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Upperstall Profile

Memorable films

Debashree Roy


Upperstall profile by: boorback

Debashree Roy is one of the most versatile actors to have emerged in the Bengali cinema in the early 1980s. Though this period marks the beginning of the loss of the distinct identity of the commercial Bengali films, Debashree has managed to rise above the general mediocrity and establish her position as a thespian comfortable in crass pot-boilers and in the sophisticated films made by the more competent filmmakers.

Debashree's connection with the show business began at a very early age she and her sister formed a popular duo performing filmi dances in shows organised in small towns and villages of West Bengal. This early brush with show-biz would also help her in getting roles as a child artiste in some Tollygunje productions. In Pagol Thakur (1968) and Balak Gadadhar (1969), two films based on the life of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Debashree she was called Kumari Chumki at that time did a wonderful job of portraying the saint in his childhood. In Balak Gadadhar, she also essayed the roles of various goddesses and in a recent interview she recalled, Ramesh Pal, the famous idol maker, designed eight small clay hands for me to play the role of Goddess Durga! During her days as a child artiste she also acted in Tarun Majumdar's mystery movie Kuheli (1971) with aplomb.

It would be Tarun Majumdar, who would give the young Debashree the opportunity to make her first appearance as an adult actor in the super-hit Dadar Kirti (1980). In this film, she did a wonderful job as a teenaged girl living in small town who falls in love with Kedar, Tapas Pal in his debut a naïve but good-hearted fellow from Kolkata. Though Tapas Pal got type-cast after this film for quite some time, for Debashree the film opened up the possibilities of more challenging roles both in the mainstream and off-beat films of the day. The film also helped to establish Tapas and Debashree as the principal romantic pair in Bengali commercial films of the 1980s. The pair had several popular films together albeit the audience was chiefly limited to rural and small towns. These includeParabat Priya (1983), Nishant (1985), Tarun Majumdar's Bhalobasha Bhalobasha (1985) and Surer Sathi (1988). Some of her other notable commercially successful efforts during this period were Aurobindo Mukherjee's Nishi Bhor (1983), Dinen Gupta's Sagar Balaka (1984), Ajoy Kar's Bishobrikhsha (1984), based on a famous novel by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhaya, Asit Sen's Prarthana (1985) a multi-starrer that had Amol Palekar, Moushumi Chatterjee and Victor Bannerjee in the leading roles and the musical Gayak (1987) which had Kishore Kumar's son Amit Kumar playing the hero.

The late 1980s saw the rise of Prosenjit Chatterjee as the heart-throb of the Bengali silver screen. Prosenjit and Debashree's first film together Prem Bandhan (1986) - a typical romantic melodrama directed by Rathish De Sarkar, was a huge hit and helped in establishing the pair as the darling of the masses. Ora Charjon (1988) and Chhokher Aloy (1989)a love triangle which also had Tapas Pal were immensely popular and Debashree consolidated her position as one of the top leading ladies of Bengali cinema. In the same year Aparanher Alo, directed by the Agradoot group was another major film of the Debashree and Prosenjit duo as was Ahankaar (1991). She also played the female lead in Purushottam (1992) a routine revenge and retribution melodrama which was the first film to be produced by Prosenjit and directed by the superstar himself. In fact, their screen romance got translated into real life and the pair had brief but tumultuous marriage. Years later in an interview she would state, any relationship that breaks is traumatic. It is no different for a film star. But work has been extremely good therapy, it's saved me from depression.” In recent interviews on the 25th anniversary of his career in Bengali films Prosenjit has graciously admitted that, "Debashree, without a doubt, has been the best female actor I've worked with."

Apart from being a top rated heroine in mainstream films, Debashree has performed with great assurance in the films made some of the more critically admired and artistically superior filmmakers working in the Bengali film industry. Almost at the beginning of her career as an adult actor she did a very competent job as Aditi – the ex-student of Miss Violet Stoneham (Jennifer Kapoor in an exquisite performance) who uses her apartment for pre-marital sexual trysts with her boyfriend and conveniently forgets her teacher once her needs are satisfied in Aparna Sen's memorable first film 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981). Although Aparna Sen dubbed for her, Debashree won kudos for her acting skills and some amount of controversy for her skin-show which some felt was quite audacious for a Bengali film of the period. However, she became more involved with the off-beat and artistic films in the 1990s when her position as one of the top female stars of Tollywood was well established. In Rituparno Ghosh's first major film Unishe April (1994) a study of a mother-daughter relationship in the lines of Ingmar Bergman's Autumn Sonata (1978) - Debashree gave one of the finest performances of her career as the emotionally vulnerable daughter who shares a difficult relationship with her mother (Aparna Sen) a celebrated dancer who achieves success at the cost of her marital life. She received the National Award for the best actress in 1995 for her efforts in Unishe April and later declared, I am a spontaneous actress and perform ideally with a good director Incidentally Prosenjit also gave a very subtle performance as Aditi's fianc who ditches her in this film. She was also excellent in Rituparno's Asookh (1999) portraying the protagonist Rohini, an extremely popular actor whose personal life goes for a toss when she discovers her husband is having an affair with a starlet. Further complications arise when Rohini's mother falls ill and is suspected of being HIV positive. In this film she was quite superb in capturing the contradictory emotions of glamour and helplessness and she would admit, what helped me flesh out the character was the closeness I discovered between Rohini and myself. The lowest common denominator between us is the element of loneliness, the feeling of isolation and alienation every actress experiences as part of her life... She also did a very able job as a career woman in Subrata Sen's controversial debut film Ek Je Acche Kanya (2000), which was also the first film of Aparna Sen's daughter Konkona. In Gautam Ghosh's innovative effort Dekha (2001), Debashree won much critical acclaim of her portrayal of the supportive daughter of a poet who gradually loses his vision (Soumitra Chatterjee).

In the 1990s, Debashree continued doing meaningful roles in some of the better mainstream movies being made in the studios of Tollygunje. Dinen Gupta's Nati Binodini (1994) saw Debashree give a fantastic performance as the celebrated theatre actor of the 19th century who gave up a life of luxury under the spiritual guidance of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa. Some of her other commercially successful ventures include Prabhat Roy's Sandhya Tara (1994) and Lathi (1996), Mrinmoy Chakraborty's Cinemay Jemon Hoy (1994) and Bhoy (1996) a thriller directed and produced by the actor Chiranjeet who was quite popular during the period.

At the beginning of her career, Debashree made a few attempts to break into the Bollywood bandwagon but her efforts Jiyo To Aise Jiyo (1981), Phulwari (1984) and Kabhi Ajnabhi The (1985), which had the dashing cricketer Sandeep Patil as the male lead were box-office duds and dashed all her hopes of making it big in Hindi films. However she was much appreciated Her major effort in non-Bengali films has been the Assamese director Bhaben Saikia's Trisandhya (2000) where she played the role of a housewife burdened with a loveless marriage. She also was spot on as Ma Sarada Devi (Sri Ramakrishna's spouse) in GV Iyer's biopic Swami Vivekananda (2001), which starred Mithun Chakraborty. More recently she has appeared as Mithun Chakraborty's wife in the super-hit MLA Phatakesto (2005) where she did a sizzling song and dance scene with the original Disco Dancer She is also the female lead in Mithun's latest pot-boiler Tiger (2007). At present she is engaged in the challenging role of a sex-worker with heart of gold in Nilanjan Bhattacharya's first film Lal Ronger Duniya besides acting in a few tele-films. Debashree, who is also a very competent and trained dancer-choreographer, is engaged in exploring innovative dance programs with her troupe Nataraj which has performed in shows both in India and abroad. In 2007, she produced and acted as Goddess Durga in lavish eulogy to the goddess made for Bengali television on the occasion of Durga Puja.

In a long career spanning over two decades and over 130 films, Debashree Roy has been able to establish herself as one of the most powerful women of the Bengali cinema one who is respected for her talents and professionalism. A page 3 regular, combining glamour with substance Debashree Roy remains one of the true divas of Tollywood and like all the current stars of Bengali silver screen she has been able to keep the number of candles on her birthday cake a closely guarded secret proclaiming, I m still 20 in my mind and spirit!

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