Iconic Bengali film actress Suchitra Sen has died in Calcutta after suffering a chest infection and heart attack at the age of 82, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported. Sen endured a massive cardiac arrest just prior to her expiration, family members told the news service. She had entered the Belle Vue Clinic on December 23 in the wake of a respiratory tract infection.
Sen, once known as the Bengali “queen of hearts” for her intense performances and exquisite beauty, has long been compared to legendary Swedish actress Greta Garbo for her decision to prematurely retire from the movie business and spend the rest of her life in seclusion. For the past thirty five years, she lived in obscurity in an apartment in South Calcutta and completely shunned publicity. She had, in fact, rarely been seen in public over that period.
Nonetheless, she will always be remembered for appearing in such classic films as “Devdas” and “Aandhi” -- on the whole, she appeared in 52 films, both in Bengali and Hindi. She is regarded as one of the brightest stars of the golden age of Bengali cinema (early 1950s to mid-1970s) and beloved by millions of people across all of India. Indeed, Sen was so popular that during the Hindu Durga Puja ceremonies, the faces of the goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati were often patterned on her own facial likeness.
In 1963, she became the first Indian actress to receive an honor at an international film festival, winning the best actress award for 'Saat Paake Bandha' in Moscow. Sen was frequently matched romantically on screen with perhaps the greatest of all Bengali film actors, Uttam Kumar. The two appeared together in many films, including 'Harano Sur' (1957), 'Agnipariksha' (1954), 'Saptapadi' (1961), 'Grihadaha' (1967), 'Indrani' (1958), 'Sagarika' (1956), 'Bipasha' (1962), 'Kamal Lata' (1969), 'Alo Amar Alo' (1972), 'Har Mana Har' (1972) and 'Priyo Bandhabi' (1975).
"As one half of one of Indian cinema's most popular and abiding screen pairs, Suchitra Sen redefined stardom in a way that few actors have done," film critic Saibal Chatterjee told BBC. "While she and Uttam Kumar reigned over Bengali films for over two decades, her Garbo-esque retreat from the public life after her retirement only strengthened her allure." Chatterjee added that Sen "combined understated sensuality, feminine charm and emotive force and a no-nonsense gravitas to carve out a persona that has never been matched, let alone surpassed in Indian cinema".
After her final film, “Pronoy Pasha” failed to attract an audience, Sen suddenly retired and even refused to make a public appearance in 2005 to receive a coveted award. However, the actual reasons behind her withdrawal from public life remain a mystery. Some reports suggest she dedicated her life to meditation and prayer, as a follower of the Ramakrishna Mission.
Sen was born as Rama Dasgupta in 1931 in Pabna, which is now in Bangladesh. In 1947, she married an aristocrat named Dibanath Sen, prior to the launch of her film career. Sen is survived by her daughter, Moon Moon, and granddaughters Riya and Raima, all of whom are actresses.