She was the iconic heroine who redefined romance on the BONG-SCREEN! But it would be wrong to state that her presence was only symbolic of female actor. Somewhere down the lane, her boldness on the screen intermingled with the character she played. And together they redefined womanhood.
It is of no doubt that she was the most successful heroine of her time. And her on-screen chemistry with Uttam Kumar, the heartthrob of all women of that era, has been immortalised in the eyes of Bengali population. But, it will be unfair to state that her strength lied in portray of romantic character alone. Or it was Uttam who complimented her acting skill and bolstered her status. Rather, her persona gave such a flare to her acting, which helped her to go in the depth of her character. In such a way that Suchitra was Paro in the eyes of Mumbaikars (who didn’t have much to do with Bengal film industry) when they came out of cinema hall.
The character named ‘Tapasi’ played by her in Agni Parikha – 1954 (which is Agni Pariksha in Hindi) she articulately portrayed the dilemma which a woman goes through when she falls for a man knowing that she has a soft-corner for a man with whom she was married as a child. Her decision to marry her present lover has to face many questions from the society.
Then came, Saptapadi-1961 in which the over the shoulder glance of Rina Brown (an Anglo-Indian character played by her), looted the heart of many Bengali men! The plot revolves around the love for a Hindu guy in the heart of an Anglo-Indian Christian girl whose father is unknown, and how the girl is made to sacrifice her love because of staunch Hindu mentality of her lover’s father. The bold portrait of Rina as an alcoholic who is serving the military at the time of war, did give a new definition to patriotism for women.
Suchitra Sen’s international success came in 1963, when she won the best actress award at the Moscow International Film Festival for the movie Saat Paake Bandha-1963, becoming the first Indian actress to receive an international film award.
While she was ruling the industry in Bengal and, she decided to the political drama, Aandhi in Hindi film-industry. The film released in 1975 and was banned for 20 weeks after its release in the state of Gujarat. It was a source of immense political as well as social controversy, as the plot was loosely based on Indira Gandhi’s personal life and relationship with Feroze Gandhi. It was finally released when Janata Party came in power. Her portray as Indira Gandhi was so successful that it was reported later that, even Ms. Gandhi admired her acting.
She secluded herself from the public eyes and took a retirement for her vibrant career after her film Pronoy Pasha-1978 flopped. This step, made her critics refer to her as Greta Garbo of Indian cinema.
It was a rainy afternoon, and a telefilm on the Uttam Kumar’s moderately controversial life was being aired. A Bengali heroine, who is often stated to look like Suchitra Sen, was playing the character of Suchitra Sen. My mother said, “She looks a bit like Suchitra” referring to the heroin. My father (who has a strong aversion for modern day Tollywood). And who had been going through some of his files, lifted his head and noticed the actress.
“She should thank god, if her acting skill reaches at least one-tenth of Suchitra!”
My father was back into files; my mother was engrossed in the telefilms, while I looked at the rain and (mischievously) thought, what was Suchitra Sen?
Times of India website