Veteran Bengali cinema actor Swatilekha Sengupta dies at 71

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Kolkata, Jun 16 (PTI) Noted Bengali cinema actor and theatre personality Swatilekha Sengupta, who played the central role in Satyajit Ray's 1984 adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore's novel 'Ghare Baire', died at a city hospital on Wednesday after a long battle with kidney ailments, her daughter said. Sengupta was 71.

The actor was admitted to the private hospital for renal problems for the last 24 days. She passed away at around 3 pm, her actor-daughter Sohini told PTI.

Sengupta is survived by husband, theatre personality Rudraprasad Sengupta, and daughter Sohini.

A recipient of Sangeet Natak Akademi, Sengupta ran theatre group Nandikar along with her husband and daughter.

Ray spotted Sengupta during one of her performances for Nandikar and cast her as Bimala, a housewife in a Bengali noble family in 1907 who is caught between her gentle but passive husband Nikhilesh (Victor Banerjee) and his friend Sandip (Soumitra Chatterjee) a revolutionary.

Sengupta's other roles include the blockbuster 'Belaseshe' by Shiboprasad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy.

In both films, she was cast opposite Chatterjee, who passed away in November 2020.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed grief over the death of Sengupta recalling her portrayal of Bimala in Ray's 'Ghare Baire.

'My deepest sympathy for her family,' Banerjee said adding her death has created a huge void in the world of films and theatre.

Condoling her death, Ray's director son Sandip Ray told PTI, 'I was shocked to hear about her death. I have fond memories of her turning up at 'Ghare Baire' shoots always on time and following every instruction of her father during shots. She never seemed to be overawed by the presence of stalwarts like Soumitra Chatterjee and Victor Banerjee and delivered shots perfectly.' Filmmaker Oni said Swatilekha will remain immortalised for her role in 'Ghare Baire'. 'Very sad to hear about #SwatilekhaSengupta. RIP. Was fortunate enough to work with her briefly as producer for our film #Chauranga. Unfortunately the desire to direct her will remain unfulfilled. Gone too soon Will remain immortalised for her performance in #GhareBhaire,' Onir tweeted.

Director Srijit Mukherjee wrote, 'Anti, gone. RIP Swatilekha Sengupta.' TMC MLA and filmmaker Raj Cakrabarty said Sengupta's death was an irreparable loss to cinema. In an interview, Sengupta had recalled how she landed the role in 'Ghare Baire'. It was, she believed her performance in a small part in the Bengali adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's 'Galileo' that Ray saw before casting her.

She also acted in plays like 'Nachni', 'Pata Jhore Jay', 'Bipannota', 'Ajatnabas'.

Sengupta began her theatre journey in the early 1970s from Allahabad, turning up in productions under the direction of A.C. Banerjee.

She shifted to Kolkata in the late 70s and joined Nandikar in 1978 where she worked under the direction of Rudraprasad Sengupta, whom she married later.

She acted in seven films, one of which 'Dharmajuddha' is awaiting a release. PTI SUS BK BK BK

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