Saturday, Aug 13, 2022
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An Actor As A Trilogy

Poet, artist, playwright, editor...there was a manyness to Soumitra as a creative mind. And a depth of feeling. Both flowed into his roles on screen.

An Actor As A Trilogy

I belong to a generation that has grown up with the films of Satyajit Ray and his favourite hero, Soumitra Chatterjee—revelling in an experience that should cause no controversy by being called rich, even if you consider only the sheer range of roles Soumitra-da covered over the years, beginning 1959. That story is still not over: there are still more films on the way, his last works. But for the last 10 years, I had been engaged on a different project, working with Soumitra-da very closely: editing a collection of his prose writing. The first two volumes came out in 2016 and they covered more than 1,000 pages. When he went, we were almost ready with the third volume, which will have another 500 pages.

The last conversation I had with him, rather the last phone call he made to me, was on September 9, late in the evening. He had just rediscovered a piece he had written in 2015 about a young writer, Ansaruddin—a very different kind of a writer, one who lives in a village close to the small city where he had grown up and spent his childhood, Krishnanagar, and now tills his little plot of land and writes. Soumitra-da had written him an open letter, and it had been carried by a little magazine published from Krishnanagar. A printout had duly reached me, and he wanted to know my reaction, and whether I would like to have the piece included in the volume.

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