Bengal icon Supriya Devi passes away at the age of 85

Best known for playing the lead in Ritwik Ghatak's Meghe Dhaka Tara, the actor passed away in her South Kolkata residence early morning today.

Actor Supriya Devi, best known for essaying the lead role in Ritwik Ghatak’s Meghe Dhaka Tara, passed away in her South Kolkata residence early morning today. She was 85. Born in the little Burmese town of Myitkyina, the actor’s life reflected in her most famous role as Neeta in Ghatak’s film. She understood the challenges of migrating to a new city with nearly nothing, and building her life from there on. Supriya Devi had to overcome innumerable obstacles before she went on to make her debut alongside Uttam Kumar in 1952’s Basu Poribar.

Supriya Devi’s private life was subjected to intense media scrutiny through the 60s and 70s, as she openly admitted to being involved with Uttam Kumar. Even though they were both married to different people at that time. She ended her marriage with Bishwanath Choudhury, to live in with Bengal’s mahanayak Uttam Kumar – not caring what the ‘society’ at that time had to say about it.

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In an age when most of the mainstream leading ladies were coy brides – Supriya Devi, like her contemporary Suchitra Sen, played an array of sexually-liberated characters. Someone even coined the title ‘Sophia Loren of Bengal’ for her, given the striking resemblance between the two. The assertiveness to live life on her own terms also reflected in her choice of roles and films.

In Lal Pathar (1964) Supriya Devi played the role of a zamindar’s wife, jealous of a new bride. And she did that without ever reducing the character to a single note. In Bilambita Loy (1970), she played the role of a singer who gets rid of her alcoholic spouse without an iota of guilt.

During the 90s, Supriya Devi moved to the smaller screen. She played a matriarch in the Doordarshan daily Janani, who chooses to stay away from her family. She even hosted a cookery show Benudir Rannaghor, where shared secret recipes and anecdotes from the years living with Uttam Kumar.

One of her last film appearances took place in Mira Nair’s The Namesake, where she essayed the role of Tabu’s grandmother.