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A Tribute To Legendary Actor Uttam Kumar

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Published on Jan 1, 2011

Uttam Kumar (Bengali: উওম কুমার; 3 September 1926 -- 24 July 1980) was one of the most famous names of Indian Bengali Cinema. He was born Arun Kumar Chatterjee in 1926 at Ahiritola, North Calcutta but is widely known as Uttam Kumar and Mahanayak (The great hero). A cultural icon, he had been an actor, director and producer.
Uttam Kumar was born in Kolkata in his ancestral house on Girish Mukherjee Road, Bhowanipore. After his schooling in South Suburban School (Main), he went for higher studies in Goenka College of Commerce and Business Administration, an affiliated college of the University of Calcutta system. However, he couldn't complete his studies as he started working at the Kolkata Port as a clerk. During this period, he acted for amateur theater groups. His huge joint family had its own theater group Suhrid Samaj which staged many amateur shows within the community. Uttam Kumar was the eldest among three brothers. His youngest brother Tarun Kumar Chatterjee (screen name Tarun Kumar) acted in many Bengali feature films and was considered an actor of considerable repute. The films in which Uttam Kumar and Tarun Kumar starred together includes Saptapadi, Maya Mriga, Agnishwar, Deya Neya etc. Uttam Kumar was married to Gauri Chatterjee. Their only son Gautam, a businessman died of cancer. His grandson Gaurav is a Tollywood actor. Pulak Bandyopadhyay, a famous lyricist, was his uncle.

Uttam's first released film was Drishtidan (The gift of sight) directed by Nitin Bose, though he worked in an earlier unreleased film called Mayador (Embrace of affection). He came into prominence in the film Basu Paribar and his breakthrough film was Sharey Chuattor (74 and a half) with Suchitra Sen.

Uttam Kumar also acted in some Hindi films like Chhoti Si Mulaqat (Vyjayantimala Bali), Amanush (Sharmila Tagore), Anand Ashram (Sharmila Tagore), Kitaab and Dooriyaan. But his towering contribution was to Bengali cinema, or Tollywood (as it is primarily located in Tollygunge in South Kolkata). Many of his Bengali films were directed by notable directors or directing groups of the sixties and the seventies, such as Agradoot, Agragami, and Yatrik.

Arguably, one of his most lauded appearances was in Satyajit Ray's Nayak (The Hero). It has been rumored that Ray wrote the script with Uttam in mind. Many people feel the film is autobiographical to Uttam Kumar's own life - the sense of anxiety and restlessness mirrored Uttam's insecurities about his phenomenal success and abiding fear that his super stardom might not last. Uttam made the role of Arindam his own and Ray later confessed that if Uttam had refused the film, he would have abandoned the film. He worked with Ray again the following year in Chiriyakhana (1967).

When the Indian Government instituted the National Film Awards for National Film Award for Best Actor and National Film Award for Best Actress in 1967, Uttam Kumar was the first ever recipient of the Best Actor Award for his performances in "Anthony Firangee and Chiriyakhana "in 1967.

He also explored new avenues of film making by trying his hand at production, singing, composing music, screenplay writing and directing. The success of his Bengali films as Producer - Harano Sur, Saptapadi, Bhrantibilash (1963), Jotugriha (1964), Grihadah won great acclaim. Later in his career, Uttam directed much-lauded films such as Bon Palashir Padaboli.

He also came out with his autobiography in 1979. He had a phenomenal fan base which continues even to this day.Reruns of his films on television decades after his death are still eagerly watched. Uttam Kumar's time is considered by most as the golden era of Bengali Cinema.

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