Actor and screen icon Uttam Kumar (1926-1980) is a talismanic figure in Bengali public life. Breaking away from established codes of onscreen performance, he came to anchor an entire industry and led the efforts to re-imagine popular cinema in mid-20th-century Bengal. But there is pitifully less knowledge about Uttam Kumar in the learned circles-be it about his range of style and performance; the attractions and problems of his cinema; his roles as a producer and patriarch of the industry; or his persona, stardom and legacy.
The first definitive cultural and critical biography of this larger-than-life figure engages meaningfully with his life and cinema, revealing the man, hero and actor from various, often competing, vantages. The conceptual aim is to locate a star figure within a larger historical and cultural context, and to enquire into how a towering image was mobilised for an ever-greater, wholesome, popular and even, at times, radical and progressive entertainment. A complimentary metier of this work is to explore why and how this star persona would go on to reconstitute the bhadrolok Bengali visual and cultural world in the post-Partition period.
But above all, this is the story of a clerk who became an actor, an actor who became a star, a star who became an icon and an icon who became a legend.
Sayandeb Chowdhury teaches in the School of Letters at Ambedkar University Delhi. He has published widely in academic journals and scholarly collections on photography, cinema and the city. He has been a Fellow at the International Institute of Asian Studies, Leiden, and a Charles Wallace Fellow. He also writes on books, politics and cinema for Indian and global publications.
North Indian Music (289)
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