Soumitra Chatterjee or Soumitra Chattopadhyay (Shoumitro Chôṭṭopaddhae; born 19 January 1935) is an iconic Bengali actor from India, known among other things for his frequent collaborations with the great Bengali film director Satyajit Ray and his constant comparison with the Bengali screen idol Uttam Kumar.
Soumitra was born in Krishnanagar in West Bengal, 100 km from Calcutta, in 1935. Soumitra and his family moved to Howrah and Calcutta during his early years. Soumitra graduated from the Scottish Church College, Kolkata with honours in Bengali literature, as a graduating student of the University of Calcutta. He has lived for a number of years in Calcutta in Satyajit Ray's old apartment. He studied for his M.A. in Bengali from the University of Calcutta. He worked in All India Radio before pursuing a career in films.
Work with Satyajit Ray 
Even before his film career, budding poet Soumitra had approached Satyajit Ray to suggest a name, and illustrate the cover page for a little magazine which was edited by Soumitra. Satyajit Ray had named the magazine Ekshon (Now), and illustrated the cover pages regularly even after Soumitra had stopped editing the magazine.
Soumitra's film debut came in 1959 in Satyajit Ray's The World of Apu. As noted on the official website for Ray, "At that time, Soumitra Chatterjee was a radio announcer and had only played a small role in a Bengali stage production." Soumitra would eventually collaborate with Ray on fourteen films. His centrality to Ray's work is akin to other key collaborations in the history of cinema — Mifune and Kurosawa, Mastroianni and Fellini, De Niro and Scorsese, DiCaprio and Scorsese, Max von Sydow and Ingmar Bergman, Jerzy Stuhr and Kieślowski. He also worked with Sharmila Tagore in a number of Ray films.
Chatterjee was cast in diverse roles by Ray and some of the stories and screenplays that Ray wrote were said to be written with him in mind. Soumitra featured as Feluda/Pradosh Chandra Mitter, the famous private investigator from Calcutta in Ray's Feluda series of books, in two films in the 1970s Sonar Kella and Joy Baba Felunath. Ghare Baire, an adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore's novel of the same name and one of Ray's major ventures of the 1980s, featured Chatterjee in a leading role in the character of a radical revolutionary in a love triangle with his friend's wife. These roles showcased Chatterjee's versatility in playing diverse characters, especially in an urban setting. In Shakha Proshakha, Chatterjee turns out a moving performance in the role of a mentally handicapped son of an aging patriarch on his deathbed and the only source of his father's solace, as his siblings squabble.
Other works 
Besides working with Ray, Soumitra excelled in collaborations with other well-known Bengali directors such as Mrinal Sen and Tapan Sinha. He earned critical acclaim for his role of an impostor in Mrinal Sen's Akash Kusum. He was equally confident in playing the swashbuckling horse-riding villain in Sinha's Jhinder Bandi giving the legendary Uttam Kumar a tough challenge. In Teen Bhubaner Pare, he again shared the screen with the beautiful Tanuja, and his flamboyant and peppy way of romance.
Since November 2010, he has been regularly performing in the title role of the play Raja Lear directed by Suman Mukhopadhyay, a play based on King Lear by William Shakespeare. Soumitra has received widespread critical and popular accolades for his acting in the play.
Awards and recognitions 
A living legend on his own terms, Soumitra has received the 'Officier des Arts et Metiers', the highest award for arts given by the French government, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Italy. He turned down the honorary Padma Shri award from the Indian government in the 1970s; in 2004, he accepted the prestigious Padma Bhushan award from the President of India. He has been the subject of a full-length documentary named Gaach by French film director Catherine Berge.
In a gesture of protest against the National Film Awards committee's bias in awarding popular and mainstream cinema, he turned down the 2001 Special Jury Award for Best Actor. However, on 9 June 2008, he was awarded the 2007 National Film Award for Best Actor by the Government of India. On 3 May 2012, he was selected by the Government of India to be honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India's highest award in cinema given annually by the Government of India for lifetime contribution to Indian cinema.
Select filmography 
For detailed list, see Filmography of Soumitra Chatterjee
External links