When I reviewed An Inspector Calls a couple of weeks back, blog reader AS, in a comment, mentioned that a Bengali version of the film (or rather of the play by JB Priestly, on which it was based) was also made, starring Uttam Kumar: Thana Theke Aschi. This was a film that had been recommended to me earlier as well, so I had it bookmarked; but I hadn’t known it was a version of An Inspector Calls.
Now, fresh from my viewing of (and gushing over) An Inspector Calls, I decided I had to watch Thana Theke Aschi while the story was still fresh in my mind.
The story begins with a brief glimpse of a faceless woman, lying dead on the floor of a dingy little hut, an empty bottle of carbolic acid near her hand. The corpse is found by another woman, who starts to scream.
The scene then shifts to the home of the wealthy Chandramadhav Sen (Kamal Mitra), where an engagement party is in full swing. Mr Sen’s daughter Sheila (Anjana Bhowmick) has just gotten betrothed to Amiya (?), the son of one of Mr Sen’s business associates. It’s a grand party, and once it’s over, Amiya stays on, chatting with the Sens.
When I read the news of Soumitra Chatterjee’s passing away, my first thought was: I need to write a tribute, talk about how much I liked this actor. Then, reality crept in. It’s not as if I’ve seen too many films that starred Soumitra Chatterjee. Charulata, Kapurush, Jhinder Bondi, Aranyer Din Raatri, Sonar Kella, one of the three episodes of Teen Kanya… and that was it. I didn’t recall having seen any of his other films.
Which might sound odd; how could one like an actor so much based on only such a handful of films? But I suppose when you’re looking at quality rather than quantity, it can work. And Soumitra Chatterjee, even in the few films of his that I’ve seen, proved himself a memorable actor. Not just handsome, not just superficially charismatic, but also so very talented. His ‘coward’ of Kapurush is so very real, so flawed and believable a protagonist; his Mayurvahan in Jhinder Bondi is a deliciously evil portrayal of the flamboyant, boyishly attractive yet very wicked Rupert of Hentzau. It’s easy to see why a bored and neglected housewife would fall in love with this young man in Charulata, and he is Feluda. Sharp, intelligent, well-read (and intelligent and well-read are apt descriptions of the man in real life too, from what I gather).
But a full-fledged tribute, a run-down of all his best films: no, that was not something I thought I would be capable of. Instead, I decided to commemorate the life and career of Soumitra Chatterjee by watching one film I’d only heard of in passing, never really got down to seeing.
Or Ogni Porikkha, if you want to be phonetically correct.
Over the last twenty-odd years, I’ve heard countless Bengalis rave about Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen as the ultimate onscreen romantic couple. I’ve seen both of them act (separately) in a few (admittedly Hindi) films, and have been very impressed.
So, finally: an Uttam Kumar-Suchitra Sen film, and one that was a big hit too. Agni Pariksha: ‘trial by fire’.