When Dilip Kumar impressed in Bengali cinema

The actor endeared to Bengali audiences with his roles in films ‘Paari’ and ‘Sagina Mahato’

Dilip Kumar, who passed away on Wednesday, has earned fans across the world for his work in Hindi films, but the ace thespian also dabbled in Bengali cinema for a brief period in his career.

Since he was a discovery of director Amiya Chakraborty, Dilip always had a fondness for Bengali cinema and culture. The actor enjoyed reading the likes of Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra, and others, and also enjoyed a great friendship with directors such as Bimal Roy and Hrishikesh Mukherjee.

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This helped him not only understand Bengali cinema better, but also learn to speak the language himself and work on his diction.

Dilip made his debut in Bengali cinema was with Paari in 1963, that was directed by Jagganath Chatterjee, adapted from a story by Jarasandha. The film also starred Dharmendra and Abhi Bhattacharya, and Dilip played the role of a jailer in an Andaman prison. Though he got only limited screen time in the movie, Paari endeared him to Bengali audiences, and in 1970, he was cast as the lead in Sagina Mahato.

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Produced by Shri J.K. Kapur and directed by Tapan Sinha, the film also had Dilip’s wife Saira Banu as the female lead. Based on the true story of the labour movement in 1942–43, the storyline followed a factory laborer who rises up against the autocracy of the British rulers in North-Eastern India. Sagina Mahato was a success and was also entered into the Moscow International Film Festival. The film was even remade in Hindi as Sagina in 1974, by director Sinha with the same leads.

Thereafter, the actor was too busy with his Bollywood commitments to work in other languages again, but his brief stint was truly a memorable one for Bengali filmmakers and fans alike.

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