File photo: The legendary actor Soumitra Chatterjee was conferred honourary Doctor of Letters by Presidency University, Kolkata
He was possibly surprised to see a four year old touching his feet. He picked me up and, with that heavenly tone, asked: 'Ki naam?'
I refreshed my tab three times while writing this. With every click I could feel my heart sink. Finally my prayers succumbed but left a strange sense of relief only because he would not have to physically suffer anymore.
Soumitra Chatterjee, arrived as Udoyon Pandit in my childhood. I believed him and studied hard only to defy bad magic. As Feluda, he remained ageless in my mind. I did not need illustrations, I could close my eyes and see him click open his colt and show the six bullets and utter-- "Thay thay thay thay thay!"-- his gestures I have mimicked a million times.
The romantic hero in Tin Bhubaner Pare or Basanata Bilap made me want to fall in love with someone like him (although he was always the first choice). In the race of romantic heroes, while many would name Uttam Kumar, for my mother and I, Soumitra Chatterjee has been a constant. He owned the film songs with his awkward twists like in Jibone Ki Pabona or the mischievous smile in Legeche Legeche Agun. I couldn't agree more with the words Naseeruddin Shah had once said about Soumitra that it was his "lack of acting" and "styleless-ness" that set him apart.
I was fortunate enough to see him in person. I remember going to Shilpakala Academy to see my superhero. He was performing his production Tiktiki with Koushik Sen. I had walked backstage after the show and touched his feet. The six feet man from a low angle looked larger than life just like I had always imagined. He was possibly surprised to see a four year old touching his feet. He picked me up and, with that heavenly tone, asked: "Ki naam?" I left quickly after answering and never took an autograph!
Amal from Charulota, the fearless political ideologist in Ghare Baire, Khid Da the swimming coach in Koni, Apu in Aparajito– the characters he played shaped my concepts and ideologies. Like many, I struggled to see him grow old. I confined myself to his recitations mostly in an attempt to flip the sand clock.
Even the brightest star burns out but the news of his death has shattered my heart. I have gotten angry with him for risking a shoot at this time. The news circulating in social media is making it worse. The emotions for him resonate at the same amplitude as it would for my father. With all my heart, I wanted him to fight Corona like he would fight Maganlal Meghraj, but this time his Mogojastro fell short besides all the other reviving instruments in the hospital. I have never written him a fan mail, an obituary is not something I'm ready for –may this be an adieu note to my hero. May you enjoy your journey to infinity.
Priyanka Chowdhury is a researcher and art writer