Bengal bids tearful farewell to Soumitra Chatterjee

·3-min read

(Eds: Updating with details) Kolkata, Nov 15 (PTI) Bengal bade a tearful adieu to iconic actor Soumitra Chatterjee as thousands of people walked a few kilometres following a hearse which carried his body to a crematorium where his mortal remains were consigned to flames with full state honours here on Sunday evening.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, along with her ministerial colleagues and a host of film personalities, walked in the procession with others singing Rabindranath Tagores song, Aguner parashmoni chhoao praane (the touchstone of fire will turn us pure).

Hundreds of people, some of them holding candles, also stood along both sides of the road and crowded rooftops in nearby houses to have a last look at their favourite actor who had mesmerised them with his acting prowess in films and stage for six decades.

Many people were seen holding photographs of the actor in different characters immortalised by him which included 'Apu' and 'Feluda', while some are struggling to hold back tears.

Posters reading 'Apu is no more in this world' were put up on the roadside. Chatterjee made his acting debut with Satyajit Rays 1959 film 'Apur Sansar', the English title of which was 'The world of Apu'.

As the last journey ended at Keoratala Crematorium, Chatterjee was given a gun salute and his mortal remains were consigned to flames in presence of the chief minister and other dignitaries.

Not just Banerjee and leaders of her party Trinamool Congress, senior CPI(M) leaders such as Biman Bose, Suryakanta Mishra and Sujan Chakraborty also took part in the procession which started from Rabindra Sadan, a government auditorium where Chatterjee's body was kept for some time for people to pay their homage.

The Dadasaheb Phalke awardee was a die-hard Leftist and never shied away from expressing his political belief.

The chief minister and several other political leaders also paid floral tribute to Chatterjee at Rabindra Sadan.

Earlier in the day, Chatterjee's body was brought to his south Kolkata residence from the hospital, where he fought for 40 days before succumbing, and was kept there for about 20 minutes.

After relatives, close friends and local people paid their respect, the hearse left for the Technician Studio where several of his films had been shot.

Daughter Poulami, who described Ray's favourite actor as 'not just a father but a comrade, a friend and a co- fighter', was in the cabin of the hearse.

A large number of actors, technicians and admirers gathered at the studio to have a last glimpse of their icon.

Aparna Sen, who acted with Chatterjee in several acclaimed and commercially successful films, paid her last respect to the departed actor at the studio complex.

Ranjit Mallick, another popular Bengali actor who shared the screen with Chatterjee in a number of films, placed a wreath on his mortal remains.

'He was versatile. It's not that he was an actor only, he was a painter, an elocutionist, a writer,' Mallick said.

The hearse carrying the body of the actor, who was conferred with the Legion of Honour, the highest civilian honour of France, left the studio for Rabindra Sadan where a large number of people lined up to pay their respects to him.