As a teenager, Amitava Nag used to stand and wait for hours watching outside the gate of the great actor Soumitra Chatterjee’s house hoping to get a glimpse of the then sexagenarian legend. His luck had failed him then. But not so in 2009 when he finally persuaded a filmmaker friend to arrange an interview with the veteran actor. This time he was a fortunate man. What began since then is a warm and translucent friendship that transcended the barrier that usually exists between actors and their admirers.
Amitava Nag has written a book on Chatterjee’s acting career, translated Soumitra Chatterjee’s poems, and basked in the proximity of an uncannily sensitive and artistic soul of a creator. In their decade long acquaintance Soumitra Chatterjee and Amitava shared countless conversations over cups of black coffee– which find expression in this sensitive recollection “Murmurs: Silent Steals with Soumitra Chatterjee” slated to release on 19th January 2021, the late actor’s 86th birth anniversary— the first after the actor’s demise in November 2020.
Shyam Benegal, the illustrious filmmaker writes in the foreword of the book–
“About four decades ago, I wanted to cast him in my film Kalyug as Sashi kapoor’s elder brother. He was required to speak in Hindi as it was a Hindi language film. Being the perfectionist that he was, he declined the part, as he felt he did not know the language well enough”.
The book lays bare before the reader the innermost thoughts of Soumitra Chatterjee. His reflections on sports, art, life and death . In the chapter titled ‘Gary Sobers’ Soumitra Chatterjee opens up about the football match between Mohun Bagan and Cosmos (Pele’s club).
“‘Do you recollect that historic match of 1977 between Cosmos and Mohun Bagan that ended in a 2-2 draw? My friend P K Banerjee was Bagan’s coach and I rebuked him later for not allowing Pele to play freely,’ Soumitra-babu laughs saying this. ‘The Eden Gardens was jam-packed and everyone came to watch Pele. It rained the night before and I must say that Pele was gracious enough to be on the ground. I read later that his insurance company warned him not to play due to the ground conditions. And then he was so heavily man-marked that he couldn’t play up to his standards. PK was unfair.’”
Narrated as a first person account, the book could have read like a journalistic collection of a series of interviews. But because the narrative moves back and forth between the author’s personal reflections and his encounters with the actor, the warmth of their friendship shines through. Amitava Nag is an author, poet and a film buff who also runs a film magazine called Silhouette.
The book is published by Blue Pencil and is available for pre-ordering on Amazon.
Murmurs: Silent Steals with Soumitra Chatterjee
Author: Amitava Nag
Publisher: Blue Pencil
Price: Rs 249/-