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Happy Birthday Tanuja: 6 Bengali films starring the glorious actress in all her glory
Hia Datta

Born to actress Shobhna Samarth, with her grandmother Rattan Bai, and aunt Nalini Jayawant both actresses, Tanuja Samarth and Nutan hail from a lineage of actresses. Tanuja began her career as a child actor in the 1950 film Hamari Nutan, which starred Nutan as the lead actress, her first film as an adult actor was a decade later in Chhabili, helmed by her mother. In Kidar Sharma’s Hamari Yaad Aayegi, she got her first full-fledged role as the heroine and acted her way onto a successful career in Hindi cinema. Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi, Izzat, Jeene ki Raah, Haathi Mere Saathi, Mere Jeevan Saathi, Do Chor are some of her noted films in her career spanning 50 years. She acted with the top heroes of the late ’90s in Hindi cinema, from Dharmendra, Jeetendra to Amitabh Bachchan.

Simultaneously, in the ’60s and ’70s, Tanuja stepped into Bengali cinema and left film lovers and the fraternity starstruck and in awe of her personality and charisma ever since. The star pair of Tanuja and Uttam Kumar was considered a must for musical films to be popular. Even in pleasant, so-called decorative roles, Tanuja's captivating charm was a sure-shot crowd-puller, to say the least. Tanuja made a great onscreen pair with Soumitra Chatterjee too, delivering memorable films like Prothom Kadam Phool, Teen Bhuvaner Parey. Tanuja belongs to the school of natural acting and could convey a volley of emotions through her gorgeous eyes, a quality that was inherited by her daughter and the talented actress Kajol.

On the occasion of the evergreen actress’ birthday today, here we list six Bengali films starring the actor in all her glory.

Deya Neya
8.3OTTplay Rating
Rebelling against his rich industrialist father (Kamal Mitra), Prasanta (Uttam Kumar) flees from home and becomes famous as a professional singer Abhijit, who never appears in public, or allows his photos or interviews to get published. In a turn of events, he takes a job of a car driver-cum-mechanic in another name of Hriday Haran. The smart and beautiful daughter Suchitra (Tanuja) of his rich employer (Pahari Sanyal), is a fan of the famous singer Abhijit and tries to meet him breaking through the veil of mystery around him. Tanuja is grace and charm personified as Suchitra. Her mere presence in a scene lights up the screen. And, the director Sunil Banerjee (aided by the competent script by Bidhayak Bhattacharya) makes an easy-going story interesting by interjecting ample doses of comedy, romance, sentiment and drama at the right moments to conjure up an all-time super hit film.
Antony Firingee
7.9OTTplay Rating
Here's the second musical superhit film featuring Tanuja and Uttam Kumar. Anil Bagchi, the musical composer churned out unforgettable playback songs.The film is a biopic of the legendary figure, Hensman Anthony, a man of Portuguese origin, who adopted the Bengali folk culture of Kabiyal and Bhakti tradition to perfection in the early 19th Century in Bengal. He caught the attention of the Bengali masses by his expertise as a Kabiyal and a devotee of Goddess Kali and Durga. Going against the then-prevalent social norms, he married a Brahmin widow, Saudamini (Tanuja), and thereby faced the ire of conservatives. Beautiful Tanuja plays Saudamini, an inspiration to her singer-poet husband, and an innocent soul caught on the wrong side of social injustice. She holds the narrative with her magnetic charm and acting chops alongside Uttam Kumar.
Pita Putra
Ashok (Swarup Dutt) is an aspiring medical student, in love with Jhulon (Tanuja). When his father (Kamal Mitra) makes a match for him and urges him to marry Mahashweta, who is the niece of his friend, Ashok is caught in a dilemma. He doesn't know that his fiancée Jhulon and his proposed match Mahashweta are the same people. So, he rebels and goes away from his father's house. Ashok marries Jhulon in his independent life. The film then goes on to deal with their life together and reaches the climax built around the query of whether the separated father and son can overcome their misunderstanding and be united again.Directed by Arabinda Mukherjee, the film demonstrates how neatly woven social drama can provide clean entertainment. Tanuja was at her excellent best in her sure-footed portrayal of the role of the young wife.
8.2OTTplay Rating
On its release, it was a highly successful musical film with music rendered by Rahul Dev Barman.Manju (Tanuja) is a princess, shortly to inherit a huge property. Her life is put on a strict no-nonsense routine thrust upon her by her mother, the queen (Chhaya Devi). She doesn't have the freedom to chase her passions until she meets Nirmal (Uttam Kumar), the brother of her sewing teacher. They fall in love and decide to marry. But fate plays some tricks separating the duo until they eventually get their happy ending. Tanuja, while looking stunning in traditional sarees and minimal makeup, brings on the shades of Manju, her introverted demeanour to the newfound exuberance and love for Nirmal, to the heartbreak and anger when fate strikes, right on-point. Tanuja’s dignified offscreen personality lends a stately allure to her portrayal of Manju.
adalat o ekti meye
7.8OTTplay Rating
Tapan Sinha launches a scathing attack on the society that looks down on a woman wronged by others. Misfortune doesn't end for young teacher Urmila (Tanuja) after she is gang-raped. She is ostracised by her relatives and friends and ill-treated at her school by colleagues. Even her father is inflicted with a cruelly curious glare at his workplace. Her fiancé abandons her. The accused persons resort to all sorts of means to obstruct the process of justice. The spirited police officer investigating the case is suspended. And at the crux of it all, she's subjected to insensitive and out-of-line questions in the name of cross-examination by the defending counsel. Will she ultimately get justice after all the trouble? Tanuja plays the victim and, in a marked departure from her usual beautiful and feel-good avatars, brings out her suffering and struggle in punctilious shades.
Shonar Pahar
8.2OTTplay Rating
Tanuja plays a septuagenarian lady, a retired school teacher, who lives a very lonely life in an old house with only domestic help. Her son Saumyo (Jisshu Sengupta) and daughter-in-law are busy with their lives in their own home. The old lady isolates herself from society. Then, appears a man (Parambrata Chattopadhyay), the owner of an NGO, who persuades her to foster an orphan child Biltu (Srijato Banerjee). A reluctant relationship, hitherto missing in the life of the old woman, develops between her and the child. One day, they go to a hill station without informing anyone. Her son Saumya goes in search of the lady, and the strained mother and son relationship is revived. Tanuja and Srijato are easily scene-stealers. Tanuja is emotive and expressive in her transformation from a stern detached loner to a sympathetic sensitive individual, never for once hitting a wrong note. The veteran actor is the soul of the movie in a way.

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