Article Bengali Hindi

How Moushumi Chatterjee became a real-life Balika Badhu: Birthday special


On the eve of her 64th birthday (26 April), the actress spoke to Cinestaan.com about her career and her life.

Keyur Seta

Moushumi Chatterjee made her acting debut in Tarun Majumdar’s Bengali movie Balika Badhu (1967). She played the title role of a child bride. At that time, not many expected her to become a real-life balika badhu.

In an exclusive conversation with Cinestaan.com, the actress, who turned 64 today (26 April), spoke about this and many other aspects of her life and her career.

Reminiscing about her cinematic debut, Chatterjee revealed that she was much younger than her character on screen. “I was in the fifth standard when I started my career with Balika Badhu,” she said.

Despite the early introduction to cinema, Chatterjee was unfazed. After all, cinema wasn’t an industry unknown to her. “At that time I was very fascinated by all film-related stuff," she recalled. "I was a movie buff. I used to see films at a young age. Even at the age of 4 or 5, if I went missing, everybody knew I didn’t come home because I went to see some movie. Plus, our house was very close to these studios in Kolkata, Kaliganj. So, I always used to see stars going around and people going crazy. That really excited me."

The first film had its share of bitter-sweet moments for Chatterjee. "I really enjoyed the first day of the shoot. But on the second day I was very bored."

Chatterjee, however, couldn’t enjoy her success then. "I was too young to even cherish my success at that time. My first movie became a platinum jubilee hit [completing 75 weeks in theatres]. But I didn’t understand [it]. I was just thrilled to see myself on these big posters."

Despite attaining success at such a young age, Chatterjee was more interested in getting married than pursuing an acting career. "Later on I realized that I was never an ambitious woman. I always wanted to be a balika badhu in real life and that’s what I became. After the film was released, a lot of people were eager to make me their daughter-in-law. So many young guys wanted to marry me. As I was getting a lot of rishtas [Hindi for proposals], I got engaged to the son of Hemant Kumar, who was the music director for Balika Badhu."

Moushumi Chatterjee in and as Balika Badhu

But her marriage was a consequence of a very filmi situation. "My aunt was suffering from the last stage of cancer. She wanted to see my marriage and requested Hemant Kumar [for it]. I was in the 10th standard then, and I got married." 

Chatterjee is one of the very few actresses who made their Hindi film debut after marriage. Soon after the wedding, she relocated to Bombay and resumed acting under her father-in-law’s banner, Geetanjali Films. Her first Hindi film was Shakti Samanta’s Anuraag (1973). "I never thought my first film will become a silver jubilee [completing 25 weeks in theatres] and I will become an established actress,” she said. 

Read more: How filmmaker Shakti Samanta shifted gears from thrillers to romance to social dramas

The actress has been part of a number of successful Hindi films over the decades. These include Roti Kapda Aur Makaan (1974), Anand Ashram (1977), Manzil (1979), Angoor (1982) and Ghayal (1990). She was last seen in Shoojit Sircar’s Piku (2015), where she starred alongside Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone. In a fairly long career, Chatterjee has been part of 100 films.

Chatterjee revealed that during the making of Piku, she and Bachchan used to recall the time when they worked together decades ago. The two shared screen space in films like Roti Kapada Aur Makaan, Benaam (1974) and Manzil. “We were like family. Amit [Bachchan] is an old colleague. So, I was very comfortable working with him. Plus, I am a foodie and he would bring some food which we would distribute to all. And Deepika is a very nice lady and a well-behaved person." 

During the last Durga Puja

Asked when we would see her again on screen, Chatterjee quipped: "I would also like to ask when a suitable script will come my way." 

When it comes to films today, Chatterjee keeps a close watch for films starring Vidya Balan and Kajol. However, she is an avid watcher of cartoons. “My favourite cartoon character is Jerry. Tom and Jerry are like my husband and me,” she added, laughing.

Coming back to her birthday, the actress said she would prefer to spend the day with her close ones. “I love being with my family; surrounded by my people. Maybe in the evening some friends will drop in. I have always been very family-oriented. I love to be with people who are close to me."

Chatterjee has fond memories of her childhood birthdays. "School friends used to come home. Mummy used to make so many dishes. Sometimes we didn’t do anything. We just used to go to some place to hang out. I always loved to have gifts."