Suchitra Sen was a legendary Indian actress who worked in Hindi and Bengali films. She died on 17 January 2014 of cardiac arrest.
Suchitra Sen was born on Monday, 6 April 1931 (age 82 years; at the time of death) in Bhanga Bari village of Belkuchi Upazila, Pabna, Bengal Presidency, British India (now in Siraj Ganj District, Greater Pabna, Bangladesh). Her zodiac sign is Aries. After the partition of India in 1947, her family came to Bengal as a refugee. She completed her schooling at Pabna Government Girls High School.
Height (approx): 5′ 3″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Family & Caste
She belonged to a middle-class Bengali family.
Parents & Siblings
Her mother’s name was Indira Devi, and she was a homemaker. Her father, Korunamoy Dasgupta, was a headmaster in a school in Pabna. Suchitra Sen had 5 sisters and 2 brothers. Suchitra was the fifth child and second daughter. She was the granddaughter of the famous Bengali poet Rajanikanta Sen.
Husband & Children
In 1947, at a very young age of 15, she got married to Dibanath Sen, son of a very famous industrialist Adinath Sen. In 1970, her husband died in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
Her daughter Moon Moon Sen is known for work in Bengali, Hindi, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, and Kannada films.
Granddaughters of Suchitra Sen, Raima and Riya Sen, carried on her legacy. Both have featured in several Hindi and Bengali movies.
The picture below shows three generations in a picture
Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen were known to be one of the most romantic couples in the Bengal film industry. Their chemistry was so good that both were often considered more than friends. However, Suchitra clarified this by saying,
I had a good friendship with Uttam Kumar, a deep one.”
Friendship with Gopal Krishna Roy
Gopal Krishna Roy was a journalist of news agency UNI. He was the only person who was in touch with Suchitra Sen even after her retirement. Roy wrote about the incidents that Suchitra shared with him about her life. In one of his writings, Roy shared an incident in which he talked about the reasons behind Suchitra quitting the film industry. He wrote,
After the film Pranaye Pasha which was a flop, she was deeply upset about it and went to Belur Math, the headquarters of the Ram Krishna Mission just outside in Kolkata. There she met Bharat Maharaj, one of the holy men there, and talked to him for a long time. Bharat Maharaj told her, ‘Ma, ghridho, lobh koro na, don’t be greedy.”
Roy also shared some incidents telling how humorous she was. He shared an incident when Suchitra wanted to see a urologist. He wrote,
I sent one of Kolkata’s best known urologists to her house. After he had seen her and left, Mrs Sen told me, “ Well, your doctor held my hand for 10 minutes at least !” I replied, “He must have been checking your pulse. But Mrs Sen burst out laughing and said, “Even I know how to see a pulse. He was not just checking my pulse.”
He further talked about the day when Suchitra went to a gynaecologist, Dr Bulbul Bhattcharya. He wrote,
Mrs. Sen went in the chamber and sat in the crowd of other patients. Even after covering her face some patients recognized her and soon there was a buzz at the place. I immideately rushed to the doctor and requested to examine her first. The doctor obliged and we headed home. Mrs Sen took young Moon Moon on her lap and said, ‘Gopal do you know what the doctor told me? The doctor told me I am still…and then she paused. So I said anxiously, what? What? Mrs Sen laughed and said…the doctor said I am still a virgin.”
He shared a short story about Suchitra Sen when there was a controversy going on about whether kissing should be allowed on screen or not.
I wrote an article about it and sent it to Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Soumitra Chatterjee and Suchitra Sen and several other luminaries. Most replied almost immediately but not Mrs Sen. When I insisted, she told me to come over to her house. “Mrs Sen smiled and said the truth is “chumban ato shohojay dewa jaye na” – it is not easy to kiss anyone.
When Suchitra reached the peak of her career, she was often termed arrogant and an absolute private person; however, according to Roy, it was not always the case with Suchitra Sen. In an interview, Roy talked about this and said,
One evening, I was taking a walk with her on Ballygunge Circular road. It was about 9.30pm and evening walk was her habit. “Suddenly one gentleman walking past recognized her and stopped and said he wanted an autograph. I didn’t know how Mrs Sen would react. But she smiled and said, ok. Give me a paper and pen. The man said he didn’t have either a pen or paper. So she turned to me. I said I had a pen, but no paper. So Mrs Sen suddenly bent down and picked up an empty cigarette packet from the road, tore it open and on its clean side, she gave her autograph.”
She lived in the bungalow named Vedanta at 52/4/1, Ballygunge Circular Road, Kolkata 700019.
She turned out to be a successful actress in Bengali films. Although she did several good films in Hindi cinema, she was less successful in Bollywood. Her debut film was Shesh Kothaay in 1952, but it was never released. Her first film to be released in Bengali was Sukumar Dasgupta’s Saat Number Kayedi in 1953. She further starred in Sharrey Chuattor in which her co-actor was Uttam Kumar; the film was produced by Nirmal Day. After this movie, Bengali cinema got their first iconic pair, Suchitra Sen and Uttam Kumar. Out of 60 films in her career, she was paired with Uttam Kumar in nearly 30 films. Although the society of that era was reluctant to accept the kind of romance displayed by the pair of Suchitra Sen and Uttam Kumar in films, their chemistry became a hit among the audience, and the youth of that era started following the fashion style of Suchitra Sen and Uttam Kumar.
In 1953, after she was cast as Vishnupriya in “Bhagaban Shree Krishna Chaitanya,” she never looked back. Her first Hindi movie was released in 1955, Devdas, for which she was nominated as best actress. In 1959, she got an appreciation for her movie Deep Jale Jaai, directed by Asit sen. In 1963, she again worked with Asit Sen to give one more hit, “Uttar Falguni.”
In 1978, she took retirement after her Bengali movie Pronoy Pasha, and she never visited Tollygune studios again. She was shooting for a film, Nati Binodini, with Rajesh Khanna when she decided to quit acting. As a result, the film was shelved mid-way. She took a break from the paparazzi and avoided public places. After her retirement, she devoted most of her time to Ramakrishna Mission, and she used to visit Bharat Maharaj of Belur Math and Kanai Maharaj in Golpark Ramkrishna Mission. She once said,
I used to visit Bharat Maharaj of Belur Math and Kanai Maharaj in Golpark Ramkrishna Mission. But I stopped visiting Belur Math after his death. I used to get so many letters every day, but I never replied to any of them. I hardly read any of them. I’m better this way.”
After retirement, she didn’t appear on camera and avoided public places following which the film fraternity and media started calling her Greta Garbo, the mysterious Hollywood star. In an interview, when Moon Moon Sen was asked about the reason for Suchitra Sen’s retirement, she said,
One reason why she quit acting in the 1970s was the mediocrity that overtook Bengali cinema. Many of the directors she knew well and felt comfortable working with passed away. The scripts offered to her were awful. Uttam Kumar passed away and she’d say, ‘Whom am I going to work with?”
- In 1962, the BFJA best actress award for Saptapadi
- In 1964, the BFJA best actress award for Uttar Phalguni
- In 1963, the best actress award for Saat Pakey Bandha at the Moscow film festival
- In 1972, awarded with Padma Shri for her works in arts
- In 1973, the BFJA best actress award for Alo Amaar Alo
- In 1975, Filmfare best actress award for Priya Bandhabi
- In 1976, the BFJA best actress award for Aandhi
- In 2012, she was given the Government’s highest honour of West Bangal, Banga Bibhushan
- In 2014, Posthumously awarded for Filmfare East Lifetime Achievement Award
- In 1967, Filmfare Best Actress award for Mamta
- In 1976, Filmfare Best Actress award for Aandhi
- Novel: Novels of Rabindranath Tagore
- Actor: Dilip Kumar
Suchitra Sen died at 8:25 am on 17 January 2014 of a heart attack.  On 24 December 2013, Suchitra Sen was admitted to the hospital after she was diagnosed with a lung infection. Although she was recovering well in the first week of January, her health again started deteriorating, and she died on 17 January 2014. One of her neighbours describes the scene of the 17th January at her Kolkata home and said,
The police turned the entire lane opposite Ballygunge Science College into a fortress. Trucks carrying guardrails arrived and the lane as well as the road leading to it were barricaded. Strict instructions to sanitise the entire route leading to Suchitra Sen’s house have come from the very top. So we are not taking any chances,” said a deputy commissioner overseeing security arrangements outside Vedanta. The hearse and the cars left for the crematorium exactly five minutes later. Moon Moon turned towards the crowd gathered outside the house and greeted them with hands folded.”
Many Indian leaders consoled her death including the then President and Prime minister of India, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and B.J.P.’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. On the orders of the chief minister of West Bengal, Mamta Bannerjee, a gun salute was given before her cremation. Fans gathered around the cremation site to have the last look at their idol, but all her medical treatment and cremation was done in full secrecy and privacy.
- Suchitra Sen’s nickname was Krishna.
- Before stepping into the film industry, her name was Roma Dasgupta. The name Suchitra Sen was given to her by assistant director Nitish Roy as he thought that Roma Sen was not a suitable name for a movie star.
- According to reports, her great success in the film industry brought trouble in her married life.
- Suchitra Sen was considered a self-centred person, and she always tried to avoid seeking help from others. In an interview, she talked about this and said,
I never asked for help from anyone.”
- She was a nature lover. After her retirement, she used to spend the morning watching the sky and the trees and the flowers in the garden, and in the evening, she would watch the twilight sky.
- She shared a strong bond with Sanjeev Kumar after Aandhi (1975). It is believed that after Aandhi, Sanjeev Kumar started visiting Suchitra Sen’s house during his visits to Kolkata.
- The film Aandhi, starring Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kapoor, was banned just after the release. Some people thought that the movie was based on the life of Indira Gandhi and Suchitra Sen was portraying her. The movie was released later in 1977 when Janta Party came into rule.
- In an interview, while talking about Raj Kapoor, she said,
He came to my residence offering a lead role and, as I took my seat, he suddenly sat near my foot and offered me a bouquet of roses while offering the role. I rejected the offer. I did not like his personality. The way he behaved – sitting near my foot -did not befit a man.”
- Suchitra Sen had also recorded a song in her own voice.
- Suchitra is perhaps the first Indian actress in Bengal to have made her film debut after marriage and motherhood.
- In 1963, she became the first Indian actress to win the Moscow International Film Festival award for the movie Saat Pakey Bandha.
- In 2005, she refused the Dada Sahab Phalke award, just to keep herself away from media glitches.
- In an interview, Suchitra Sen talked about her desire to play the role of Damini in Rabindranath Tagore’s Chaturanga. She said,
I had a strong desire to act in the role of Damini in Rabindranath Tagore’s Chaturanga but it never happened. Premendra Mitra was planning a film and I was supposed to play the character. But the producer Hemen Ganguly suddenly committed suicide and the film was never made.”
- She shared an interesting fact while she was shooting for the movie Saat Pakey Bandha. She said that what was written in the script of the movie, was actually happening in her real life. She further added,
I would have a quarrel with my husband everyday during the shooting. One morning I tore apart my husband’s shirt at home. During the shoot in the afternoon, I had a similar scene of the quarrel. I told the director I wanted to tear apart Soumitra Chatterjee’s shirt and he agreed.”
- Once, she walked off the set of a film after having a fight with the director Haridas Bhattacharya because Suchitra wanted to act the scene in her own way, and this was denied by the director. After a long time, Haridas Bhattacharya agreed, and she started the work again in her own way.
- She had also advertised for the LUX brand.
- After retirement, she stopped visiting public places and spent most of her time at home. She said,
I’m so reclusive I didn’t even attend the marriage of the daughter of my younger sister, Runa. If I’m to travel anywhere, I like hills. But I hardly moved out of home since retiring. People would disturb me everywhere.”
- Her last wish was to play the role of Ma Sarada that remained unfulfilled.
- There are several books based on Suchitra Sen’s life including, “Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen (Bengali Cinema’s First Couple)” by Maitrayee B Chowdhary, “Sabar Upore Suchitra Sen” by Ashishtaru Mukhopadhyay, and “Suchitra Sen (The Legend and The Enigma)” by Shoma A. Chatterji.