He’s unarguably a living legend of Bengali cinema and one of the most accomplished actors in India. In a six-decade long career, Soumitra Chatterjee has been a prolific stage and film actor, having worked with all leading directors. Discovered and mentored by Satyajit Ray, Soumitra made his big screen debut in the 1959 film Apur Sansar, and went on to work for the auteur in 13 more films and one documentary. These are widely considered to be the actor’s best.
However, there have been an equal number of other Soumitra Chatterjee films that have been critically acclaimed, and are no less popular than the ones made by Ray. Many of them have even attained cult status over time. Here are some of the major non-Ray films where the thespian’s work was hailed as among his best.
1. Jhinder Bandi (1961)
Who can forget Soumitra as the wicked and scheming Mayurvahan is this Tapan Sinha classic. He matched wits against Bengal matinee idol Uttam Kumar. Jhinder Bandi had the two superstars of Bengali cinema sharing frames for the first time together. Adapted from Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s historical novel of the same name, the story was based on Anthony Hope’s bestselling 1894 book, The Prisoner of Zenda. At a time when even leading Hollywood actors feared to take up negative roles, Soumitra did that in the fifth film of his career.
2. Saat Pake Bandha (1963)
Directed by Ajoy Kar, this film was based on an Ashutosh Mukhopadhyay novel. Many consider Saat Pake Bandha among the finest Soumitra Chatterjee films. He plays an average middle-class man and was paired opposite Suchitra Sen for the first time. Legend has it, the actor was so convincing in bringing out the frailties of the not-so-successful professor Sukhendu that many in the audience cried, when the couple was about to be separated. The film was a major box office hit and helped Soumitra cement his place as a leading actor in mainstream cinema.
3. Parineeta (1969)
Another Ajoy Kar film, adapted from Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel of the same name. Soumitra Chatterjee plays Sekhar, the son of a rich businessman. With effortless ease, he portrayed the love of Sekhar for Lalita (Mousumi Chatterjee), his next door neighbour. Parineeta stands out as one of the best Soumitra Chatterjee films because the actor had minimal dialogues. His lines were mostly restricted to monosyllables and use of eye movements to convey emotions. Soumitra’s performance in the film, even to this day, remains one of the finest lessons in underacting.