Noted Comedians of Bengali cinema: Bhanu Banerjee, Rabi Ghosh, Sabitri Chatterjee, Sandhya Roy, Utpal Dutta, Anup Kumar
Bengali Cinema has had its fair share of comedies, featuring several character artists who have delighted the viewers not only in their time, but who, through repeats of their films on television, continue to tickle the funny bone even today.
In the 1950s and the early 1960s, Bengali cinema saw two outstanding films which were completely hilarious. These were ‘Kanamachhi’ and ‘Pasher Bari’. Numerous films were made with prominent comic characters, and actors such as Bhanu Banerjee and Jahar Roy delivered very high standards of comedy in their films which entertained the movie lovers of Bengal, thoroughly. Their ‘Bhanu Goenda Jahar Assistant’, ‘Jamalaye Jibanta Manush’, ‘Personal Assistant’, ‘Miss Priyambada’ and ‘Ashite Asio Na’ did extremely well commercially and were as profitable if not more than commercial films made with the reigning stars of the time. These comic characters, became so popular, that even mainstream cinema steadily began to reserve slots for these loved comedians. In fact, there was a time in Bengali cinema, when Bengali film goers would go with their family to watch a film based not on the lead actors and actresses present in the movie, but on the basis of the comedians featuring in the film.
Others in the fleet of comedians besides Bhanu Banerjee and Jahar Roy, were Nripati Chatterjee, Nabadwip Haldar, Shyam Laha, Santosh Dutta, Anup Kumar and last but not least Robi Ghosh. Robi Ghosh with his outstanding performances, singlehandedly delivered many hits. Chinmoy Ray was also a good comedian of his time.
The topics of many of these films were also interesting, such as that of “Mohan Baganer Meye” which was about two families who were supporters of two renowned football clubs famous for their rivalry. Another film, ‘Dhanyi Meye’ was also based on football but also dealt with the story of a tomboyish girl who made an entry into an orthodox family under unusual and comic circumstances.
Satyajit Ray, renowned not only for his craft but also for his versatility, made an outstanding comic film called ‘Parash Pathar’ based on a story by Rajsekhar Basu, an extremely talented comedy writer .The film was made with Tulsi Chakraborty in the lead, also an extremely acclaimed and talented comedian of his time. Anup Kumar and Santosh Dutta were also known comedians who added value to many movies. Kishore Kumar Ganguly was a natural comedian. His film ‘Lukochuri’ was an all time hit in Bengali Cinema, and had a hit comic song in it, ‘Sing Nei Tobe Naam Tar Singha’.
Some of the Bengali comedies also found a way into the Hindi film industry. ‘Pasher Bari’ was later made into a Hindi film ‘Padosan’ which became an instant hit in its time. Similarly, Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed ‘Golmaal’ in Hindi, based on ‘Kanamacchi’ to deliver one of the best loved comedies in the Hindi film industry.
It can well be remembered that the films made by Nityananda Datta, that is, ‘Baksha Badal’ and ‘Hatath Dekha’ were unique in their own right. In fact it was Satyajit Ray who wrote the dialogues of Baksho Bodol. The film ‘Bhrantibilas’ which was based on the plot of the Shakespearean, ‘A Comedy of Errors’ and ‘Chhadmabeshi’ were other two movies which won the hearts of the Bengali movie lovers. ‘Chhutir Phande’ and ‘Mouchak’ were also well received by the viewers.
Talking about women within the realm of comedy, it is the acclaimed actress Sabitri Chatterjee who comes first to the mind as the ‘Comedy Queen’ of Bengali cinema. Sandhya Roy also played some good comic roles. Chhoto Rajlakshmi, an actress of the 1960s was a fine actress of her era. Her role in ‘Kanchanmullys’ another Bhanu starrer is quite memorable.
It would indeed be a shame not to mention Utpal Dutta as a comedy actor, in fact he was probably the greatest of all, (apart from the Late Tulsi Chakraborty). He not only excelled in Bengali films but also reigned in Hindi films as a leading comedy actor.
It is a fact widely accepted that one of the most difficult aspects of acting is doing comic scenes. To make it perfect, the timing of delivering the dialogues with the right gesture and expression is very important, and this is one of the reasons why comedy actors are in a way, considered to be the best performers in a film. Bengali cinema has always encouraged comedy in films and apart from the serious ones the best remembered films today are these versatile and evergreen comedies.
Bhanu Banerjee, Jahar Roy, Robi Ghosh, Chinmoy Ray, Santosh Dutta, Anup Kumar, Sabitri Chatterjee, Sandhya Roy, Utpal Dutt