Article Bengali

The five best performances of Anup Kumar

Anup Kumar Das caught the acting bug at an early age and was shaped by training from his father Dhirendranath, Bengali theatre and Jatra.

Roushni Sarkar

Anup Kumar, one of Bengali cinema's finest actors, made his mark playing both supporting and leading roles in a career spanning half a century.

Born Satyen Das to Dhirendranath and Bijoya Das on 17 June 1930, Anup Kumar first appeared on the big screen as a child artist in Dhirendranath Ganguly's Halkatha (1934).

As a child, Anup Kumar was fortunate to receive training in acting from his father, who was close to the eminent Bengali poet and composer Kazi Nazrul Islam, as also from legendary theatre personality Sisir Kumar Bhaduri.

Apart from films, theatre and Jatra too shaped Anup Kumar’s passion for acting. His movie career flourished as he kept working with the best of filmmakers like Mrinal Sen, Agradoot, Hiren Nag, Tarun Majumder and Haranath Chakraborty.

The versatile actor would have been 89 yesterday. We revisit five of the most popular and memorable performances from his illustrious career.

Palatak (1963)

Anup Kumar played Basanta Chatterjee, younger brother of zamindar Hemanta Chatterjee, popularly known as Angti Chatterjee, in Tarun Majumder’s Palatak. Despite hailing from a prosperous background, Basanta chooses to lead life as a vagabond. He loves to travel, lest life become static and he miss out on the wonders caused by change of time and place.

Anup Kumar epitomized the restlessness of Basanta when he expresses his fear when Kabiraj (Jahar Roy) asks him to stay on and become part of the Jatra group. At the next moment, however, he gets emotional when he hears a boatman playing a melancholic tune on the violin and drops his idea of leaving the village.

Basanta is seen passionately trying his hand at the instrument, though it is apparent that he is a novice. The actor's performance saves the moment from turning into a ridiculous one as he seems sincere in a deeper quest that is inherent in every decision he makes. At the same time, he tries to cover up his escapist nature with a vague pride, repeatedly associating himself with his zamindar brother.

The film is tragic, yet beautiful in its philosophical content, and Anup Kumar champions the capture of an eternal journey inherent in the storyline.

The trained yet spontaneous actor received multiple awards for the performance, including one from the Bengal Film Journalists Association, and a silver medal from the Star Theatre.

Nimantran (1971)

Directed, again, by Tarun Majumder, Nimantran was one of the films in which Anup Kumar played leading man despite lacking the classical good looks of one. Anup Kumar was Hirendranath, a benevolent soul caught in the bitter scheme of fate. Hirendranath falls in love with Kumi (Sandhya Roy), a simple, orphaned young woman, ignoring societal inhibitions. He depicted the innocence of the character honestly without giving in to stereotypes and shone brightly against the fiery actress’s performance.

Anup Kumar's skill as an actor comes to the fore in the subtle transformation that takes place in Hiru after he leaves the village and Kumi and goes away from genuine love and care. Neither his rising career graph nor marriage to a young woman from a wealthy family satisfies him and the actor subtly carries the melancholia within him right to the tragic end.

Basanta Bilap (1973)

Anup Kumar is also regarded as one of the finest comic actors in Bengali cinema, along with Rabi Ghosh, Bhanu Bandopadhyay and Jahar Roy. No wonder he was chosen for the character of Sidheswar in Dinen Gupta’s classic Basanta Bilap, also starring Soumitra Chatterjee, Rabi Ghosh, Aparna Sen, Chinmay Roy and Sumitra Mukherjee.

The story revolves around the rivalry between a men’s mess and a women’s hostel called Basanta Bilap. The two rival groups are headed by Chatterjee and Sen. While Ghosh, Anup Kumar and Jahar Roy all fall in love secretly with girls from Basanta Bilap, the rivalry between the institutions pushes them to keep the affairs secret, though they don't succeed for long.

Anup Kumar is effortless as a streetsmart young man and produces a series of hilarious moments with immaculate comic timing. You can't miss a single expression of his, even when he is not delivering any lines and simply reacting to others. The actor is just as brilliant in the subtle romantic moments with Sumitra Mukherjee, in which it is hard to believe this is the same streetsmart fellow. The sequences in which he sheepishly tries to cover his romantic rendezvous or his misadventures with his roommates are hilarious too.

Mouchak (1974)

Anup Kumar played Talukdar, a colleague of Sitesh Roy (Ranjit Mallick), in Aravind Mukherjee’s Mouchak, starring Uttam Kumar, Sabitri Chatterjee and Mithu Mukherjee. Even in the relatively minor role of a clerk, Anup Kumar showcased his finesse as an actor. Even small hand gestures spoke volumes for the mediocre clerk who remains submissive before his boss but never loses an opportunity to gain the upper hand on his subordinates. But it was the sarcasm that Anup Kumar brilliantly breathed into the character that saved Talukdar from becoming a routinely cunning character. Instead, he projected Talukdar as a quick-witted worker, who makes the best of time and opportunity.

Dadar Kirti (1980)

Anup Kumar played the pivotal character of Bhombol-da in the Tarun Majumder classic Dadar Kirti, starring Tapas Pal, Debasree Roy and Mahua Roychoudhury. Bhombol-da is a typical character, leader of a local club, who controls all cultural activities in the locality. An experienced artiste, Anup Kumar lent colour to the character as he conducted all the rhyming sessions of the club. However, Bhombol-da is also a manipulative man and makes sure to fool around with the simpleton Kedar (Pal), without realizing the seriousness of various situations.

Bhombol-da has a journey in the film which is brought alive by Anup Kumar’s appropriately delineated act. He made each and every transformation in the character felt, significantly contributing to the story.