She can cook. She can tend the garden. She can manage the big impala a French fan of hers often brings to her house.

These are a few of her skills. But Suchitra Sen not long ago discovered another talent she had not been aware of. She was humming a tune while relaxing in between shots.

The son was from a sequence to be filmed shortly. Mr. Kamal Ghosh who was planning to make “Rajnigandha” with Suchitra Sen in the female lead happened to be present.

But Suchitra did not realize that Kamal Ghosh was around, if she can hum a tune so well without accompaniment she can jolly well sing for my film!

Thought Kamal Ghosh. He directly went of Robin Chatterjee top music director of Bengal. Robin Chatterjee had composed many of Suchitra Sen’s songs which only required lip movement from her corresponding to the rendering by the playback singer.

A fastidious composer robin is always present when a song sequence is being filmed. Though aware of Suchitra’s unusual accuracy in lip movement he has never suspected that she could sing.

Robin shook his head dubiously when kamal Ghosh told him of Suchitra’s potential as a singer. She hums melodiously moves her lips accurately in song sequences but she has never proved that she can sing, he said.

“How can she? She herself is not aware that she can sing!” “Hidden talent. Eh?” robin was skeptical. But he agreed to try her. How kamal gosh persuaded Suchitra sen to sing is a story which may be told later, what matters is that she recorded her voice and the record was a disc event!

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Kamal gosh decided to convene a press conference. During the session, robin Chatterjee said: “Suchitra Sen is thrilled with the discovery of her singing voice.” The disc had not yet been released then and the press knew nothing of the recording.

“Has she sung in any film?” asked one newsman hopefully. “No, she hasn’t. Because it was known only recently that she could sing. But she has recorded a song and it has proved successful. When I heard the disc I was so surprised.

”Press people are generally tough. But some of them looked surprised too. “Let’s have the story,” someone pleaded inevitably. And let’s have without any exaggeration.” “I will leave that to you!” laughed Robin Chatterjee.

The story followed. When Kamal Ghosh after his conference with robin Chatterjee requested Suchitra Sen to sing, she cried out: Impossible!” Try”, kamal insisted. He has the patience of a shrewd businessman. “It’s no use”….suchitra faltered. Kamal hit upon an idea.

“Oh, you didn’t?” Suchitra sat up with a jerk, “Who will try my voice?” “Whom do you want? Robin Chatterjee?” “Yes, he will do. He knows about me better than you or I.”Suchitra Sen went to work with her voice six hours a day four days of the week.

In the end, she sang so well that even robin himself marveled. The news spread like wildfire and no sooner did the record come into the market that it was out of stock! The success did not deceive Suchitra however. She refused to sing for any film.

“My singing was only a response to a challenge. But no more of it,” she said. Suchitra has found that if she merely concentrates hidden talents come to the surface. That is how she agreed to play the role of an old mother in “Uttar Phalgooni” and its Hindi version “Mamta”.

She is a determined girl. When she first approached a director for a role he was not very enthusiastic. But she said firmly “I will make good if given a chance.” “Now look here my girl doesn’t make me laugh!” That did it.

After a few pictures, Suchitra was s sensation. She gradually discovered other talents she never knew she possessed or else had ignored for long. Cooking for instance.

This is how she replied to a question put by a veteran columnist: “if I were stranded somewhere I would certainly turn out the finest dishes. But why should I now, when I have a wonderful cook?”Her dancing talent also came to light unexpectedly.

Attempting it for the first time in Mamta was quite a challenge even to so determined a girl as Suchitra because she was then feeling the first effects of the illness which later on gave her a lot of trouble.

She was sent to hospital and her shooting schedules were suspended. After Mamta, no one could believe that hadn’t known dancing before her numbers were so good.

Suchitra has an album of photographs which contains a store of memories sweet and bitter. Some of the photographs are old and she is hardly recognizable some are new and clean. “new and old” she muses.

“They sometimes make one very thoughtful. What is old is loss what is new is a gain. But is it always like that? I wonder.” – Filmfare 1966

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