“I’ll go to the top, the top, the top”
No other dialogue by any character in any other movie has quite symbolised the life of the actor like Uttam Kumar’s character in Nayak. He went to the top and reached such a height that he became untouchable. On top of the mountain he sat with his contemporaries far below him in terms of marketability and the undeniable star power.
Uttam Kumar is not just a mere person; he is an icon who has transcended generations and inspired a bevy of actors to try and take his throne but so far everyone has fallen short. If you talk about Bengali cinema, the two most prominent images that would come to your mind will be Uttam Kumar and Satyajit Ray. There haven’t been icons like them since and there will not be anyone to take their place in future. There will be no second coming.
With an ability to make any character his own like an artful chameleon, Uttam Kumar the superstar would merge seamlessly into the character and make you care for him. You would be so engrossed with the journey of the character, you would forget the superstar behind the mask of the actor.
Give him any role to play, he would play it with an authenticity that can never be replicated, not by anyone, perhaps not even by him. His ability to delve into roles ensured that he would never be typecast. He could really do it all. You need a serious actor, he would transform into Arindam Mukherjee of Nayak. You need an actor with comic chops, he will give you Mouchak. No one could carry a dhoti and kurta quite like him and till this day no one has been able to shoulder the burden of the Bengali film industry the way he had.
A once in a lifetime actor, a hardworking individual with the ability to convey emotion through one piercing stare, there will never be someone like him. There is and will only be one Mahanayak, often imitated but never ever replicated.
On Uttam Kumar’s 36th death anniversary, Team Perspective pays a rich tribute to the only Mahanayak Bengal ever produced.
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