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Sandhya Roy remembers 'father figure' Jahar Roy – Birth centenary special

The veteran, who began as a child artiste, recalls how she learnt humanity and respect along with the craft of acting from the legendary actor.

Roushni Sarkar

Mostly remembered today for his timeless portrayal of comic roles in several Bengali classics, Jahar Roy was born on 19 September 1918.

The actor and his on-screen partnership with another gem of Bengali cinema, Bhanu Bandopadhyay, delivered some special moments that are deeply ingrained in Bengali film lore.

Jahar Roy was an inevitable choice for comedy films; however, his acting prowess was not limited to a single genre.

Roy is mostly remembered today for his performances in Sare Chuattar (1953), Parash Pathar (1958), Yamalaya Jibanta Manush (1958), Ashite Ashio Na (1967), Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1969), Bhanu Goenda Jahar Assistant (1971), Dhanyi Meye (1971) and Jukti Takko Aar Gappo (1974).

Roy easily stood out in the star-studded Sare Chuattar amidst Uttam Kumar, Suchitra Sen and Tulsi Chakraborty. It is hard to forget the relief he brings in Parash Pathar as Bhajahari, the servant, who never misses a chance to empathize with his master.

Roy and Bhanu Bannerjee as the hilarious confidants and partners in joy and sorrow in Bhanu Goenda Jahar Assistant, Ashite Ashio Na and Miss Priyambada (1967) created magic and set the bar for performances in comic roles.

Veteran actress Sandhya Roy appeared as both a child and an adult artiste with Jahar Roy in films, including Palatak (1963), Manihar (1966), Natun Jiban (1966), Rupasi (1970), Nimantran (1971) and Thagini (1974). She remembered the actor who not only taught her as a senior but also made sure she could shine beside him as a co-artiste.

Jahar Roy in Palatak (1963)

“I first acted with Jaharbabu when I was a complete newcomer and I did not have much idea about acting," Sandhya Roy told Cinestaan.com. "I learnt everything from actors like Jaharbabu. He was a father figure and could make me feel comfortable and teach me what to do on the sets, bringing out the performance from me. He helped a lot in a few films in the beginning of my career. He had a generous heart.”

According to her, Jahar Roy would take good care of his co-artistes. For instance, he would enquire if she was hungry, bring food, and made sure she ate first.

“Those days were different," she said wistfully. "Along with learning acting skills, we would learn gestures of humanity and how to respect elders. I used to spend almost 12 hours a day shooting, but because of artistes like Jaharbabu, I always felt I was with my family.

“Even when I matured as an actor and started getting more important roles with him, I enjoyed the experience. When one gets a co-actor with such amazing style and expressions, one can always improve one’s own skill.”

The powerful actor was also well loved by fans. “Those days there were not many awards," Sandhya Roy recalled. "The common people used to give proper recognition to the artistes. Jaharda was not only a comedian, his charisma surpassed that. People were aware of his potential and I remember, whenever he used to come to Padma cinema, people would throng to have a glimpse of him.”

According to her, Jahar Roy showed that playing a comic role is not only about making people laugh. "It is often more challenging than playing a tragic role," she said, "though he was a master of the latter as well. He played my father in Palatak. I still remember a scene in which I was standing facing the window, brooding. He came from behind, not sure whether to express his own sorrow or console his daughter.

Sandhya Roy in Palatak (1963)

“I did not see his facial expression then, but when I watched the film it was heart-wrenching the way he brought alive the dilemma of a father!” Palatak became a hit and the performances of both Sandhya Roy and Jahar Roy were appreciated.

Though Jahar Roy’s films are often shown on television, the actress feels that the culture of discussing the works of such artistes is receding. “It is unfortunate that there is not much research around his works, nor is there an attempt to preserve them," she said. Needless to say, she still misses Jaharbabu.