22 August 1915|
19 May 1997 (aged 81)|
|Occupation||Actor, director, playwright|
|Awards||Padma Bhushan in 1970|
Sombhu Mitra (22 August 1915 – 19 May 1997) was an Indian film and stage actor, director, playwright, reciter and an Indian theatre personality, known especially for his involvement in Bengali theatre, where he is considered a pioneer. He remained associated with the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) for a few years before founding the Bohurupee theatre group in Kolkata in 1948. He is most noted for films like Dharti Ke Lal (1946), Jagte Raho (1956), and his production of Rakta Karabi based on Rabindranath Tagore's play in 1954 and Chand Baniker Pala, his most noted play as a playwright.
In 1966, the Sangeet Natak Akademi awarded him with its highest award, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship for lifetime contribution, then in 1970, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian honour, and in 1976 the Ramon Magsaysay Award.
Early life and education
Born in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India, on 22 August 1915, Sombhu Mitra was the sixth child of three sons and four daughters born of Sarat Kumar Mitra, an employee of the Geological Survey of India, and Satadalbasini Mitra. His mother died when he was 12 years old.
He started his schooling in Chakraberia Middle English School, Calcutta and later continued in the Ballygunge Government High School, Calcutta, where he developed interest reading Bengali plays and became active in school dramatics. He joined St. Xavier's College at the University of Calcutta in 1931, and soon started attending the local theatre.
His first appearance in Bengali theatre was in Rangmahal Theatre in north Kolkata in 1939, thereafter he moved to the Minerva, Natyaniketan and Srirangam theatres.
In 1943, he joined Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA). In 1944, several old theatrical conventions were broken when the play Navanna written by Bijon Bhattacharya and co-directed by Sombhu Mitra for IPTA was staged. In 1948, Sombhu Mitra formed a new theatre group, Bohurupee in Kolkata, which ushered the group-theatre movement in West Bengal.
The Bohurupee productions
Under Sombhu Mitra's direction, the Bohurupee staged several successful productions. In December 1950, the Bohurupee presented three plays in the New Empire theatre – Tulsi Lahiri's Pathik and Chenda Tar and Sombhu Mitra's own creation, Ulukhagra. In 1954, Rabindranath Tagore's Rakta Karabi was staged by the Bohurupee, followed by his Bisarjan, Raja and Char Adhyay. Other notable productions include Bidhyak Bhattacharya's Tahar Namti Ranjana and Kanchanranga. Under his direction, this group also presented the Bengali adaptations of several well-known dramas from the world stage. Henrik Ibsen's Putul Khela (Doll's House), Dashachakra (An Enemy of the People) and Sophocles' Raja Oidipaus (Oedipus Rex) are notable amongst them.
In these productions he performed as Rahimuddin in Chenda Tar, Atin in Char Adhyay, Binod in Ulukhagra, Tapan in Putul Khela, Dr. Purnendu Guha in Dashachakra, Oidipaus in Raja Oidipaus.
He died in Kolkata.
Sombhu Mitra performed in several movies in Bengali and Hindi. The notable among them are:
- Dharti Ke Lal (1946) (Hindi)
- Abhiyatri (1947) (Bengali)
- Dhatri Debata (1948) (Bengali)
- Abarta (1949) (Bengali)
- '42 (1949) (Bengali)
- Hindustan Hamara (1950) (Hindi)
- Pathik (1953) (Bengali)
- Bou Thakuranir Haat (1953) (Bengali)
- Maharaj Nandakumar (1953) (Bengali)
- Maraner Pare (1954) (Bengali)
- Shivashakti (1954) (Bengali)
- Durlabh Janma (1955) (Bengali)
- Manik (1961) (Bengali)
- Suryasnan (1962) (Bengali)
- Panna (1967) (Bengali)
- Natun Pata (1969) (Bengali)
- Nishachar (1971) (Bengali)
He wrote the story and screenplay of Jagte Raho (1956) and also co-directed it along with Amit Maitra. He also directed a Bengali movie, Shubha Bibaha in 1959.
- Abhinay Natak Mancha (in Bengali) (1957)
- Sanmarga-Saparya (in Bengali)
- Natak Raktakarabi (in Bengali)
- Chandbaniker Pala (in Bengali)
Honours and awards
Sombhu Mitra received many national and international awards, which include the Crystal Globe for Jagte Raho at the 1957 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, the Desikottama from Visva Bharati University in 1989, an honorary D. Litt from both Rabindra Bharati University and Jadavpur University in Kolkata, the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1976 for journalism, literature and creative communication arts and the Padmabhushan in the same year. He received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 1966. For his contribution in the movies, he won the Grand-Prix Award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Madhya Pradesh Government honoured him with Kalidas Samman (1982–83).
- 1956 – Certificate of Merit for Best Feature Film in Bengali – Ek Din Ratre
- Chand Baniker Pala :Shombhu Mitra Interterxt: a study of the dialogue between texts, by R.Kundu, Rama Kundu Ghosh. Published by Sarup & Sons, 2008. ISBN 81-7625-830-X. Page 277-78
- History of Indian Literature : .1911–1956, struggle for freedom : triumph and tragedy, by Sisir Kumar Das, various. Published by Sahitya Akademi, 1995. ISBN 81-7201-798-7. Page 163.
- Shombhu Mitra Authors speak, by Sachidananda. Published by Sahitya Akademi, 2006. ISBN 81-260-1945-X. Page 277-289.
- Shombhu Mitra Pop culture India!: media, arts, and lifestyle, by Asha Kasbekar. Published by ABC-CLIO, 2006. ISBN 1-85109-636-1. .
- Shobhu Mitra Not the other avant-garde: the transnational foundations of avant-garde performance, by James Martin Harding, John Rouse. University of Michigan Press, 2006. ISBN 0-472-06931-4. Page 203-205.
- "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
- Biography of Sombhu Mitra The 1976 Ramon Magsaysay Award website.
- Sombhu Mitra CPI, Index August 1997.
- A thespian who touched dizzy heights Indian Express, 20 May 1997.
- Calcutta, Life. "Life of Galileo in Calcutta". www.indiatoday.in. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
- List of Desikottamas Archived 15 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
- Ramon Magsaysay Award citation for Sombhu Mitra
- A thespian who touched dizzy heights Indian Express, 20 May 1997
- "4th National Film Awards" (PDF). Directorate of Film Festivals. Retrieved 2 September 2011.