Soumitra Chatterjee: 'Apur Sansar' actor dies aged 85 after battling Covid-19

The Indian actor's passing has been mourned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Best child artist Divya Chaphadkar (L), best actress Priyamani and best actor Soumitra Chatterjee (R) pose for a picture during the 54th national film awards ceremony in New Delhi September 2, 2008. REUTERS/B Mathur (INDIA)

Soumitra Chatterjee, the legendary Indian actor with more than 200 films to his name and famed for his work with Oscar-winning director Satyajit Ray, has died aged 85.

The actor passed away on Sunday, November 15, because of complications caused by the coronavirus.

Chatterjee's daughter, Poulami Bose, said her father died at a hospital in the city of Kolkata in West Bengal state, where he had been staying after testing positive for the virus in early October. He is also survived by his wife and a son.

Chatterjee had a career in Bengali-language films that spanned six decades and was best-known for his work with Ray, one of the world's most influential Indian directors, whose films garnered critical acclaim and won several awards worldwide, putting India on the global cinema map.

Chatterjee's films with Ray that won global recognition include Apur Sansar (The World of Apu), the third in the director's internationally recognised Apu trilogy, Charulata (The Lonely Wife), Aranyer Din Ratri (Days and Nights in the Forest), Ghare Baire (The Home and the World) and Ganashatru (Enemy of the People).

Telegraph India, a newspaper published in Kolkata, wrote in its obituary for Chatterjee that he had a 14-title body of work with director Ray "that would have ensured him immortality even if he hadn't done anything else in life".

Despite his immense popularity in Bengali-language cinema, Chatterjee stayed away from Bollywood. But for 90 million Bengalis, he was an unforgettable cultural star.

"International, Indian and Bengali cinema has lost a giant," tweeted Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal's Chief Minister. "We will miss him dearly. The film world in Bengal has been orphaned."

"Shri Soumitra Chatterjee’s death is a colossal loss to the world of cinema, cultural life of West Bengal and India," added India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In 2012, Chatterjee was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest honour in Indian cinema. In 2017, he became the first Indian film personality conferred with the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France's highest award for artists.

Before embarking on his film career in 1959, Chatterjee worked as an announcer at All India Radio in Kolkata. He was also an accomplished playwright and a poet.

In a 2016 interview, Chatterjee displayed his indomitable spirit to act even in his advanced years.

“I have a fear: If I don’t work, I won’t exist,” he said.


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