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10 iconic roles of Suchitra Sen – Birth anniversary special

No actress in Bengal has yet scaled the heights of stardom that screen legend Suchitra Sen, born on 6 April 1931, did.

Roushni Sarkar

Enigmatic, bold, passionate. These are some of the adjectives that best describe legendary Bengali actress Suchitra Sen.

The first Indian actress to win an international award, Suchitra Sen had an unparalleled pairing with mahanayak (superstar) Uttam Kumar and delivered some of the outstanding performances in Bengali cinema.

At the same time, she redefined the roles played by actresses and made sure to procure equal space and importance with her male co-stars.

No Bengali actress since has been able to match the stardom and popularity that Suchitra Sen achieved in her glorious career of over a quarter century.

Despite having been repeatedly approached by the Bombay film industry, Sen chose to do only a few challenging roles in Hindi instead of trying her fortune in commercial cinema.

On her 87th birth anniversary (she was born on 6 April 1931), we present 10 iconic roles that gave Suchitra Sen full rein to explore her acting range and turned her into a legend of the silver screen.

Agnipariksha (1954)

Suchitra Sen played Tapasi, a young woman who is the victim of circumstance and is torn between following her heart and conforming to the pressures of family and society. A well-educated woman with a wrong marriage in her past, she falls in love, but society and family prevent her from leading her life the way she wants.

Shilpi (1956)

Anjana grows up loving her childhood sweetheart, a talented sculptor, who was given shelter by her father. Suchitra Sen portrays the pangs of separation of Anjana as her father arranges her marriage with a rich groom and her lover also falls sick, contracting a disease from his ailing father, adding to her misery.

Harano Sur (1957)

Dr Roma Banerjee falls for the amnesiac Alok Mukherjee (Uttam Kumar) while treating him and they get married. But Roma is shattered when a near-accident restores Alok’s earlier memory and the wealthy Calcutta businessman fails to recognize her. Suchitra Sen portrays the heart-rending struggle of the doctor as she tries to awaken Alok’s memory while working as a governess at his place.

Pathey Holo Deri (1957)

Suchitra Sen played the innocent and simple Mallika who goes to great lengths to make sure that the love of her life, again played by Uttam Kumar, is approved by her family. However, her grandfather successfully corrupts her mind against her lover so that she regrets her relationship with him forever.

Rajalakshmi O Srikanta (1958)

Suchitra Sen portrayed the tumultuous journey of a village woman Rajalakshmi who ends up becoming a prostitute. Years later, meeting her childhood love Srikanta (Uttam Kumar) changes the course of her life.

Deep Jweley Jai (1959)

Radha is a nurse in a psychiatric hospital who has to provide emotional support to patients in need. Suchitra Sen beautifully brought out the inner turmoil of the nurse who often has to play friend and lover to her patients without committing to any emotional attachment. The film was remade by its director, Asit Sen, in Hindi as Khamoshi (1969) with Waheeda Rehman playing Radha.

Saptapadi (1961)

The Anglo-Indian Rina Brown falls in love with her Bengali Hindu classmate Krishnendu Mukherjee. As marriage is an impossibility owing to the different communities they hail from, she goes her own way with her heartache only to chance upon her love again. Suchitra Sen received her international award at the Moscow International Film Festival for her extraordinary performance in Saptapadi.

Saat Pake Bandha (1963)

Archana Basu, daughter of a rich family, falls in love with Sukhendu Dutta (Soumitra Chatterjee) from a humble background. She gets married to him against her tyrannical mother’s wish; however, her life eventually turns miserable with the latter’s continuous interference and evil plans to separate her from her husband. The film was remade in Hindi as Kora Kagaz (1974) with Vijay Anand and Jaya Bhaduri in the lead roles.

Debi Chowdhurani (1974)

Suchitra Sen played the bold and historical character from Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay’s novel Devi Chaudhurani with finesse and command. The journey of an ill-treated village woman turning into a bandit queen could not have been laid down better by anyone other than the quintessential Bengali actress.

Aandhi (1975)

The film, written and directed by Gulzar, was rumoured to have been based on the life of then prime minister Indira Gandhi. Suchitra Sen portrayed Aarti, the daughter of a leading politician, who cannot commit to nor stay away from the love of her life owing to the complications of her public life.