Basu Bhattacharya was born in a Brahmin family in Murshidabad, West Bengal. His ancestors served as priests to the royal family of Cossimbazar and he too would have done the same had it not been for his interest in films. After completing his education in Behrampur, Kolkata he moved to Mumbai to pursue his dreams of film making.
In 1958 he started his career as an assistant to Bimal Roy in Madhumati and Sujata. Soon a rift followed as he married Bimal Roy’s daughter against his wishes. His first directorial venture was Teesri Kasam (1966) which was produced by lyricist Shailendra. It starred Raj Kapoor and Waheeda Rehman and had excellent compositions by Shankar Jaikishen. Despite the critical acclaim that it garnered the film was a box office disaster. However, this happens to be Basu Bhattacharya’s most remembered films till date.
In the 70’s he made films exploring the man-woman relationship through his Amar-Manasi trilogy. The first in this was Anubhav (1971) which had Sanjeev Kumar and Tanuja in the lead. The film focused on the husband – wife relationship and their ego clashes. Next was Avishkar (1975) which starred the then successful pair of Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore who get married against all odds and after initial years of bliss how cracks begn to develop in their relationship was depicted realistically. The last in the trilogy was Grihapravesh (1979). The film had Sanjeev Kumar and Sharmila Tagore in the main leads and was about an extra-marital relationship. All the above films gathered audience interest due to their themes.
In between came a string of flops which included a breezy comedy Tumhara Kaloo (1975), and other social films like Madhumalti (1978) and Madhuman (1981) Also Panchavati that released in 1986 didn’t get much recognition. In 1980 he produced Sparsh which had sensitive performances by Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi. He made a serial Anweshan and a documentary on the Jnanpith award winning Punjabi writer Amrita Pritam, sponsored by the Sahitya Akademi. After a long hiatus, he came back to direction with Aastha in 1997. This movie again explored the extra-marital angle and starred Rekha and Om Puri. This was the last film he directed prior to his death in June 1997.
He won the Filmfare award for best film for Sparsh in 1980.
Basu Bhattacharya served the film ndustry in various capacities – as the Vice-President of the Federation of Film Societies of India, President of the Indian Film Director’s Association and was also on the board of NFDC.