Article Bengali

Padma Shri awardee and veteran Bengali actress Supriya Devi passes away

The actress passed away in Kolkata on Friday after suffering cardio-respiratory failure


Veteran Bengali film actress Supriya Devi, who reached legendary heights for her portrayal of the protagonist Neeta in Ritwik Ghatak's cult movie Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960), died at her residence in Kolkata on Friday following a massive cardio-respiratory failure, her physician said.

She was cremated in the evening with full state honours given by the West Bengal government.

Supriya Devi, 85, is survived by her daughter and three grandchildren.

"She felt unwell in the washroom around 6.20 a.m. When doctors were called, they declared her dead at 6.30 a.m.," the family physician said.

Supriya Devi's body was taken from her home to the Rabindra Sadan compound, where hundreds, among them leading cultural and political personalities, including chief minister Mamata Banerjee, paid their last respects.

The last journey began around 6.15 p.m., with a barefoot Banerjee walking 3.5 km alongside a large number of mourners to the Keoratala crematorium, where the coffin was taken out of the cortege and placed on a high platform by police personnel in a slow march.

The bugle played the last post before she was accorded a guard of honour and a gun salute, as soulful Rabindra Sangeet played in the background.

Born on January 8, 1933 at Myitkyina in erstwhile Burma (now Myanmar), Supriya Chowdhury (nee Banerjee) took the screen name Supriya Devi to emerge as one of the leading figures of the golden era of Bengali cinema that saw her straddle the celluloid space with great aplomb alongside the late Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen.

Soumitra Chatterjee, Sabitri Chatterjee and Madhabi Mukherjee now remain among the few surviving representatives of that generation.

Supriya Devi was one of the leading heroines of Uttam Kumar, her live-in partner, and essayed memorable romantic roles opposite him through two and a half decades.

The duo's mega hit movies included Sanyasi Raja (1975), Baghbandi Khela (1975), Chiradiner (1969), Sabarmati (1969), Suno Baranari (1960), Bon Palashir Padavali (1973), and Kalankini Kankabati (1981).

Apart from the Uttam Kumar-Suchitra Sen combine, it was the Uttam-Supriya pairing that kept generations of Bengali film buffs mesmerised with their romance, hit songs on their lips and well-scripted story lines.

She also acted in a few Hindi films like Begaana (1963), Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein (1964) and Aap ke Parchhaiyan (1964).

Known for her beauty and sharp features, she made her acting debut as a seven-year-old in two plays directed by her father Gopal Chandra Banerjee, and forayed into films in 1952 playing a side part in the Uttam Kumar starrer Basu Paribar (1952).

The year 1960 gave Supriya Devi a cult status following her sensitive and touching depiction of the sole bread earner of a refugee family against the backdrop of the 1947 partition of India in Meghe Dhaka Tara (Cloud Capped Star).

In 2006, she made her last appearance on the big screen in Mira Nair's The Namesake.

In 1954, Supriya Devi married Biswanath Chodwhury. The couple's only daughter is Soma. However, later in life, Supriya Devi fell in love with Uttam Kumar.

Supriya Devi was conferred the Padma Shri in 2014, and received the Bengal Film Journalists' Award twice -- "Tin Adhyay" (Best Actress in 1969) and "Chinnapatra" (Best Supporting Actress in 1973).

The state government bestowed its highest award Banga Vibhushan in 2011 on her.

President Ram Nath Kovind led the nation in condoling Supriya Devi's demise.

Calling her an icon of Indian cinema and of Bengal's cultural life, Kovind said she would be "remembered for memorable films such as 'Meghe Dhaka Tara'".

Mamata Banerjee said: "She was a legendary actress. She was like a family member to us... We will fondly remember her through her films. Condolences to her family and fans."

Soumitra Chatterjee, two years junior to Supriya Devi, was heartbroken."I have nothing to say. I am also 83 now. For 60 years she was my friend, colleague. We worked together in so many films. I feel very sad and heartbroken."