Uttam Kumar was a legendary Bengali actor, who still thrives in every Bengali heart. He is fondly called the Mahanayak or the "Great Hero" of Bengali cinema. What makes Uttam Kumar such an icon, who's remembered so vividly even after three decades since his death?
Uttam Kumar was a legendary Bengali actor, who still thrives in every Bengali heart. He is fondly called the Mahanayak or the "Great Hero" of Bengali cinema. What makes Uttam Kumar such an icon, whos remembered so vividly even after three decades passed by since his death?
Maha nayak Uttam Kumar died on24th July, 1980 at the age of 54. Three decades had passed; his films areas popular as they were 30 years back. If he would have been alive he would be 85. He was born on 3rd September, 1926.
His first released film was ‘Dristidaan’ (1948) and his last film was ‘Emon Kalyan’(1982). In between he acted in 207 films. These are basic facts about UttamKumar. But facts don't explain us the magic behind his success. Facts never tell us why he is still popular even after 28yrs of his death.
I think the key to his success are not one, but three. Let us look very closely those three keys.
Take at least 10 DVDs of Uttam Kumar's films and watch his back to camera acting. Is it sounding funny? Now listen, minutely watch the moment when Uttam Kumar from a back to camera position turns with a movement and then either gives a frontal shot, or a profile shot, or a over a over the shoulder shot, or a preference shot. Whether the camera was static or trolly or a crane, in all the cases Uttam Kumar's turning from back to camera and then taking position after movement delivering the dialogue with immaculate expression - were all accurate in one go.
How we could understand the changing dimension of the image without seeing the zoom-stick at all? Usually the expert actors understand the dimension of the image seeing the variable position of the zoom - stick and accordingly they design their expression - broad or small.
Subhendu Chatterjee, the doctor cum actor, once told me, ‘Uttam da could do this because he could sense the position of the zoom-stick without seeing it.’ He then explained that it happened probably because of the presence of a particular gland just over the vertebral column, which occurs one in ten crores. Subhendu Chatterjee was a doctor, his physiological knowledge was definitely more than me. I recorded his comments on a video camera which was telecasted in the year 1990. Till date not a single expert had protested against that view, isn't itinteresting? Because of that rare quality he possessed, his acting never seemed mechanical.
There is an interesting part in Uttam Kumar's film career which I think had looked up on very seriously.
Uttam Kumar acted in Satyajit Ray's Nayak’ in 1966. It was his 110th film, which means it was placed in the almost middle of his filmography. Before ‘Nayak’he acted as romantic hero for 18 years. And after ‘Nayak’ till death, he was in film for another 16yrs, which means year wise also ‘Nayak’ was almost in the middle.
Before ‘Nayak’period Uttam was basically a romantic hero. The best of the lot were - ‘Agnipariksha’(1954), ‘Saheb Bibi Golam’ (1956), ‘Harano Sur’ (1957), ‘Chawa Pawa’ (1959),‘Saptapadi’ (1961), ‘Deya Neya’ (1963), ‘Lal Pathar’ (1964), ‘Sudhu EktiBochor’ (1966). These were the films made Uttam Kumar a matinee idol.
After meeting Satyajit Ray, observing him very keenly his started to copy Ray's mannerism, Ray's style of talking, looking, smoking, behaving - every thing. He discovered a new image. He started doing critical character roles, even negative. For example, ‘Jiban Mrityu’ (1967), ‘Aparachito’ (1969), ‘Kalankito Nayak’(1970), ‘Stree’ (1972), ‘Amanush’ (1974), ‘Bagh Bondi Khela’ (1975), ‘Hotel Snow fox’ (1976), ‘Plot No. 5’ (1981). In all these films he gradually exploded himself in a manner completely opposite of his earlier image. In this period the remarkable films were ‘Chiriyakhana’ (1967), ‘Ekhane Pinjor’ (1971), ‘Jadu Bansha’ (1974), ‘Agnishwar’ (1975). Only ‘JaduBansha’ could have brought ‘Oscar’ if it was sent to the “American Motion Pictures Academy”.
So through his association of Ray, he changed himself what no other actor of the Ray camp did. His best films, acting wise, were those in the post ‘Nayak’ period.
This is the most vital key to his success. It is a physiological thing. Uttam Kumar was popular amongst women. Every romantic hero has that capability, and there is nothing new in it. The unique thing is that he is still popular amongst the male spectator still today, when his films are shown in television even 60 yrs old male spectator stays glued to the television screen as if they are enjoying a sexual intercourse. Even today, the aged spectators, who were in the early 30's when he died, enjoy an orgasm kind of feeling when they watch an Uttam Kumar film. That it is the reason for the Uttam Kumar film's commercial viability even after 28yrs of his death.
The question is why? The answer is the effeminate quality of Uttam Kumar. He was androgynous incharacter. Male baritone voice mixed up with a movement in rhythm of a female. His physical structure was not muscular like a man, rather it is a combination of the circles like female body. His looks, his smiles were not 100% male.
This feminine composition was inherent in Uttam Kumar from the beginning. He knew it definitely and so displayed that quality at the most vulnerable time. He used that weapon intelligently so that it works in the unconscious level of human brain. Male spectators were unable to discover the secret why they were drawn toward him like a mad man. He switched over from the ‘Krishna’ image to ‘Radha’ so brilliantly that it was quite impossible to find out clue behind his real charm.
Apart from his other talents, these three keys, which he kept so secret where the principal pillars of his immense success and popularity.
Heres a compilation of 100 Uttam Kumar super hit songs, you'd love to listen.