India's legendary thespian Soumitra Chatterjee, who acted in over 300 regional Bengali films in a career spanning six decades, died at a private hospital in the eastern city of Kolkata on Sunday. He was 85.
The veteran actor passed away in the afternoon, following a multi-organ failure, more than a month after contracting Covid-19. "We declare with heavy heart that Shri Soumitra Chattopadhyay breathed his last at 12.15 pm (IST) at Belle Vue Clinic today (15 November 2020). We pay our homage to his soul," the hospital said in an official statement.
In fact, Chatterjee had been undergoing treatment at the hospital since October 6 after testing positive for coronavirus a day before. Though his condition had initially improved after receiving plasma therapy, it started worsening as days passed. Some 24 hours before announcing his death, the hospital said that the actor's condition was "very, very serious".
From Indian President Ram Nath Kovind to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and eminent Bengali film personalities, everyone expressed their condolences.
"Soumitra Chatterjee’s performances won him several national and international awards including Dadasaheb Phalke Award, Padma Bhushan and Légion d’Honneur. Condolences to his family, the film fraternity and millions of fans across the world," the Indian President tweeted.
Modi also took to Twitter to express his grief. " Shri Soumitra Chatterjee’s death is a colossal loss to the world of cinema, cultural life of West Bengal and India. Through his works, he came to embody Bengali sensibilities, emotions and ethos. Anguished by his demise. Condolences to his family and admirers."
In a series of tweets, Chief Minister Banerjee said, "Farewell, Soumitra (Da) Chatterjee. He has been a legend in his lifetime. International, Indian and Bengali cinema has lost a giant. We will miss him dearly. The film world in Bengal has been orphaned." She also said that the actor would be cremated with full honours and a gun-salute.
Leading Bengali filmmaker and actress Aparna Sen said he had been devastated by the legendary actor's death. "I still can't believe that he is no longer with us. I had hoped till the last that a miracle would happen," she told the media. Sen had marked her debut opposite Chatterjee in 'Teen Kanya' film.
Chatterjee was the favourite of India's Oscar-winning filmmaker Satyajit Ray. He made his debut with Ray's Apur Sansar (Apu's Family) in 1959. He went on to act in 14 more of Ray's films, including masterpieces like Devi, Charulata, Ghare Baire and Feluda, a detective.
"Satyajit Ray made me what I am today. Had the director not been a great artist like Satyajit Ray, I wouldn't have been able to perform so well," Chatterjee had said in an interview.
The actor's last big film was Sanjhbati in 2019. Apart from acting, he also directed and acted in plays and penned poetry. In 2001, he had turned down a state award for best actor to protest against what he called the "bias" of the awards committee.
Chatterjee got India's top film honour, Dadasaheb Phalke Award, in 2012. He also won three National Awards and the Legion of Honour by France, the European country's top civilian award. In 1989, Satyajit Ray got the same award.
The legendary actor is survived by wife Deepa Chatterjee, daughter Poulomi Basu and son Sougata Chatterjee.