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Remembering Chunibala Devi



Remembering Chunibala Devi

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It is her portrayal of Indir Thakrun that makes Ray’s Pather Panchali unforgettable

By Khalid Mohamed

 As many as 62 years ago, Satyajit Ray’s PatherPanchali (SongoftheRoad) had competed for the Palme D’Or at the Cannes film festival where it won the Best Human Document Award.

At India’s 3rd National Film Awards in 1955, it was named Best Feature Film and Best Bengali Feature Film.

Still a bestseller on DVD, it is saluted to this day and age by the global critics and connoisseurs of cinema as the best – if not the most well-known film–  to have emerged from India.

The  classic is enshrined in the memory, especially for a singular performance which touched the viewer emotionally rather than revealing any excess which would could have lapsed into rank sentimentality.

The performance was extracted from Chunibala Devi, who at the age of 80, incarnated the curmudgeonly and yet heartbreakingly lovable Indir Thakrun for Ray’s first feature film, adapted from a novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandhophadyaya. Lore has it that circa, Ray couldn’t finalise an actress for the role after meeting several octogenarians who were either too senile or given to cosmetics and artificial mannerisms.

Accompanied by his production manager, the filmmaker knocked on the doors of a brothel in north Calcutta,where they were welcomed by its madame, who asked business-like, “Would you like to see the girls?” Not quite. Ray asked the madame if she would act in his film.

Although he had no credentials and could promise her a meagre fee of Rs 20 a workday, Chunibala Devi was thrilled. From the world’s oldest profession, she would be returning to the one she had excelled in during the best years of her life.

Remembering Chunibala Devi

A popular stage actress, Chunibala Devi had also acted in a clutch of films of which the two most successful ones – Bigraha (1930) and Rikta (1939). Her astoundingly naturalistic performance of the old crone  in PatherPanchalifetched her top honours at the Manila international film festival. Perhaps, if she had been awarded by the jury at the Cannes, Berlin or Venice festivals,  it would have been celebrated at home more robustly. In any case, that wouldn’t have mattered. She passed away after a bout of influenza, before PatherPanchali was released in her homeland.

According to Andrew Robinson’s seminal book SatyajitRay:TheInnerEye (1989),  the old lady had the qualities of what makes a fine actress: discursive but not obstinate, eventually surrendering to the director’s vision. She begged to differ vehemently on the picturisation of her death scene which was set at a village shrine, in the book.

Ray had altered the location to a neutral spot, focusing on the silence and the inevitability of her death. Indir Thakrun is shown squatting, and on being prodded, her head hits the ground. It wasn’t the possibility of getting injured but the departure from the original text which bothered her. Surrendering to Ray, she followed his instructions, elating the auteur as well as the crew once the scene was performed to perfection at first take.

The next scene, showing her body being carried on a bamboo bier for the funeral rites, down a desolate village path, is unforgettable for its elegiac impact. It was to be picturised at 5 a.m. at Boral, a village at a manageable drive away from Calcutta. Chunibala arrived in a taxi at the dot of time, allowed her frail body to be tied up with ropes, and the shot was on after a rehearsal.

Once the shot was over, she didn’t stir. The unit was alarmed, “Could she be really dead?” On being prodded she smiled toothlessly, and huffed, “Is the shot over? Why didn’t anyone tell me? I’m still here lying dead.”

One can only presume that after that death scene, the actress returned to her home in the red-light neighbourhood. What drove her there after acting on stage and screen, however, is a hard-luck story which affirms that female artistes have always been relatively poorly paid and aren’t insured, to this day and age, against penury.

Remembering Chunibala Devi

 So many celebrated actresses from the 1940s and ‘50s have faded out into sunset boulevards in the bright bustling Bollywood, too, their neglect buried with them. In fact, old-timers recount how a B-grade comedienne and a heroine of the ‘60s, was compelled to survive by operating ‘houses of ill-fame’. Ill fame! How chauvinistic does that sound? No one wants to leave the fame game unless she has no option. No one leaves unless given the marching orders.

 Quite gloriously, Chunibala Devi seized the option to return, and firmly proved that age cannot prevent the recreation of magic in front of the eye of the camera. That required stamina. Again lore has it that she would keep herself together by taking her daily pinch of opium. The one day she didn’t, she was distraught, she couldn’t speak.

Indeed, when she’s squatting, bends over and dies in PatherPanchali, that was her last big hurrah. TheSongoftheRoad, couldn’t ever have been sung without her.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

India News

Women’s rights activist Mary Roy, mother of Arundhati Roy, passes away at 89

She was the founder and director of Pallikoodam School, which was formerly known as Corpus Christi High School.



Women's rights activist Mary Roy

Academician and women’s rights activist Mary Roy passed away in Kerala’s Kottayam on Thursday. The activist was the mother of the renowned Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy. She is survived by her two children, daughter Arundhati Roy and son Lalit Roy.

She was the founder and director of Pallikoodam School, which was formerly known as Corpus Christi High School, located in Kalathilpady, a suburb of Kottayam town in Kerala.

She is known for winning a Supreme Court lawsuit in 1986 against the gender-biased inheritance law, famously dubbed the ‘Mary Roy Case,” which was prevalent within the Syrian Christian community in Kerala. The judgement ensured equal rights for Syrian Christian women as with their male siblings in their ancestral property.

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Personal Life

Mary Roy was born in 1933 to an entomologist P.V. Isaac. She did her schooling at Jesus and Mary Convent in Delhi and graduated from Queen’s Mary College in Chennai. Her grandfather John Kuriyan established the first school in the Kottayam district – Rao Bahadur John Kuriyan School.

While working as a secretary for a company in Calcutta, she met her husband Rajib Roy. After experiencing marital problems, she returned to her father’s home in Ooty with her two kids. She eventually engaged in court conflict with her elder brother George Isaac over the ownership of this property.

What was the court case about?

Travancore Succession Act of 1916 says that the women of Mary Roy’s Syrian Christian community could not inherit property. In 1960, she filed a case against her elder brother after her father’s demise to gain equal access to the inheritance left to them. The case was considered a landmark case for the reason it fought for equal property rights for Syrian Christian women. After eight years of a long struggle, she finally received the property.

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RD Burman Birth Anniversary: 5 Evergreen hits of Pancham Da

Today is the 83rd birth anniversary of RD Burman, who composed a number of memorable songs in the Bollywood music industry. Today, on this special occasion, we have brought you a playlist of his selected songs.



RD Burman Birth Anniversary

Today is the 83rd birth anniversary of the musical maestro, RD Burman, who composed a number of memorable songs in the Bollywood music industry. RD Burman was the man who changed the definition of music by bringing western and retro beats to music.

RD Burman has gifted a number of timeless music to Bollywood, which hardly anyone has been able to match today. RD Burman’s full name was Rahul Dev Burman. His father was a singer and composer while his mother was a lyricist. People also affectionately called him Pancham Da.

Pancham da gave music to about 300 films in his career. He made different tunes in his style of music. His music originated not only from musical instruments but also from everyday items such as cups, plates, and empty bottles. Burman gave many hit songs to Hindi cinema, like Mehbooba-Mehbooba, Bach Ke Rehna Re Baba, Jab Hum Jawaan Hoenge, etc.

The list of these songs is so long that it is difficult to count. That is why today, on this special occasion, we have brought you a playlist of five compositions by this music maestro.

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Pyaar Hum Kis Mod Pe Le Aaya from the movie Satte Pe Satta is sung by Sapan Chakraborty and Kishore Kumar. This 1982 film stars Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, Amjad Khan, Shakti Kapoor and Sarika in the lead roles.

The song Rimjhim Gire Sawan from the 1979 film Manzil is picturized on Amitabh Bachchan and Moushmi Chatterjee. This song is sung by Kishore Kumar.


The song O Mere Dil Ke Chain from the 1972 film Mere Jeevan Saathi is still well-liked. This song was sung by Kishore Kumar.

The song Tum Kya Jaano Mohabbat Kya Hai from the 1971 film Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin was sung by RD Burman and he also composed its music. The new generation also listens to this song a lot.

Sunil Dutt, Saira Banu and Mehmood starrer film Padosan was released in 1968. The song Ek Chatur Naar from this movie was well-liked. This song is sung by Kishore Kumar.

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KK and wife Jyothi Krishna’s love story: Here’s how childhood buddies turned into soulmates

KK’s childhood love name is Jyothy Krishna. During a show, the singer told that ‘my wife has always been a one-man women’. He had dated only Jyothy in his life.



KK and wife Jyothi Krishna’s love story: Here’s how childhood buddies turned into soulmates

KK is no more with us, but he will be always in our hearts. Everyone is shocked by the demise of Bollywood’s famous singer KK. There is a wave of mourning in the music industry, and the fans of the singer are also downhearted. They are still in shock, after the ongoing live concert in Kolkata, and his health which suddenly deteriorated.

The singer died before reaching the hospital. From ‘Chhod Aaye Hum Woh Galliyan’ to ‘Tadap Tadap Ke’ the singing voice of the singer who has created magic in Bollywood, will never be heard again. KK was a big name in the music industry.

In his career KK sang many beautiful songs. Very few people would know about KK’s love and married life, because he never brought it to the media limelight. Today we are going to tell you about Singer’s love and married life.

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KK wife

Krishnakumar Kunnath married his childhood love. He has never brought his personal life in front of cameras. He was the person who always kept his personal and professional life separate. Perhaps very few people would know that KK married the girl he loved in class 6.

KK’s childhood love name is Jyothy Krishna. After getting married, they had 2 children. One is girl and other is boy. During a show, the singer told that ‘my wife has always been a one-man woman.’ He dated only Jyothy in his life.

Singer himself had confessed that he was very shy and could not even date Jyothy properly. Before marriage, the singer was looking for a job, for himself. Due to lack of good job, he took the job of sales. After getting the job, KK and Jyothy got married in the year 1991.

In Kapil Sharma’s show, KK had told that ‘I have dated only one girl in my life.’ There were many difficulties going forward in my career, but I had decided long ago that I have to marry Jyothy only. My first meeting with Jyothy was in class 6th. We are together since then.

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