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Ruma Guha Thakurta, noted Bengali Actor and Playback singer, as well as one of the Founders of the Calcutta Youth Choir, passed away recently. Here’s remembering her life and achievements.
I was in class six when a group of us sang this song from the Calcutta Youth Choir which was founded by the late Ruma Guha Thakurta, veteran Actor and Singer. We sang it on Independence Day, and it was a perfect choice for the occasion.
“Sagor nodi koto dekhechi desh
Aar pahare shonali koto surjoday
Ami dekhechi dweep koto antarip
Ar nishuti ratre bone chondrodoi.
Tobuo bhore na mon
Ar bhore na mon
Ki kore bojhabo ja dekhe nayan
Shob shera desh
Aane hridoye resh
Aaha jonmobhumi ei amar desh.”
Born on 21 November 1934, Ruma Guha Thakurta’s mother Sati Devi was herself a proficient singer. She tied the knot with Kishore Kumar, the noted Actor and playback singer, in 1951, and they had a son together, Amit Kumar. However the marriage did not last and the couple divorced in 1958.
She later married Arup Guha Thakurta, with whom she has two children, a daughter Sromona Guha Thakurta, also a singer and a son Ayan Guha Thakurta.
Ruma Guha Thakurta’s immense contribution to the field of music lies in the fact that she laid the foundation stone of the Calcutta Youth Choir in 1958, a song and dance troupe along with Salil Chowdhury and Satyajit Ray. It was in July 1974 when the folk song and dance performance of the Calcutta Youth Choir led by Thakurta won the first prize in the Copenhagen Youth Festival.
There are other moments too. How can we forget the welcome song for Nelson Mandela which the choir performed under her leadership in 1990? The troupe also participated in the 25th Independence Day celebrations in New Delhi. The choir has been consistently performing in many such events since the last fifty five years. Thakurta’s major heart attack in year 2004 did not deter her from performing with her choir, such was her indomitable spirit.
Thakurta made her acting debut in 1944 in Amiya Chakravarty’s film Jwar Bhata. Since then she acted in over sixty films with renowned directors like Satyajit Ray, Tapan Sinha, Asit Sen, Arup Guha Thakurta and Aparna Sen among others. She acted in the films Personal Assistant, Nirjan Saikate, 36 Chowringhree Lane, Dadar Kirti, Wheel Chair, Agun and many more. She was last seen in the movie The Namesake directed by Mira Nair.
She also had an august career as a playback singer in movies like Lukochuri, Polatok, Tin Konya, Baksho Badal, Antony Firingee and Amrito Kumber Shandhane. This is listing only some of her work and a short essay will not be sufficient to mention all her contributions.
However during the past few years her health had taken a downward troll. She was suffering from old age related ailments and passed away at her Ballgunge residence in Kolkata on 3 June 2019 peacefully in her sleep at age 84.
Within hours of the sad news, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee mourned her death on Twitter: “Saddened at the passing away of Ruma Guha Thakurta. Her contribution to the field of cinema and music will always be remembered. My condolences to her family and her admirers.”
Ruma Guha Thakurta’s passing is the saddening loss of a stalwart from the Bengali film industry as well as the cultural life of Kolkata.
Top image is a still from the movie Antony Firingee
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