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It all started with Dadamoni, Ashok Kumar-Devika Rani starring hit Hindi film Achhut Kanya in 1936. It was among the early super-hits in the Bombay film industry, the film deals with the social position of Dalit girls and is considered a reformist period-piece. The movie stars Ashok Kumar (cast after the original hero had eloped with the producer’s wife and leading lady) and Devika Rani (the producer’s wife who decided to come back) in the lead roles.
Then another pair who created a stir in Bollywood were Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen the top most hero-heroine pair of the Bengali cinema for a long time. This romantic pair is still in the hearts of all Bengali movie goers.
Because of their very high popularity in Bengali movies, Bollywood movie producers also had cast them in some of their Hindi movies – not together as a pair but separately. Suchitra Sen had appeared in Devdas, Musafir, Champakali, Bombai Ka Babu, Sarhad, Mamta, and Aandhi. Uttam Kumar also had appeared in a few Hindi movies. The first was in Chhoti Si Mulaqat, opposite Vyjayanthimala in 1967. The movie was his own production. Subsequently, he acted in Amanush, Anand Ashram. Dooriyaan, and Kitaab.
Bengali actresses rocking Bollywood with their charm, grace and acting prowess is not a new phenomenon. In fact, there have been times when Bollywood has successfully ridden on the popularity of Bong actresses in the Industry. Nowadays, it’s going to be no different. There are as many as 5 actresses who will be making an appearance in Bollywood films this year. And if the trailer of Byomkesh Bakshi is anything to go by, they are going to make this country swoon.
Here’s a look in detail about all those Bengali actresses who have not only made it to Bollywood but made it really big. First it was Devika Rani. If you’re a true-blue Bolly buff, then you must be knowing this gentle beauty who starred in numerous early Bollywood movies, like Achhyut Kanya and Karma. Along with her husband, Himanshu Rai, she founded the Bombay Talkies film studio—one of the best and oldest! This highly educated, great-grand niece of Rabindranath Tagore holds the world record of having acted in the longest kissing scene ever in the film fraternity of the world!
Then one of the most beautiful women ever, Suchitra Sen has been the star of mainstream Bengali films she also made it equally big in Bollywood. Her performances in films like Musafir, Deep Jele Jai, Mamta, and, of course, Aandhi are regarded as the best! And, if you watch her depiction of Paro in the earlier Devdas, you’ll surely forget the one by Bansali! Then Jaya Bachchan née Jaya Bhaduri, is one of the most celebrated names among the leading actresses of Bollywood. She made her entry into the world of films with Satyajit Ray’s Mahanagar, and since then there hasn’t been any looking back. This petite alumnus of FTII, Pune, is regarded for her outstanding acting skills in both commercial as well as middle-of-the-road films. Among all her films, our pick would be Koshish, Anamika, Mili, Guddi and Parichay—to name a few!
Then guess one actress who could don the garb of a flirtatious maiden as well as a doting mother to the “hero” at the same time—Rakhee is the name which comes to our mind. Her roles in Kabhie Kabhie, Sharmili, Basera, Kasme Vaade, Shrimaan Shrimati, Paroma, Karan Arjun, Shubho Mahurat are all time great performances.
She assayed characters in comedy to drama and from middle of the road films and new wave films to out-and-out commercial films—she’s been a part of everything, and depicted every role with equal poise and charm. A part of the famous Tagore family, Sharmila’s foray into films, too, was cemented by the likes of Ray, Tapan Sinha, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Shakti Samanta among others. Then there’s this girl whose charming persona captured the hearts of her audiences with her perfect depiction of irritated and quarrelsome maidens and women onscreen—we are talking about Moushumi Chatterji. Although she did numerous films with the leading actors of her time, her appearances in Balika Badhu, Parineeta, Anuraag and Roti, Kapda Aur Makaan were among the most appreciated.
And in the 90s who’s unaware of the sultry beauty, Kajol certainly not any Indian, at least! Born into the famous Mukherjee family, she’s known for her charming and easy-going persona as much as she is known for her great acting skills. Although she limited her silver screen appearances after becoming the Ajay Devgan’s wife, she still is one of the charming personalities around. Among all her other films, our favorites would be, of course, DDLJ, Gupt and Fanaa.
Then there is Aparna Sen’s daughter Konkona Sen Sharma. She might not be conventionally beautiful, but she’s definitely an eclectic amalgam of beauty and brains! She started her film career with Bengali films, and later went on to do some very good Hindi films, like Wake Up Sid! Her work in Amu, Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, Omkara, Sunglass and Life in a Metro are worth mentioning. Then the petite, hazel eyed beauty Rani Mukherjee, cousin to Kajol, belongs to the famous Mukherjee family of Bollywood. Although she started her career with a series of flops, it gained momentum from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Ghulam, and since then there was no looking back for this dancing star. We recommend her Ghulam, Bunty Aur Bubly, and, of course, Black among other films!
And now the Bengali men in Bollywood. They have held their own in Bollywood in the past. Look at the Kumar brothers – Ashok, Kishore and Anoop. Never mind Anoop, but there’s no doubting the star qualities of the enormously talented Ashok and Kishore Kumars. Then there was Mithun Chakravarty, National Award winner and a superhit with the audiences and his female co-stars. Bengal’s contribution is rich and diverse. From Utpal Dutt, with his outstanding ability to master everything from Shakespearean English to Banarasi Hindi, to Keshto Mukherjee whose only talent was that he could be a convincing drunkard — Bengali actors have traditionally covered quite a range.
Fondly called Dadamoni, Ashok Kumar attained iconic status in Indian cinema. He was honoured in 1988 with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest national award for film actors, by the Government of India and also received the Padma Bhushan the same year in 1998 for his contributions to Indian cinema. He is considered to be one of India’s finest ever actors, playing leading, negative and character roles with equal panache. He starred in various genres of films like Achhut Kanya, Janmabhoomi Bandhan,, Mahal Parineeta, Bhai-Bhai ,Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi , Howrah Bridge, Jewel Thief, Aabroo, Aashirwad, Intaquam, Victoria No. 203, Choti Si Baat, Mili, Anand Ashram, Khatta Meetha, Khoobsurat, Shaukeen , Mr. India , and Sangram to name a few.
Then we have Uttam Kumar on the list. He was the romantic hero of Bengali cinema who stormed Bollywood. Uttam Kumar with and without Suchitra Sen. He first appeared in Chhoti Si Mulaqat, against Vyjayanthimala The movie was his own production. Subsequently, he acted in Amanush, Anand Ashram. Dooriyaan, and Kitaab.
The multifaceted personality of Bollywood of yore, Kishore Kumar was an actor, singer, lyricist, composer, producer, director, screenwriter and scriptwriter. This evergreen Bengali actor’s filmography included unforgettable roles in films like Padosan, Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein, Mr. X in Bombay, Naughty Boy, Half Ticket, Jhumroo, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, Dilli Ka Thug, Bhai-Bhai New Delhi Baap Re Baap, Miss Mala, and Naukari.
Now, guess who we are referring to now. He began his career as a dancer and went on to establish himself as a popular actor, particularly recognized for his role as the street dancer Jimmy in the 1982 Bollywood movie Disco Dancer, Mithun Chakraborti informally referred to as Mithun Da, also a singer, producer, writer, social worker, entrepreneur and recipient of three National Film Awards. He made his acting debut with the art house drama Mrigayaa (1976), for which he won his first National Film Award for Best Actor. He also assayed powerful roles in Mera Rakshak, Suraksha, Pyar Jhukta Nahi, Swarg se Sundar, Pyar ka Mandir, Jaal, Dilwaala, and the recent Golmaal 3, Housefull 2, Oh My God, Khiladi 786, and Kaanchi, Kick, Entertainment to name just a very few.
Then there was an Indian actor, director, and writer-playwright all rolled into one. Utpal Dutt was primarily an actor in Bengali theatre, where he became a pioneering figure in Modern Indian theatre, when he founded the ‘Little Theater Group’ in 1947, which enacted many English, Shakespearean and Brecht plays, in a period now known as the ‘Epic theater’ period, before immersing itself completely in highly political and radical theatre. His plays became apt vehicle of the expression for his Marxist ideologies, visible in socio-political theatre of that era. Rajnigandha Chhoti Si Baat, Damaad, Baaton Baaton Mein, GolMaal, Naram Garam, Rang Birangi, Meri Biwi Ki Shaadi, Golmaal, Shaukeen, Angoor, Hamari Bahu Alka, Kissi Se Na Kehna, Kirayadar, Baat Ban Jaye. Lakhon Ki Baat were some of his films.
Another great contribution from Bengal was in the form of Keshto Mukherjee. He was a brilliant Indian actor and specially known for his splendid comic performances. He specialized in comic drunkard roles in the Hindi films. The actor was discovered by legendary film maker Ritwik Ghatak. The Hindi films he worked in were Teesri Kasam, Padosan, Bombay to Goa, Loafer, Asli Naqli to name just a few.
And again in recent years there’s a new wave of Bengali film stars from Bengal to Bombay.
Konkona Sen Sharma. Her beauty is understated, intelligent and piercing. Unlike the more obvious bombshells like Koena Mitra or Bipasha Basu, Konkona’s Bong beauty lies in her simplicity. Then guess who’s next? She’s without a doubt, the hottest Bengali actress of Bollywood, Bipasha Basu sizzles in anything she wears, her avatar in traditional wear just ups her sex appeal even more – if that is possible. Then take Tanushree Dutta. This actress carries her own with a disarming smile and those big, big eyes.
If Sushmita Sen was not a Miss Universe, she would still have won as many hearts as she has in tinsel town. Confident, stylish and a feminine grace – she is next on this list Nandita Das is another understated beauty among the Bengali brigade in the Hindi film industry. Her powerful acting skills – coupled with a complete nonchalance about adhering to pretty stereotypes is what makes her even hotter. Now look at Koena Mitra. She has not been seen onscreen for years now – and people were divided about whether her nose job was an improvement or not. But look at her! Never without thick kohl and flawless skin, Koena Mitra is definitely a hot Bengali actress of today.
And then there are Moon Moon Sen’s daughters and Suchitra Sen’s grand daughters, Riya and Raima Sen. In the industry for over a decade without having made any major success, these petite actresses still figure in this list for everything they have going on for them. Then there’s Lisa Ray, she might not be a mainstream Bollywood actress like the others. But let’s not forget ‘Afreen Afreen’ and her role as Kalyani in Deepa Mehta’s ‘Water’.
And there’s Swastika Mukherjee: In Dibakar Banerjee’s Byomkesh Bakshi, many swooned over Swastika Mukherjee’s sultry character Anguri/Yasmeen. Then Rituparna Sengupta. She has bagged Rajan Lyallppuri film, Ek Baar Phir Kaho, this year Ithis film project also stars Rahul Dev and Marathi actor Pushkar Jog, among others. Her significant Bollywood journey began with Teesra Kaun to the recent Dil Toh Bachha Hai ji and Calapor. Then there’s another bold beauty Paoli Dam whose dare-bare act sure got screens blazing and directors noticing.
Then stunning there’s Arpita, (Prosenjit Chatterjee’s wife) who is foraying into Bollywood with Onir’s Shab. The intense relationship drama revolves around characters who live their life on the edge. Arpita plays a Delhi socialite who falls in love with a younger man. Paayel Sarkar: This girl-next-door is on a roll. Her small but significant role in Bollywood film, Guddu Ki Gun, where she stars opposite Kunal Kemmu. Bollywood directors Shantanu Ray and Sheershak Anand’s film revolves around a washing powder salesman in Kolkata who hails from Bihar and is a self-confessed casanova. Jisshu Sengupta gave a subtle and underplayed performance in Mardaani, which won him many accolades. And then he bagged this year the coveted lead role opposite Deepika Padukone in Shoojit Sircar’s Piku, which also stars Amitabh Bachchan and Irrfan Khan.
And not to mention the likes of popular Bengali cinema star Prosenjit Chatterji made a comeback to B-town in Dibakar Banerjee’s political thriller, ‘Shanghai’, where he played the role of Dr Ahmadi, a social activist. The last few films including ‘Kahaani’ had two Bengali actors –Parambrata Chatterjee, playing the role of a cop and Saswata Chatterjee as Bob Biswas.
Then the list will not be complete without Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s daughter Nandana Sen. She is an international actress, screenwriter, children’s author and child-rights activist. Sen has starred in over 20 feature films from multiple countries and in various languages. Her portrayal of Sugandha in her latest release Rang Rasiya (2014) has been hailed by critics as “pitch-perfect, superb, divine, elegant, and enticing “innocent and vulnerable, fearless, uninhibited radiant in every frame, poignant, lustrous. Sen’s path-breaking performance as artist Ravi Varma’s muse in this historical romance on the religious censorship of art, subsequently won her the prestigious Kalakar Award for Best Actress this year…
In the last two decades, we’ve seen Bengali male directors, scriptwriters, musicians, singers – however not one Bengali hero in Bollywood except some with Bengal connection in their blood like Abhishek Bachchan and Saif Ali Khan.
Fridaybrands.com is of the view that its time Bengali actors also contribute substantially to Bollywood like their female counterparts. However, it’s high time they should also concentrate on reviving Tollywood- Kolkata’s film industry now….
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