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Shabana Azmi On Soumitra Chatterjee



 Shabana Azmi is  currently  in Budapest shooting for Steven Spielberg’s webseries. She was filled with a  sense of unreality when  news  of  Soumitra Chatterjee’s death reached her.

“It  was  a  rude reminder  that even the greatest have to go.I had the rare privilege of playing both his  wife and  daughter. But then he had  the rarest privilege of doing fourteen films with SatyajitRay.I was in a film group that was honoured at the prestigious George Pompidour Centre in Paris  sometime in the 1980s and it was so incredible to watch the adulation showered on him by French fans.”

 Shabana  was  struck my Soumitrada’s modesty. “In Paris  they called out to him as Apu(from Stayajit Ray’s Apur Sansar)   and Amal ( from Ray’s Charulata)  and rushed to get photographed with him .Soumitrada seemed to to take it all his stride and said modestly, ‘It’s because Ray made these characters so memorable that I’m reaping the benefits.’ I was amazed at how lightly he wore his fame . You see the same  modesty in Lata  Mangeshkar and Steven Spielberg.”

 Recalling her own experiences  of  collaborating with  Soumitrada as a co-actor Shabana  says,  “I had the honour of working with him as his wife in Nicholas Klotz’s film La Nuit Bengali co-starring distinguished British actors  Hugh Grant and John Hurt.Much later I played his daughter in Aparna Sen’s 15 Park Avenue . He was charming and great company to be around because he was well-read and could speak on many subjects .”

The  end  came inevitably.

Sighs Shabana, “I was in touch with his daughter the last few weeks and am deeply saddened by his  death.I had hoped and believed he would recover .He will be missed greatly. But his  great work  will live on forever.”

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