I am a die-hard Soumitra fan. And like his countless other fans across generations, he has been constantly on my mind these last few days, as he wrestles with his life in a nursing home. It is difficult to choose one film, or even a few, from an oeuvre that has been so staggering in its range over six decades of acting.
And yet, it is not Apu or Amal or Feluda - the inevitable Ray favourites - that I've thought of, but an array of aged fathers that the actor brought to life, in myriad complex relationships with their daughters: stricken with panic about her safety (‘Atanka’), providing succour in her depression ('Asukh'), falling in her esteem and then painfully retrieving her love ('Sanjhbatir Rupkathara'), being dependent on but uneasy about her single status ('Podokhhep'), and opening up about his youthful romance with her mother-in-law ('Paromitar Ekdin' - this one, to a daughter-in-law, and not daughter).
I want to thank him for, time and again, choosing to portray a father that a daughter can live with or come back to, can love or hate or both, can take care of or fall back on. I want to thank him for giving respect to these other models of this relationship than are usually available, for acknowledging that they exist and rendering them visible. In a culture where the mother-son bond is glorified/ upheld in life and represented/feted ad infinitum in films, these few are notable exceptions. And unforgettable, because of his performance!