Soumitra Chatterjee, who passed away on this day a year back, was not only a legendary actor, but a poet, reciter and playwright, who also directed more than a dozen plays.
Soumitra's debut on the silver screen could not have been any more prolific and enormous.
Although at the age of 20 he failed a screen test for a film titled 'Nilachale Mahaprabhu, he eventually found a place in "Apur Sansar ( The World of Apu)," the third installment of the Oscar-winning veteran director Satyajit Ray's Apu trilogy.
Soumitra was a 24-year-old newcomer who shined in the enigmatic role of Apurba Kumar Roy. And from that point on, his glorious years in the cinema industry began.
Soumitra collaborated with Satyajit Ray in 14 movies. The Satyajit-Soumitra duo's collaboration brought a new kind of art revolution to the lyrical and romance-based Bangla cinema industry. With Soumitra, Satyajit gave Indian cinema its very own Sherlock in the form of Feluda.
During his six-decade-long film career, Soumitra appeared in more than 300 films. From 1959's 'Apur Sansar' to 'Sraboner Dhara', which was released in February last year, Soumitra enjoyed a journey of unprecedented experiences.
During the earlier decades of his career, Soumitra had also worked under versatile and noted directors like Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha, and Ajoy Kar.
It was his majestic aura, along with his sensitive acting skills, that made him a preference for both commercial and artistic filmmakers.
Soumita was always prepared to take on the most challenging and experimental roles. His appearance as an antagonist against 'Mahanayak' Uttam Kumar in Tapan Sinha's "Jhinder Bandi" showcased his acting range in the earlier phase of his career.
Then in Satyajit's 'Abhijan,' he played the role of a cynical and complicated taxi driver Narsingh. The ambiguous character of Narsingh was completely different from the charming and amicable projection of Apu in 'Apur Sansar.'
Soumitra explored deep into the craftsmanship and methods of acting. During his long life span, Soumitra never rested from acting. "If I stop acting, I won't exist,"- he uttered multiple times.
Once in an interview, when faced with a question about retiring, he said, "Just remaining alive is not a life, if you are not culturally alive, if you are not creatively alive, if you are not critically alive. That is not a life to me."
Before testing positive for Covid-19 on 6 October last year, the 85 years old actor was shooting for an autobiographical documentary film titled 'Abhijan.' During the shoot, the actor got sick and left his workplace for the last time, for good.
On 15 November 2020, Soumitra Chatterjee took his last breath and left the mortal world behind.
At the peak of his career, he got constant calls from Bollywood. Actors and filmmakers like Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor had approached him several times to work on their projects. But Soumitra refused them every time.
To him, his own natural world was more interesting than the glamorous world of Bollywood. In his natural world, he could write, read Tagore the whole day without getting disturbed, and even perform Shakespeare's 'King Lear' at the age of 75.
Soumitra's affection and love for acting was always transparent - "I love to act; I love acting so much that I can't live without it. That's why I'm still here."
During his long career and lifetime, Soumitra came across many experiences and many people. Between 'Apur Sansar' to 'Bela Seshe,' he witnessed all the ups and downs of Tollywood and stood there as a support, a strong presence, and pride for the industry.
After sixty years in front of the camera, Soumitra's humble opinion about his acting skills were: "Honestly, except for one or two times, I have never thought that I'm so good at anything that I can speak about it loudly. Sometimes, after a movie, I feel that I have acted considerably well. But I am never fully satisfied. Do you know why? Because the examples with whom I feel attached to are legends. Consider my Guru Shishir Bhaduri. Will I ever be able to act like him?"
What did Satyajit Ray see in that young fresh face of Soumitra? Surely, a lot of talent and potential. And he probably saw 'Apu' himself - a sensitive and wandering being like the one he would play in the movie. Because this real-life 'Apu' would sit by his window sometimes and think, in his own words, "What have I achieved in this long life? Nothing? What if I left this life of glory like Albert Schweitzer did and went to the woods. I know I can't."
From 'the world of Apu' to establishing his very own 'world of Soumitra,' his endeavours and passion for life never aged a bit.