Indian Actress Suchitra Sen Dies at 82

Suchitra Sen - Indian actress

Hailed as the "Greta Garbo of Bengali cinema," the legendary actress starred in some of Indian cinema's classic titles, such as “Aandhi” and “Devdas.”

One of Indian cinema's legendary actresses, Suchitra Sen passed away Friday in her hometown of Kolkata. The 82-year-old actress suffered a heart attack following a prolonged illness for which she had been in the hospital since late December. With over 60 films to her credit, Sen was considered the Greta Garbo of Bengali cinema. She was also known for her iconic roles in Hindi cinema classics such as Devdas and the 1974 hit Aandhi, in which her part was apparently inspired by India's first woman prime minister, Indira Gandhi.

Born as Rama Dasgupta in Bangladesh to a schoolteacher father and homemaker mother, she was married at 16 years old to Dibanath Sen, the scion of a wealthy Kolkata-based business family. She changed her name to Suchitra when she made her 1952 screen debut in the Bengali film Shesh Kothay, which was never released. But a year later, she starred in Sharey Chuattor with leading Bengali actor Uttam Kumar. The pair went on to deliver some of Bengali cinema's biggest hits well into the 1970s.

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"Suchitra Sen ... beauty, talent, enigmatic -- she adorned film world of Bengal with exquisite performances ... graced Hindi films too," Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan posted on his Twitter account.

"My salute to departed legendary screen lady Suchitra Sen. A perfect screen face with abundance of talent. I was her fan since college days," tweeted well-known Bollywood director Subhash Ghai.

In an official statement, India's president Pranab Mukherjee said, "In the passing away of Suchitra Sen, the film industry has lost a highly talented and acclaimed actress who played memorable roles in a number of Bengali as well as Hindi films. She shall always be remembered by her countless fans for her versatile acting, which brought life into the celluloid characters she played in films."

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Among her numerous awards, Sen became the first Indian actress to be awarded at an international film festival, winning the Silver Prize for Best Actress at the 1963 Moscow Film Festival for Saat Paake Bandha. She was awarded the Indian government's honor, the Padma Shri, in 1972. In her later years she became a recluse and avoided being in the public spotlight, which reportedly led her to refuse the government's highest cinema honor, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, in 2005.

Sen is survived by her daughter Moon Moon Sen -- a former actress -- and two granddaughters Riya and Raima Sen, who are also pursuing acting careers in Bengali and Hindi cinema.