A life with so many interesting stories, mysteries, larger-than-life attitude – all of this sum up to only one name. He is the great Bengali matinee idol, the legend Uttam Kumar. He will remain as the most loved and charismatic actor of Bengali cinema and even after half a century, his charisma actually wins hands down. Let’s take a look at some the interesting and lesser-known facts about his life.
Inspiration behind ‘Anthony Firingee’
Uttam Kumar’s one of the classic hits ‘Anthony Firingee’ was inspired by Madan Bandhopadhyay’s famour literary work ‘Kobiyal Anthony Firingee’. This film was composer Anil Bagchi’s one of the best works. This musical drama is purely based on the life of a Portuguese named Hensman Anthony. Anthony (Uttam Kumar) came to India and made Bengal his home the Bengali folk songs and traditional music changed his life forever. Such was the effect that he even looked Bengal as his motherland. He even married a Hindu widow Nirupama (Tanuja). But he couldn’t protect himself against the dirty orthodoxy believes that used to plague the land in that period. His wife is burnt to death because Antony was planning for a Durga Puja which was termed blasphemy by the then Brahmins.
Shymal Mitra produced ‘Deya Neya’
‘Deya Neya’ remains a milestone in Uttam Kumar’s illustrious career. The romantic pair of Tanuja and Uttam Kumar won many a million hearts. But only a few people know that this Bengali classic was produced by legendary singer and composer Shyamal Mitra. This was his first film as a producer. He also directed the music of ‘Deya Neya’. Directed by Sunil Bandhopadhyay, it’s a romantic comedy which aptly portrays a man’s struggle on a light note but ends with a happy ending.
Uttam-Aparna Sen jodi delivered many Box Office hits
‘Memsaheb’ (1972) is touted to be Uttam Kumar-Aparna Sen jodi’s one of the best films. The charismatic pair first appeared in ‘Aparichita’ (1969) directed by Salil Dutta. Among the 12 films in which Aparna Sen and Uttam Kumar appeared together, 10 turned out to be Box Office hits. Inspired by a famous novel by Nimai Bhattacharya ‘Memsaheb’ starred Uttam Kumar in the lead. Director Pinaki Mukherjee did a superb job by combining the political world and romance of that period. Aparna Sen excelled as the young, educated Professor who falls in love with a hotshot journalist played by Uttam Kumar. While both stand for each other and dream for a happy future, political violence eventually ruins their life.
When Saroj Khan missed the chance to work with Uttam Kumar
Famous Bollywood choreographer Saroj Khan once came to Kolkata. She was supposed to work for a song in Uttam Kumar’s 1961 hit ‘Sathi Hara’. But unfortunately the Mahanayak was down with fever that day and was absent on the sets. So, an excited Saroj missed the chance to work with the legendary actor. Directed by Sukumar Dasgupta, ‘Sathi Hara’ had Mala Sinha opposite Uttam. The romantic songs and vibrant dance sequences of this film remains a must-watch.
‘Saptapadi’ faced unwanted troubles
The iconic bike sequence of this Bengali classic turned out to be a template for many Bengali romantic tracks. Appeared on the celluloid during the height of the Uttam-Suchitra wave, ‘Saptapadi’ is all about the doomed romance of a Bengali Brahmin boy and a Christian girl. But did you know this romantic hit faced an unwanted controversy? There were wild rumours which suggested that a conspiracy was being staged to stop the shooting. A portion of the industry allegedly tried to convince Suchitra Sen that she will be overshadowed by Uttam Kumar if she shares the screen with him. However, it didn’t work out and the rest is history. The movie was packed with all the elements a romantic Bengali of 1960 can dream of like the immortal music scored by Hemanta Mukhopadhyay. The outstanding camera work, brilliant script, heart-touching music and above all a giant named Uttam Kumar’s one of the career-best display turned ‘Saptapadi’ into an almost near perfect movie experience for cine lovers.
Rejected a offer from Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray’s ‘Nayak’ was Uttam’s very first work with Ray. He did another film (Chiriakhana) with the Oscar-winning director which released in 1967. Interestingly, Ray had an offer for Uttam Kumar for his ‘Ghare Baire’ long before making ‘Nayak’. In 1956, Ray was sick and had to stay at home for few days. The filmmaker was planning a film on Ghare Baire. He developed the script of this Rabindranath Tagore novel, long before making ‘Pather Panchali’ in 1955. He wanted to cast Uttam as Sandip in his Ghare Baire screen adaptation. However, Uttam Kumar rejected the offer politely as it seemed a negative role for an already established star.
Controversy evoked by the ‘Agni Pariksha’ poster
The on-chemistry between Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen left every Bengalee in awe in 1954 romantic hit ‘Agni Pariksha’. The poster of the Bengali film had a controversial caption – “Agni Pariksha’ is the witness of our eternal love”. Rumour has it Gauri Devi, wife of Uttam Kumar and Dibanath, husband of Suchitra Sen didn’t take it in well and the poster eventually refueled wild gossips about the mystery behind Uttam-Suchitra jodi’s captivating chemistry.