Divya Solgamawrote on Aug 11 2008 7:11PM
Utpal Dutt was born on March 29, 1929 in Barisal, Bengal [now in Bangladesh] and died on August 19, 1993 in Calcutta [now Kolkata]. Although it has been more than a decade since the legendary actor breathed his last, but his acting excellence is still alive in the minds of people through the plays and films in which he featured. He was an actor, director and writer par-excellence and was a radical figure in Bengali theatre and cinema for more than 40 years. Utpal Dutt was married to theatre and film character actress Shobha Sen. They have a daughter called Bishnupriya who is a professor at a top Indian university. He has four grand children Noel, Avanna, Sanjoy and Ronie.
Utpal first got an opportunity to act in the lead role of director Madhu Basu's film Michael Madhusudan (1950). However, his learning began with the theatre. He was associated with the Shakespearean International Theatre Company and was an active member of Gononatya Shangha. He established his Little Theatre Group and staged many plays with that group at the Minerva Theatre. He also established various theatre groups as People's Theatre Group, Arya Opera and Bibek Jatra Samaj. Utpal Dutt wrote and directed what he called "Epic Theatre" (a term he borrowed from Bertolt Brecht) to bring about discussion and change in Bangladesh. One of the most influential personalities in the Group Theater movement, Utpal Dutt also acted in many Bengali films, including many films by Satyajit Ray and was also an extremely famous comic actor in Hindi films.
It is no hidden fact that Utpal was more of a man of the stage than cinema. He often lashed out at cinema as a "medium of capitalist entertainment". His political bent of mind also influenced him in staging many street plays to propagate the party ideologies.Dutt had leftist leanings and was an active supporter of the Communist Party. Many a times he was jailed for staging street plays in support of the Communist Party. His famous plays include Tiner Toloar (the Tin Sword, partially based on Pygmalion, Manusher Odhikare (Human Rights, based on the Scottsboro Boys case), Kallol (based on the 1942 Naval Mutiny), Ghosts, The Russian, Ferari Fnouj, Titas Ekti Nodir Naam, Buro Shaliker Gharey Ro, Sirajuddoula, Kollol, Choddoi July, Barricade, Titumir and many others. Utpal Dutt achieved great heights of performance especially in Shakespeare's plays. His characterisation of Othello and Macbeth is regarded as the best. His other Shakespearean plays include The Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night. Utpal Dutt starred in The Guru and Shakespeare Wallah, which both featured Madhur Jaffrey. Utpal Dutta acted in hundreds of Bangla and Hindi films including Bangla Amanush, Jukti-Tokko-Gappo, Hirok Rajar Deshey, Harano Shur, Sriman Prithwiraj, Shesher Kobita, Kolkata Ekattor, Ananda Asrom, Gonodebota, Kori Diye Kinlam and Hindi Anari, Ye Desh, Julie, Jan Pehchan, John Johnny Jonardan, Ek Adhura Kahani and Golmal. Besides performing in a few English and Assamese films, Utpal Dutta also directed five Bangla films: Megh, Ghum Bhangar Gaan, Boishakhi Megh, Jhor and Maa. Utpal was a multi-faceted personality. From 1954 he wrote and directed controversial Bengali political plays, notably Angar (1959). In 1965, he was arrested because the ruling Congress Party feared that his play Kallol was provoking antigovernment protests in West Bengal. During the 1970s three of his plays drew crowds despite being officially banned. Dutt appeared in some 200 films, beginning with Michael Madhusudan (1950), and had considerable success as a director, particularly for Megh (1961), Jhar (1978), and Mother (1984). An intense, dramatic actor, he did some of his best work with the directors Satyajit Ray (Jana Aranya; Agantuk), Mrinal Sen (Bhuvan Shome; Chorus), and James Ivory (Shakespeare Wallah; The Guru). His notable Hindi films include Kirayadar(1986), Saaheb (1985), Inquilaab (1984), Paar (1984), Rang Birangi (1983), Kissi Se Na Kehna (1983), Pasand Apni Apni (1983), Angoor (1982), Naram Garam (1981), Shaukeen (1981),Gol Maal (1979), Anurodh (1977), Dulhan Wahi Jo Piya Man Bhaaye (1977), Guddi (1971), Saat Hindustani (1969). He also published books on Shakespeare and the revolutionary theatre.
For his excellent performance in the film Bhuvan Shome, Utpal Dutta received the Bharat Award in 1969. A portion of Beadon Street, the stretch in front of Minerva Theatre has been named after Utpal Dutt by Kolkata Municipal Corporation. Utpal Dutt had "an effortless access to a wide range of emotion, from the ridiculous to the sublime, via ruthlessness," says acclaimed filmmaker Mrinal Sen. This coupled with an inborn sense of humour and proportion made Dutt stand out. "I don't think he enjoyed cinema much," says another reputed filmmaker Goutam Ghosh. "But who can forget his portrayal of Dhalakarta in Rajen Tarafdar's Palanka?" Ghosh mused. "When I began working with him during Paar, I found him to be a 100 percent professional actor. He became one with the vision of Moynadwip", said Ghosh referring to Dutta's sterling performance as the visionary Hosain Miyan in Padma Nadir Majhi, in Ghosh's magnum opus based on a critically acclaimed work by Manik Bandopadhyay.
Amitabh Bachchan's first full-length English film, The Last Lear, is a tribute to veteran actor Utpal Dutt. This film is based on Utpal Dutt's play Aajker Shahjahan and is directed by the well-known director Rituporno Ghosh and produced by the well-known Management Guru & Filmmaker Arindham Choudhuri. The film also stars Preity Zinta, Divya Dutta, Shefali Shah and Arjun Rampal. In the words of Arindham Choudhuri, "When Amitabh Bachchan heard that the film was based on Utpal Dutt's Bengali play, he immediately agreed to work on this project." It is a mere co-incidence that Amitabh Bachchan started his career as a film actor with Utpal Dutt in Saat Hindustani in 1969, while Mrinal Sen used AB's voice-over in Bhuwan Shome which was Utpal Dutt's debut venture. "Mr Bachchan appreciated the kind of experimental plays that Utpal Dutt directed.