Veteran Bengali film actress Supriya Devi, who reached legendary heights for her portrayal of the protagonist Neeta in Ritwik Ghatak’s cult movie Meghe Dhaka Tara, died at her residence here recently, following a massive cardio – respiratory failure, her physician said.
She was cremated in the evening with full state honours given by the West Bengal Government.
Supriya Devi, 85, is survived by her daughter & 3 grandchildren.
“She felt unwell in the washroom around 6.20 am. When doctors were called, they declared her dead at 6.30 am,” the family physician said.
Supriya Devi’s body was taken from her home to the Rabindra Sadan compound, where 100’s, amongst them leading cultural & political personalities, including Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee, paid their last respects.
The last journey had begun around 6.15 pm, with a barefoot Mamta Banerjee walking 3.5 km alongside a large number of mourners to the Keoratala crematorium, where the coffin was taken out of the cortege and placed on a high platform by police personnel in a slow march.
The bugle played the last post before she was accorded a guard of honor & a gun salute, as soulful Rabindra Sangeet played in the background.
Born on 8th Jan, 1933 at Myitkyina in erstwhile Burma now Myanmar, Supriya Chowdhury took the screen name Supriya Devi to emerge as one of the leading figures of the Golden era of Bengali cinema that saw her straddle the celluloid space with great aplomb alongside the Late Uttam Kumar Kumar & the Late Suchitra Sen.
Soumitra Chatterjee, Sabitri Chatterjee & Madhabi Mukherjee now remain amongst the few surviving representatives of that generation.
Supriya Devi was one of the leading heroines of Uttam Kumar, her live – in partner, and essayed memorable romantic roles opposite him through 2 and a half decades.
The duo’s mega hit movies included Sanyasi Raja, Baghbandi Khela, Chirodiner, Sabarmati, Suno Baranari, Bon Palashir Padavali, Kalankini Kankabati & Sudhu Ekti Bachar.
Apart from the Uttam Kumar – Suchitra Sen combine, it was the Uttam Kumar – Supriya Devi pairing that kept generations of Bengali film buffs mesmerised with their romance, hit songs on their lips & well – scripted story – lines.
She also acted in a few Hindi films like Begaana, Door Gagan Ki Chaon Mein & Aap Ki Parchhaiyan.
Known for her beauty & sharp features, she made her acting debut as a 7 year old in 2 plays directed by her father Gopal Chandra Banerjee, and forayed into films in 1952 playing a side part in the Uttam Kumar starrer Basu Parbar.
It was in 1959 that she rose to prominence after her appearance in the runaway hit movie Sonar Harin, which also featured Uttam Kumar. The year 1960 gave Supriya Devi a cult status following her sensitive & touching depiction of the sole bread earner of a refugee family against the backdrop of the 1947 partition of India in Meghe Dhaka Tara (Cloud Capped Star).
Her heart rending cries “Dada Ami Kintu Banchte Cheyechilam… Dada Ami Banchbo… Dada Ami Banchbo” (Brother, I just wanted to live… brother, I want to live… brother, I want to live)”, that broke the serenity of a tuberculosis sanatorium, echoing through its natural surroundings, is regarded as a classic celluloid silver screen scene. She came up with another spectacular performance in Ritwik Ghatak’s Komal Gandhar in 1961.
Amongst her other popular films are Debdas (1979), where she was cast as Chandramukhi opposite Soumitra Chatterjee in the title role, Jadi Jantem, Amarapali, Chowranghee, Sabyasachi, Dui Purush, Mon Niye & Atmiyo Swajan.
In 2006, she made her last appearance on the big celluloid silver screen in Mira Nair’s The Namesake.
In 1954, Supriya Devi married Biswanath Choudhary. The couple’s only daughter is Soma. However, later in life, Supriya Devi fell in love with Uttam Kumar.
Supriya Devi was conferred the Padma Shri in 2014, and received the Bengal Film Journalists’ Award twice, for Tin Adhyay (“Best Actress” in 1969) & Chinnapatra (“Best Supporting Actress” in 1973).
The State Government bestowed its highest award Banga Vibhushan in 2011 on her.
President Ram Nath Kovind led the nation in condoling Supriya Devi’s demise. Calling her an icon of Indian cinema & of Bengal’s cultural life, Kovind said she would be “remembered for memorable films such as Meghe Dhaka Tara”.
Mamata Banerjee averred, “She was a legendary actress. She was like a family member to us… We will fondly remember her through her films. Condolences to her family & fans.”
Soumitra Chatterjee, 2 years junior to Supriya Devi, was heartbroken. “I have nothing to say. I am also 83 now. For 60 years she was my friend & colleague. We worked together in so many films. I feel very sad & heartbroken.”
Film maker Sujoy Ghosh tweeted: “RIP Supriya Devi… I was, am and, always will be your fan”.