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She was ‘evil or scheming’ mother onscreen, yet Gita Dey was caring and loving in real life

7 December, 2019 04:25:00
She was ‘evil or scheming’ mother onscreen, yet Gita Dey was caring and loving in real life

She was the cantankerous, scheming, aggressive stereotype on screen but once out of the glare of the studio lights, she was a different person. A loving person with a caring presence, loved and revered by all her co-artistes. Yes, we are speaking of Gita Dey, the quintessentially ‘evil’ woman on screen who was never given the heights of stardom, yet was a brilliant actress. Actor Bhanu Bandopadhyay had praised her highly in his autobiography and mentions how effortlessly she could slip into the skin of her characters. She was a very good singer as well. 

Her acting career started as a child artiste. She worked in Srirangam Theatre where she was trained by none other than the thespian and pioneer of modern Bengali theatre, Sisir Bhaduri. Gita Dey worked simultaneously in films and theatre, changing gear effortlessly and flawlessly. Bandopadhyay picked up her role in Dayini as one of her career’s best. Her acting career spanned over six decades with over 200 films and 2,000 stage shows in her kitty.  

During her childhood, her father, Anadibandhu Mitra, noticed little Gita’s keen interest in music and dance. So, he put her under the tutelage of their neighbour, renowned singer, Radharani Devi. She was Gita’s first mentor who taught her the nuances of music, dance and acting on stage. Her first film break came in 1937, at the age of six when film director, Dhiren Ganguly (DG), cast her in a role in his film Aahooti.  Gita continued acting in films till the age of 14. At 15, she was married off to businessman Asim Dey. There was a short break in her career but after five years, she was back to face the floodlights again. It was during this time she came in contact with Sisir Bhaduri. She had acted in group theatre with such stalwarts like Tulsi Lahiri, Shambhu Mitra, Tulsi Chakraborty, Gnyanesh Mukherjee, Kali Sarkar, Kanu Banerjee and Dilip Roy. 

Gita Dey was a versatile actress, and acted in diverse roles in a wide variety of films. Proficient in both negative and comic characters, Dey was brilliant as the torn and scheming mother in Ritwik Ghatak’s Meghe Dhaka Tara or in his two other films, Komal Gandhar and Subarnarekha. Throughout her long career, she worked with directors like Debaki Bose in Sagar Sangame, Satyajit Ray in Teen Kanya /Samapti, Tapan Sinha in Hate Bazara, Jatugriha and Ekhonee. She was equally at ease in essaying character roles in commercial blockbuster movies like Ajoy Kar’s Saat Pake Bandha, Noukadubi, Malyadaan, Aurobindo Mukherjee’s Nishi Padma, Dui Bhai, Barnochora, Mouchak and many more. Her acting prowess was noticed and commended by the legendary Hollywood actor, Sir Laurence Olivier. 

Dey was also associated with All India Radio since 1954, and enacted character roles in radio plays. Though ailing, she refused to give up her first love, acting. She was a very loving and caring human being who was both admired and loved by the Bengali film industry. Curtains came down on a long and eventful career when she breathed her last January on 17, 2011 in Calcutta at the age of 79.

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