I Had to Portray the Frailties of Uttam Kumar: Jisshu

RBN Web Desk: Popular actor Jisshu Sengupta has said that he had to portray the frailties of legendary actor Uttam Kumar in director Soumik Sen’s upcoming film Mahalaya. The actor plays the Bengal matinee idol in the film which is about the overwhelming rejection of the Mahalaya programme broadcast from the Kolkata (then Calcutta) centre of the All India Radio (AIR) in 1976.

Speaking to the media recently Jisshu said that he was apprehensive in the beginning to play Uttam Kumar, since it involved reprising the actor himself, and not one of the roles the latter played. There was an element of fear in what he was about to do, Jisshu said, adding that valuable inputs from his mother-in-law Anjana Bhowmick regarding Uttam Kumar’s personal life were of a great help.

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Anjana Bhowmick had shared screen space with Uttam Kumar in several major hits like Thana Theke Aschhi (1965), Nayika Sangbad (1967), and Chowringhee (1968). She was very close to Uttam Kumar and actress Supriya Devi.

Mahisasuramardini, the iconic radio programme which was aired uninterruptedly since 1931, was not broadcast in 1976 as AIR wanted to modernise the show. Uttam Kumar was roped in for narrating the Chandi. Popular singers like Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Manna De, and Sandhya Mukhopadhyay rendered the songs. The show was rechristened as Durga Durgati Harini.

But the modernisation idea backfired, and a year later, AIR returned to the original programme which was scripted by Bani Kumar with Birendra Krishna Bhadra narrating the Chandi. Music for Mahisasuramardini was composed by Pankaj Kumar Mullick.

Jisshu said that Uttam Kumar never wanted to replace Birendra Krishna and had warned the AIR authorities that the new programme won’t be accepted by the audience. After the recording was over, he sat silently in one corner of the room, while his lackeys praised him for a wonderful performance. Deep inside, he knew that the new programme was a disaster. His worst fears came true the next day when there was a public outrage and people reportedly broke their radio sets in anger. There was even a demonstration against the programme in front of the Akashvani Bhavan, Jisshu recalled.

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Mahalaya has Jisshu, Subhasish Mukherjee, Shubhomoy Chatterjee, and Kanchan Mullick in major roles. Prosenjit Chatterjee is the presenter of the film. Jisshu plays Uttam Kumar, while Subhasish has been cast as legendary broadcaster Birendra Krishna. Debojyoti Mishra is in charge of the music.

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