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Devi, Sumitra Biography




biography of Devi, Sumitra

1923, Shiuri, Bengal, India
28 August 1990, Bombay, India
Nilima Chattopadhyay was born in 1923 at Shiuri, in Birbhum district of undivided Bengal in a Brahmin orthodox family but was brought up in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar. While in her teens Nilima used to dream of the beautiful heroines of her time and dreamed that one day her name would find place by the side of Kanan Devi, Leela Desai, Chandrabati, Menaka Devi, Jamuna Barua, Sandhyarani and others. Films of New Theatres were household names by then and one day she sent an application to New Theatres' along with a photograph. Her younger brother Ranajit was her only friend and confidante and gave her encouragement. Her letter was answered and she was called for an interview at N.T. and had to undergo a rigorous session of interrogation before finally being selected and Nilima's screen name became Sumitra Devi. On the family front she faced a lot of obstacles from father Murali Chattopadhyay, an advocate by profession. However she could overcome all odds only through her determination to enter the film world and it was the prestigious New Theatres where she could make her first film contract for My Sister. However, she was immediately offered another role by Debaki Kumar Bose in Sandhi and this film was a great hit and Sumitra received that year's Best Actress Award from BFJA. Apurba Mitra was credited as the director of the film but it was Debaki Bose, Apurba's uncle, who did the job of direction for this super hit film that was re-made several years later. My Sister was released after Sandhi. All through the early period of her stardom, Sumitra was troubled by domestic affairs, her totally non co-operative family and finally a marriage at Bhagalpur which ended in a divorce. She became a star with her first films and her extremely beautiful face was used to best advantage by film directors and cameramen. Other films like Pratibad, Achhyut, Wasiyatnama, Pather Dabi, Abhijog, Swami, Debi Choudhurani followed leading her from success to success. She went to Bombay in response to a call from Bombay Talkies to act in Mashal and Samar, a double version film. The story was based on Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's novel Rajani. Other films like Mayurpankh, Mamta, Deewana, Arabian Nights followed. She came to Calcutta from time to time and appeared in lead roles in Asabarna, Dashyu Mohan, Andhare Alo, Saheb Bibi Golam, Neelachale Mahaprabhu, Joutuk to name some. Raj Kapoor procured her services for his double version film Ekdin Ratre and Jagte Raho. In the late fifties Sumitra Devi visited China as a delegate from India at the Asian Film Festival. Her last film was Kinu Gowalar Gali in 1964. She married actor Devi Mukherjee in the forties but Mukherjee's suicide in 1947 left her alone again. Later in life she married a Bombay based businessman, Sharma and died as his wife in 1990.
Dr. Jyoti Prakash Guha

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