Did you manage to get a glimpse of Suchitra Sen? Everybody would ask anybody coming out of Belle Vue Clinic ever since Bengal’s goddess of silver screen got admitted to the hospital — very near to Moitra Street — where Uttam Kumar used to live, on December 24. The answer was always “No”. “The security was too tight, no one except the doctors and her relatives were being allowed to venture close to the cabin,” would be the usual refrain.
The curiosity wasn’t like that of a fan standing in front of Jalsa to get a fleeting glance of Amitabh Bachchan — he is everywhere.
Anybody who could have seen Suchitra Sen, an old lady of 83 fighting for her life, could have become famous for a day.
But no one could. And now that she is no more, the image of the screen diva would always be that of a ethereal beauty, Paro of Dilip Kumar’s Devdas of 1955 or the eponymous law intern in Mamta released in 1966.
In Bengal, no one remembers Suchitra Sen of Aandhi of 1975, a pale figure burdened by advancing age and a deadly disease. Even Suchitra perhaps didn’t quiet like watching herself in movies at that time.
And, then in 1978 when the Bengali movie Pronoy Pasha opposite Soumitra Chatterjee flopped miserably, Suchitra Sen vanished from public life, and locked herself in her apartment in South Kolkata where only a chosen few and her immediate family of daughter Moon Moon, son-in-law Bharat Dev Verma daughters Ria and Raima were allowed to enter.
Her refusal to accept Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2005 was one such instance how her persona got wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
She stepped out of her house on rear occasions — and never to attain parties — once when one Maharaj of the Ramakrishna Mission in Belur died in 1989 or when she wanted to get a voter’s ID card.
A photograph clicked in 1995 of Sen walking out of election commissioner’s office which got splashed on page 1 of all local newspapers the next day is all that is available.
A clumsy attempt by a widely watched television channel airing a video clip taken from a mobile when Sen got admitted to the hospital for a wrist surgery was widely critcised even though the TRP shot up that day.
Media frenzy turned saner when Sen, suffering breathing problem, was on the hospital bed for the last time — no attempt to sneak in a mobile phone or an attempt to get a TV reporter inside even though admission by the team of seven doctors of her fluctuating condition made it clear she wouldn’t be able to survive this time.
Initially confident that she would soon recover from what was being seen as cold related ailment, Sen’s condition deteriorated on December 28 night and was admitted to critical care unit.
And on Friday morning 8.45am, she died of a massive heart attack, her body taken in a hearse covered in black tinted glass.
“Did you get a shot of her face?” a photo journalist was heard asking his colleague perched atop a house next to the hospital with a clear view of the room.