know more about Manju Dey. Where was she born? How did she come into acting? When did she die? Is there any biography of Manju Dey available?

Suvadip B said...

I would like to know more about Manju Dey. Especially how did she choose the career of an actress? Is there any biography of this actress available?