Madhabi Mukherjee worked on stage with artistes like Sisir Bhaduri, Ahindra Choudhury, Nirmalendu Lahiri and the great Chhabi Biswas. Some of the plays she acted in are Naa and Kalarah. She made her film debut as a child artist in Premendra Mitra's Kankantala Light Railway (1950). However, Madhabi Mukherjee early 1960s, she was signed by Satyajit Ray to portray the role of Arati in the 1963 film, Mahanagar ("The Big City"). This was the first woman-cantered screenplay she had encountered.
Early Life of Madhabi Mukherjee
Madhabi Mukherjee made her first major impact with Mrinal Sen's Baishey Shravan (1960). The film is set in a Bengal village just before and during the dreadful famine of 1943 in Bengal that experienced more than 5 million die. Madhabi plays a 16-year-old girl who marries a middle-aged man. Initially she cheers up his life but then World War-II and the Bengal Famine hits them. The couple's marriage crumbles and in the end the wife hangs herself.
Career of Madhabi Mukherjee
Madhabi Mukherjee's next major film was Ritwik Ghatak's Subarnarekha made in 1962. However, it released in 1965. The last in a trilogy examines the socio-economic effects of partition; the other two films were Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960) and Komal Ghandhar (1961). Ritwik Ghatak featured Madhabi Mukherjee in some of his most complex films. Madhabi gives a wonderful performance as Sita, the younger sister of Ishwar (Abhi Bhattacharya) who commits suicide when as a prostitute waiting for her first customer; she discovers the customer is none other then her estranged brother.
This film was soon followed by Madhabi Mukherjee's portrayals in the films like Charu in Charulata ("The Lonely Wife"), which was the 1964 film based on Rabindranath Tagore's novella Nashtanir, and Karuna in Kapurush ("The Coward") in 1965. Madhabi Mukherjee's stunning acting skills in the film Charulata was clearly noticeable and made her even more popular. Because of the title role in Satyajit Ray's masterpiece Charulata, Madhabi Mukherjee would still be considered among the all time greats of Bengali cinema, such has been her impact. She played the role of a bored and neglected housewife of Calcutta in the 19th century and played an undoubtedly towering performance in the history of Indian cinema. Considered as one of India's finest actresses, Madhabi Mukherjee has also acted in films like Rituparno Ghosh's Utsab and Subarnarekha by Ritwik Ghatak.
Without doubt Madhabi Mukherjee managed to reach the peak of her career with the film Charulata. It is without doubt one of the greatest performances of Indian Cinema. Till date Madhabi in Charulata is considered as the benchmark for what an ideal Tagore heroine should be and it is said that when Ray returned to Tagore with the film Ghare Baire (1984), he stylized Swatilekha Chatterjee in a way that is similar to Madhabi in Charulata.
Madhabi's third and last film with Satyajit Ray was Kapurush (1965). The film revolves around Amitabha Roy (Soumitra Chatterjee), a screenwriter whose car breaks down in a small town, he takes shelter with a local resident, Bimal Gupta (Haradhan Bannerjee), who is married to Karuna (Madhabi Mukherjee), who had been a past girlfriend of Amitabha, a fact that Bimal was unaware of. Kapurush has a great deal of charm, most notably in the silent acting prowess portrayed by Soumitra and Madhabi. Through their subtle eye movements and meagre body gestures were wonderful.
Madhabi Mukherjee remained a big star in the Bengali commercial film industry even after Kapurush, but eventually she failed to reach such critical heights as her films with Ghatak and Ray again. Her major films include Calcutta'71 (1972), Biraj Bou (1972), Streer Patra (1972), Ganadevata (1978), Bancharamer Bagan (1980), Chokh (1982), Chhandaneer (1989) and Rituporno Ghosh's Utsab (2000). Madhabi Mukherjee is married to Bengali actor Nirmal Kumar and has two daughters. She is a good writer and has also written her autobiography 'Ami Madhabi' in 1995.
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