Nationality: Indian. Born: 1934. Education: Studied acting with Ahindra Choudhury. Career: Amateur actor with Sisir Kumar Bahaduri; 1954—entered films; 1959—first film for the director Satyajit Ray, Apur Sansar; 1962—co-editor of literary magazine Eksham.
Films as Actor:
Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) (Satyajit Ray) (as Apurba Kumar Roy)
Devi (The Goddess) (Satyajit Ray) (as Uma Prasad); Kshudista Pashan (Tapan Sinha)
"Samapti" ep. of Teen Kanya (Two Daughters) (Satyajit Ray) (as Amulya); Swaralipi; Swayambara; Jhinder Bandi; Punashcha
Abhijan (The Expedition) (Satyajit Ray) (as Narsingh); Shasti; Atal Jaler Ahwan; Agun; Banarasi
Saat Pake Bandha (Ajoy Kar); Shesh Prahar; Barnali
Charulata (The Lonely Wife) (Satyajit Ray) (as Amal); Pratinidhi; Kinu Goyalar Gali; Ayananta
Baksha Badal; Ek Tuku Basa; Raj Kanya; Kapurush-o-Mahapurush (The Coward and the Holy Man) (Satyajit Ray) (as Amitabha Roy); Akash Kusum (Mrinal Sen); Eki Ange Eto Rup
Joradighir Choudhury Paribar; Kanch Kata Hirey (Ajoy Kar); Manihar
Ajana Shapath; Hathat Dekha; Mahashweta; Prastar Swakshar
Aparichita; Chena Achena; Parineeta; Teen Bhubhaner Parey
Aranyar din Ratri (Days and Nights in the Forest) (Satyajit Ray) (as Ashim); Aleyar Alo; Padmagolap; Pratham Kadam Phool
Khunje Berai; Malayadaan; Sansar
Jiban Saikate; Natun Diner Alo; Stree; Basanta Bilap; Bilet Pherat
Ashani Sanket (Distant Thunder) (Satyajit Ray) (as Gamgacharan Chakravarti); Epar Opar; Nishi Kanya; Shesh Pristhay Dekhun; Agni Bhraman
Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress) (Satyajit Ray) (as Felu); Asati; Jadi Jantem; Sangini; Chhutir Phande
Nishi Mrigaya; Sansar Simantey (Majumdar); Sudur Niharika
Babu Moshai; Mantramugdha; Pratima
Joi Baba Felunath (The Elephant God) (Satyajit Ray) (as Felu); Nadi Theke Sagare; Ganadevata (Majumdar); Job Charnaker Bibi; Pronoy Pasha
Devdas; Nauka Dubi
Darpachurna; Gharer Baire Ghar; Hirak Rajar Deshe (The Kingdom of Diamonds) (Satyajit Ray—for TV) (as Pandit Moshai); Pankhiraj
Father; Nyay Anyay; Khelar Putul
Preyasi; Matir Swarga; Agradani; Simanta Raag
Indira; Chena Achena; Amar Geeti
Achena Mukh; Kony; Lal Golap; Ghare Baire (The Home and the World) (Satyajit Ray) (as Sandip Mukherjee); Vasundhara (Sekhar Chatterjee)
Baikunther Will; Tagori; Sandhya Pradeep
Urbashe; Shyam Saheb
Atanka (Sinha); Raj Purush; Nyay Adhikar; Sukumar Ray
Ekti Jiban (Mitra) (as Gurudas); Nuit Bengali (Bengali Night) (Klotz) (as Narendra Sen); Channachara; Agaman; Agni Sanket; Agun; Debibaran; Anjali; Pratik
Ganashatru (An Enemy of the People) (Satyajit Ray) (as Dr. Ashok Gupta); Maryada; Jankar; Amar Shapath
Shakha Proshakha (Branches of the Tree) (Satyajit Ray) (as Proshanto); Manasi; Ekhane Amar Swarga; Apon Amar Apon
Mahaprithivi (as Father)
Uttoran (The Broken Journey) (Sandip Ray) (as Dr. Sengupta)
Paromitar Ek Din (House of Memories) (Sen)
By CHATTERJEE: articles—
Interview in "Satyajit Ray Issue" of Montage (Bombay). "Soumitra Chatterjee et Sandip Ray," interview with E. Decaux and others, in Cinématographe (Paris), June 1985.
"A Joining of Ways," interview with D. Chaterji, in Cinema in India (Bombay), vol. 3, no. 2, 1989.
Interview with B. Datta, in Cinema in India (Bombay), vol. 3, no. 1, 1992.
On CHATTERJEE: articles—
Valot, J., "Soumitra Chatterjee: apu et les autres . . . ," in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), December 1988.
Rajadhyaksha, Ashish, and Paul Willemen, in Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema, New Dehli, 1994.
* * *
Soumitra Chatterjee's name as an actor cannot be evoked without recalling the films of Satyajit Ray, almost as if Chatterjee were synonymous with the Apu trilogy, although he appeared in his first film role only in the final part of the trilogy, as the grown Apu in Apu Sansar. Ray is renowned for being a consistently sensitive director of actors, and Chatterjee became a particular favorite, his chief asset undoubtedly being a naturally sensitive appearance. Robin Wood, in his book on the Apu Trilogy, says that his beauty, which is "at once physical and spiritual, seems an ideal incarnation of Ray's belief in human potential."
Chatterjee had some theatrical experience before his first film role, and subsequently became a star in numerous films made by other directors, mainly in the Bengali cinema. While the memory of his performances in those films has faded, the roles he has played in Ray's films—as the husband in Devi, the suitor with tartan socks in Teen Kanya, the thinly veiled portrait of Rabindranath Tagore in Charulata, the arrogant leader in Aranyar din Ratri, or the revolutionary in the more recent Ghare Baire—have left a lasting impression. Chatterjee's last collaborations with Ray have also been impressive, such as in Ganashatru, where Chatterjee, as Dr. Ashok Gupta, emotionalizes the conflicting pulls of the beliefs of the orthodox society, and the mechanics of modern science, where eventually no one is the winner. And in Uttoran, the last script penned by Satyajit Ray and directed by his son Sandip Ray, the talents of Soumitra Chatterjee are showcased, again. He brings a new depth to the character of Dr. Sengupta, the cardiologist, who is cosmopolitan in living and outlook. Satyajit Ray's intention of making a commentary on modern medicine losing the values of humaneness, was realized by the complexity that Chatterjee brought to the portrayal. When the doctor is stuck in a village due to a flat tire, his experiences change his outlook. Drawn irrevocably into the life of a sick peasant and his family, the doctor decides it is time for him to do a good deed. It is Chatterjee's talents that makes us question if this conventional climax is an end at all, or only a beginning.
Indian actors and actresses have often been accused of onedimensional performance, either heroic or villainous, with no subtlety of nuance or gesture. It is a tradition inherited from the theatrical origins of Indian cinema, whereas Ray's cinema, imbibing the values of his colonial overlords and firmly rooted within the tradition of Western humanism, set out to create psychologically rounded characters and thus changed the whole style of cinema acting in India. According to Chatterjee, "Ray's films brought about a real change from the acting point of view—actors began trying to be cinema actors. I didn't know what to do when Mr. Ray first asked me. I didn't know the real difference between stage and screen acting." He seemed to have quickly mastered the difference, for Ray regularly returned to Chatterjee with more and more challenging roles.
—Behroze Gandhy, updated by Usha Venkatachallam