The Superlative Roy

Debasree Roy is one of the most beautiful and talented personalities to have worked in the Indian cinema. This beautiful actress is also a proclaimed dancer who is known for her amalgamation of various forms of Indian folk dance. Initially her mother wanted her to be a dancer. Roy acted for the first time when she was just eleven months old. Her mother took her to the set of Hiranmoy Sen’s Pagol Thakur (1966). As an adult actress her first film was Arabinda Mukhopadhyay’s Bengali film Nadi Theke Sagare (1978). She had a long running career in Bengali cinema. She reigned her plot for more than twenty years long.

Roy literally began her career when she was actually eleven months old. Her mother Arati Roy brought her to the set of Hiranmoy Sen’s Pagal Thakur (1966). Her father Birendra Kishore Roy was an employee in West Bengal Finance Corporation. She is the juniormost among the six siblings. Her nick name is Chumki. Her eledest sister is Purnima Lahiri. The second eldest is Krishna Mukherjee who is married to Producer Ram Mukherjee. The third child of the family was Ramendra Kishore Roy, the deceased cinematographer of the South Indian Film Industry. His nick name was Santu. The fourth child of the Roy family is Mrigen Roy whose nickname is Nantu. He is an event manager and executive producer of Bengali cinema. Tanushree Bhattacharya, a former actress of Bengali cinema, is the fifth child of the family. Her Nick name is Jhuma. The siblings have been attached to each other from the very childhood especially Debasree Roy had a deep attachment to her brother Santu and is still attached to sister Jhuma. She lost her dearest Santuda right after she got divorced from Prosenjit. She often recalls the beautiful days of her childhood life. All of them were highly enthusiastic regarding stage performance. She performed on stage for the first time when she was barely three years old and soon became a popular performer. Her sister Tanushree Bhattacharya was also a popular performer. Publicly, they were known as Rumki and Jhumki.

Debasree Roy in Phulwari (1984)

Her first break was Hiranmoy Sen’s Pagal Thakur (1966) where she was cast in the role of an infant Ramkrishna Paramhansa and shared her screen with none other than Chaya Devi. “I was barely eleven months old by then so I didn’t have that consciousness that I was acting opposite a legendary figure. All I can remember is that I was very fond of her.” She was credited as Chumki Roy in the film. In 1969, she reprised her role as Ramkrishna Paramhansa in Hiranmoy Sen’s Balak Gadadhar alongside Chaya Devi playing the role of Chandramani Devi. In 1971, she got her first big break in Tarun Majumder’s Thriller film Kuheli. She played the daughter to Biswajit and Sandhya Roy in the film. Her character was Ranu who, everyday at the night, stealthily goes to meet a woman who she thinks to be her mother. After the film had released, Roy was a starlet. Tarun Majumdar once decided to cast her in his Hindi venture Valika Vadhu. She had to sport a look test but Tarun Majumdar found her undermature for that role at that time. In 1978, she was cast as an adult actress opposite Mithun Chakraborty in Arabinda Mukhopadhyay’s Nadi Theke Sagare which was another major success of the director. She was credited as Rumki Roy in this film. Though NTS was a box office success, it was Sandhya Roy who was accredited more than Roy as she was the first leading actress of the film. In 1979, she acted in Waheeda Rehman starer Jiban Je Rakam where her sister Jhumki also played a part. In 1980, Tarun Majumder cast Rumki in his Dadar Kirti and changed her name into Debasree Roy. The film was a cult hit in the history of Bengali cinema. DK turned her into a star and Mahua Roychoudhury into the numero uno of early eighties.

Debasree Roy with Arun Govil in Jiyo To Aise Jiyo (1981)
Debasree Roy with Arun Govil in Jiyo To Aise Jiyo (1981)
Debasree Roy in Jiyo To Aise Jiyo (1981)
Debasree Roy with Arun Govil in Jiyo To Aise Jiyo (1981)

The year 1981 will always remain memorable in her life as that was the year when she got her first national break in Aparna Sen’s directorial debut 36 Chowringhee Lane. Who can forget Nandita, her gesture of submission while having kiss with Samaresh. Though the film was a major flop at box office, she created waves in Bollywood media due to her steamy scenes in the film. She decided to accept offers from Bollywood and signed Kanak Mishra’s Jiyo To Aise Jiyo (1981) under the banner of Rajashri Productions. Though she had literally nothing to do but to add glamour, still she had a hillarious sequence where she escaped from a band of goons and met Arun Govil who rescued her from the ruffians. A strong masala film, it grossed well at box office, but Roy, afterwards seems to have been confused on what might be a right film to give her nod to. She made her first blunder giving her nod to star in Desh Goutam’s Bura Aadmi which also stars superstar Pran in lead. Desh Goutam himself was not a successful director. His earlier film Lagaam was not a success and this one also turned out as another dud at box office.

Debasree Roy and Sridevi in Justice Chaudhury (1983)

Debasree Roy made another unwise decision by giving her nod to a role of a mute girl in Kovelamudi Raghavendra Rao’s multistarer film Justice Chowdhury where we catch her being paired with the missing Bollywood star Raj Kiran. Didn’t we love their chemistry though it was intentionally less highlighted by Jeetandra so that the Jeetandra-Hema chemistry or the Jeetandra-Sridevi chemistry could be focused primarily. The film was a huge hit but Roy was accreditted a little.

Debashree Roy and Raj Kiran in Justice Chaudhury (1983)
Kanwaljit Singh and Debasree Roy in Seepeeyan (1984)
Om Puri and Debashree Roy in Seepeeyan

In 1984, she appeared in Hindi films like Mukul Dutt’s Phulwari.

Debasree Roy looking drop dead gorgeous in the song sequence ‘Geet Mere Hothon Ko De Gaya Koi’ from Kabhi Ajnabi The (1985)
Sandeep Patil romancing Debasree Roy in the song sequence ‘Geet Mere Hothon Ko De Gaya Koi’ from Kabhi Ajnabi The (1985)

In 1985, her sole Bollywood release was Vijay Singh’s Kabhi Ajnabi The. Back then Kabhi Ajnabi The was ancipated to be a huge hit due to the amatory presentation of Debasree Roy in the song sequence Geet Mere Hothon Pe De Gaya Koi. Filmfare wrote “With those cohl eyes and her figure scantily coverd with, she looked enthralling yet she looked coy enough.” She reminisced the amorous avatar of Sharmila Tagore in Aradhana (1969). The song topped the list of chartbuster tunes of that year and was bet to be the biggest crowd pulling factor of the film. She received the Calcutta and National Unity Award for Best Supporting Actress in Hindi Cinema for her performance in the film.

Sandeep Patil and Debashree Roy

KAT opened with 80% seat occupancy as it had been expected but soon it began to loose audience and ultimately proved itself to be a flop. In 1986, Filmfare enrolled it in the listicle of Ten Most Dissappointing Films of 1985. In 1986, she appeared in Akash jain’s Hindi film Seepeeyan where she played a beautiful woman who was taken to the bed by her boyfriend played by Kanwaljit and got traumatized later when she learnt that he had changed his mind and he was no more willing to marry her; it was then only she tried to kill herself by flinging herself into a river and later got rescued by a man of an inferior caste. Her role, somehow reminds us of Tess of the d’urvilles of Thomas Hardy, whose innocence is ripped apart by the debouched manhood. Roy looks implausible in some of the sequences of the film especially in the one where she receives the news of her mother’s death while Om Puri outsmarts her. It’s real hard thing to find out a single rift in his performance and this time also, there is no exception. The film was a hit but to our surprise Roy focused little on her Bollywood career afterwards.

In 1985, she appeared in Tarun Majumder’s rom-com film Bhalobasa Bhalobasa (1985) whose success in collaboration with the untimely death of Mahua Roychoudhry in 1985 turned Debasree Roy into the brand new numero uno of Bengali cinema. She got flooded with offers from producers and directors. Her chemistry with Tapas Paul was most notable in films like Arpan (1987), Surer Akashe (1988), Surer Sathi (1988), Nayanmani (1989), Chokher Aloy (1989), Tobu Mone Rekho (1994) to name a few.

Debasree Roy as Keya in Tarun Majumdar’s Bhalobasa Bhalobasa (1985)

Roy has always been appreciated for her gaze. Her gaze in Seepeeyan (1986) demonstrated the subtle discordance of the relationship between Kalyani and Gokul. The ones in Unishe April (1994) was a more powerful demonstration of pervading void.

It was in the early nineties when Debasree rose to prominence as a dancer. She had been mesmerizing on celluloid for numerous time. This time she became mesmerizing on stage when she came to the platform in her Vasabdatta avatar. Back then it became a huge crowd puller and held the hundrend percent seat occupancy every time it was performed. Some of the producers, directors and journalists reasoned that Vasavdatta was a huge hit only because of the giant stardom of Debasree Roy, which she acquired by essaying popular roles in Bengali films. Overall It was critically appreciated in almost every journal and newspaper all over the Bengal. Roy had actually been a thorough observer of Indian iconography and she always kept making an effort of rendering it imbued with contemporary dance form. Vasavdatta was a masterly outcome of this valuable effort. Then came Sapner Sandhane, an amalgamation of folk dance forms of Bengal and its adjoining area. The production was a major success. In fact it was the success of Sapner Sandhane that led her venturing into the idea of amalgamating the various dance forms of a larger Indian heritage. Bichitro was the first abroad production of Nataraj troupe and it was well received in the continental Europe. Prominent newspapers and journals of European countries were all praise of this venture. On August, 1996, Bhashyo wrote, “Indian folk dance has never been so glamorous before she conglomerated almost all the native dance forms of Indian subcontinent and at the same time it was marvellous to watch one of the biggest pop icons of East Indian cinema, in the manifestation of our folks. She mesmerized with her verve. She created a jugglery with the rapid change in posture and movement especially in the north-eastern Indian sequence and the spectators were bewitched and awe-struck. She has really been a sincere observer and lover of Indian heritage. She has that probing Indian mind that keeps searching and researching on what the modern, cultural outcome has descended from or the overlooked factors of our heritage.” After the rave success of Bichitro, Debasree Roy was persisted by few of her close ones to stick to her dance career as they thought she is more outstanding as a dancer than as an actress. Debasree, back then, was getting overflooded with meaty roles from directors and she was barely willing to turn them down for the sake of her dance career. “I regret not being known as a classical dancer” said Debasree, “That’s something I really wanted to be since my childhood days. But acting happened. I tried to do something about it and formed my dance troupe Nataraj.” The actress Debasree Roy ran unstoppable but the dancer Debasree Roy got interrupted.

Debasree Roy in Justice Chaudhury (1983)

In 1987, she acted opposite Prosenjit in Bimal Ray’s Samrat O Sundari. This is the film that turned their chemistry into a brand new groovy one. Afterwards they had hits like Jhankar (1989), Ahankar (1991), Raktelekha (1992), Shraddhanjali (1993), Unishe April (1996) to name a few. Unishe April is the film that brought her the National Award in the Best Actress category. Whenever she comes on screen under the guise of Aditi, the viewers become spellbound. A several part of her viewers have levelled this film as her best till now. Unishe April was the last released film of Debasree-Prosenjit pairing. After they got seperated in 1995, Debasree Roy found it emotionally hard to work opposite Prosenjit. In fact Prosenjit had always wanted to act with Debasree but it was her actually, who declined all the offers with the actor leaving Rituparna Sengupta an ample scope for a reinforcing career.

A still from Mejdidi (2003)

The year 2003 saw Roy play the titular role in Shantimoy Banerjee’s Bengali film Mejdidi. The film was pitted against Rituparana Sengupta’s Alo (2003) which was a bigger hit.


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