Actors Sharmila Tagore and Amitabh Bachchan mourned the loss of veteran Bangla actor Soumitra Chatterjee, celebrated for his work in films by the legendary Satyajit Ray. Sharmila and Soumitra began their careers together, starring in Apur Sansar, the third part of Ray’s Apu trilogy. They worked together in other films such as Devi, Aranyer Din Ratri and Barnali.
In an interview with PTI, Sharmila, 75, said she still hadn’t processed the loss, and that she shared a connection beyond films with him.
“I was 13 years old and he was 10 years elder to me when we started working in Apur Sansar. In the film, those beautiful dialogues that we spoke to each other also endeared us to each other. That was the beginning. I really respected, admired him and for what he stood for. He was one of my oldest friends, after my husband Tiger (cricket legend Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi) and actor Shashi Kapoor. He has been such a loyal and fun friend,” she said.
Sharmila said Soumitra’s non-judgmental nature only strengthened their relationship. Their bond, as she described, wasn’t transactional. “We could lead our parallel lives and yet have a connection, somewhere because our thoughts, depth and loyalty was the same. Soumitra knew I’d never speak ill of him. There was no questioning of what we shared, we didn’t have to prove it. If I didn’t talk to him or if he didn’t talk to me, I wouldn’t feel ‘Oh God he hasn’t wished me, he doesn’t remember my birthday.’ It was just so organic. I can’t give it any name.”
She said they grew fond of each other over a similarity in the way they viewed the world. One of her most cherished memories with the star were their wide-ranging discussions. Soumitra was a wonderful companion, Sharmila said, which ensured that their banter would be endless. Sometimes he would understand her point of view, other times she would agree with his belief, she recounted. “We would talk for hours on sports, history, our vision of India. I find him irreplaceable that way because there’s nobody else I can share so much with. If I expressed a certain point of view, he’d agree and expand or shoot it down and give his reasons. That kind of friendship is so rare. To lose that is huge,” she said.
Amitabh Bachchan wrote on Twitter: “Soumitra Chatterjee .. an iconic legend .. one of the mightiest pillars of the Film Industry, .. has fallen .. a gentle soul and abundant talent .. last met him at the IFFI in Kolkata .. Prayers ..”
Soumitra died on Sunday after losing a fierce 40-day battle with post-Covid ailments. He was 85.