Veteran Bengali film actress Supriya Devi, who reached legendary heights for her excellent portrayal of the protagonist Neeta in Ritwik Ghatak’s cult film Meghe Dhaka Tara, died at her residence in Kolkata on Friday following cardio-respiratory failure, her physician S.K. Sarkar said.
Devi, 85, is survived by her daughter and three grandchildren.
“She felt unwell in the washroom around 6.20am. When doctors were called, they declared her dead at 6.30am,” a doctor said.
Devi was suffering from multiple age-related diseases including waist pain, hypertension and kidney issues.
Born on January 8, 1933 at Myitkyina in erstwhile Burma (now Myanmar), Supriya Chowdhury (nee Banerjee) took the screen name Supriya Devi to emerge as one of the leading figures of the golden era of Bengali cinema that saw her straddle the celluloid space with great aplomb alongside the late Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen.
Soumitra Chatterjee, Sabitri Chatterjee and Madhabi Mukherjee now remain among the few surviving representatives of that generation.
Devi was one of the leading heroines acting with Kumar, her live-in partner, and essayed memorable romantic roles opposite him through two-and-a-half decades.
Her pairing with Kumar produced mega hit movies like Sanyasi Raja, Baghbandi Khela, Chirodiner, Sabarmati, Suno Baranari, Bon Palashir Padavali, Kalankini Kankabati and Sudhu Ekti Bachar.
Apart from the Kumar-Sen combine, it was the Kumar-Devi pairing that kept generations of Bengali film buffs mesmerised with their romance, hit songs and well-scripted story lines.
She also acted in a few Hindi films like Begaana, Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein and Aap ke Parchhaiyan.
Known for her beauty and sharp features, Devi trained as a dancer from her childhood under Guru Muruthappan Pilla and Guru Prahlad Das.
The actress showcased her dancing proficiency in a number of films including the title role in Amrapali (1959).
She made her acting debut as a seven-year-old in two plays directed by her father Gopal Chandra Banerjee.
Inspired and helped by then famed actress Chandrabati Debi, she made her first foray into film in 1952 playing a side role in the Kumar starrer Basu Paribar.
It was only in 1959 that she rose to prominence after her appearance in the runaway hit movie Sonar Harin, which also featured Kumar.
The year 1960 gave Devi a cult status following her sensitive and touching depiction of the sole bread earner of a refugee family in the backdrop of the 1947 partition of India.
Among her other popular films are Debdas (1979) — where she was cast as Chandramukhi opposite Soumitra Chatterjee in the title role — Jadi Jantem, Chowringhee, Sabyasachi, Dui Purush, Mon Niye and Atmiyo Swajan.
In 2006, she made her last appearance on the big screen in Mira Nair’s The Namesake.
In 1954, Devi married Biswanath Chodwhury. The couple’s have one daughter, Soma Chodwhury. However, later in life, Devi fell in love with kumar.
Devi was conferred the Padma Shri, the country’s fourth-highest civilian award, for her contribution to Indian cinema in 2014.