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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Remembering Mahua Roy Choudhury - Queen of Bengali Films in 70s and 80s

Mahua Roy Choudhury was a rare class of Bengali film actress with beautiful face, a trained dancer - which was rare in her time and good actress. The actress struggled a lot, earned money and fame at an early age but left the world with lot of dissatisfaction, unfulfilled of desires. Mahua did a lot for her colleagues, technicians but in return received nothing. She was cheated by many. The top actress of Bengali films of early part of 80's don't had the idea how to keep the wolves at bay.

The sweet faced girl struggled since her childhood. Born in a lower middle class family, she failed to complete her school education due to financial problems, studied upto standard VIII. Her father was a dancer and she had the passion of dancing. Shipra Roychoudhury started performing on stage as dancer when she was almost a kid. Her stage name was Sonali Roy. Shipra's father had a plan to make her daughter an actress. Shripa's father was a dancer. Shipra's debut film was the famous 1971 chart-buster called Shriman Prithwiraj, a film of Tarun Mazumdar. Tarun Babu changed Shipra;s  screen name to Mahua. Mahua Roy Choudhury was born. The girl reached her peak of career, got fame, money, status, everything. Mahua managed to pull out Bengali cinema from an extended stupor. Mahua had the power to make a film box office hit. But Mahua was not allowed to stay alive. A girl from lower class background is dominating the industry invoked jealousy among her colleagues and her nearest and dearest ones also exploited her for their living hood - left the simple girl alone in the battle field. The wolves exploited her from every angle. The simple girl failed to get true friends in the industry and society. Althgough Sandhya Roy, Sabitri Chottopadhyay were her mentors and Madhabi Mukhopadhyay was her 'Madhu Maa'. Ratna Ghoshal was her close friend.

Mahua Roy Choudhury, 32, the reigning queen of the Bengali screen in 80's died 22 July 1985 in a Calcutta hospital after battling for 10 days against third-degree burns.

Mahua Roy Choudhury was the busiest actress at that time. Mahua has 15 films on her kitty when she died. Bengali film industry was passing through a bad patch at that time and Mahua was the was at the leading position to drag the industry out of the miserable stage. Mahua Roy Choudhury's next door girl image was the trump card of Tollywood film industry at that time. In family drama films, Mahua was the queen of Bengali films although her acting potentiallity was proved in Tapan Sinha's film 'Aadmi Aur Aurat'. As an actor Mahua was unbeatable at her time. Madhabi Mukhopadhyay used to say that Mahua was a perfect blend of Sabitri Chottopadhyay and Suchitra Sen.

How Was Person Mahua Roy Choudhury

This is a big question, how was Mahua as a person? Many actors of her time, specially few of her co-actors still today simply bypass the question. 2-3 years back (2016-2017), one of her heroes in films denied to speak about Mahua when he was asked to say something on the actress. Answer of the actor was very rediculous, he said that he has no spare time to discuss on the topic after so many years.

Mahua Roy Choudhury was a simple person with no school or college degree. Mahua had a to struggle a lot and when she was almost a kid, she had to earn for her family. Mahua got the platform in film industry on her own ability and hard work. Sandhya Roy and Sabitri Chottopadhyay helped her a lot in acquiring the skills of acting. Mahua had a boyfriend Tilak and married him even though Tilak was not settled at that time. This was her first mistake. Tilak wanted to make his filmy career with the help of Mahua. Mahua Roychoudhury was very emotional and simple. Many people from the industry took financial help from her and all the cases were not genuine. Mahua was cheated by many but her nature was to beleive people.

Mahua Roy Choudhury became the star of Bengali films after the blockbuster hit film 'Dadar Kirti' and after that her career graph was in upward swing. Money, fame, glamour all were showered on her and may be all these had an adverse impact on her life. The girl who had witnessed only proverty since her childhood failed to cope up with the new situation. Mahua Roy Choudhury had no guide in her personal life. It may sound harsh but her husband and father were simply climbers who wanted to survive with her hard earned money. It is said that Mahua was controlled by her husband and father. Mahua was the money making machine in that house. Money and fame came in Mahua's life along with alcoholism and depression. Mahua was very mush unhappy in her personal life. Lack of education was the main culprit as she don't had the knowledge how to come out of the situaation. Many actors of her time exploited the situation. Mahua's mental stability was out of gear at that time. She used to be become angry suddenly. Late night party, gambling, etc became an integral part of her life. It is said that a broken relationship with a Bangladeshi producer worsened the situation. Exploitation was the main cause of her depression. It is said that before death, Mahua attempted to commit suicide.

Mahua has no true friend in the industry excepting Ratna Ghoshal. ahua was labelled as an actress with simplicity and no strong family background. The day before the accident (!), Mahua and one of her filmy hero of that time went for a dinner at a Kolkata hotel. It is sad that Mahua's youth was enjoyed by her so called educated, high family actors - her filmy heros of that time. Filmmaker Anjan Choudhury was her neighbour but most probably not a single statement came from him after Mahua's accident or death. On the fateful night, just before the fire on her body, Mahua came from Anjan's house attending a party. Mahua was in hospital for 10 days but not a single actors of her age group, excepting Ratna Ghoshal was present there. Mahua has acted opposite Ranjit Mallick, Dipankar De in many films. Mahua was paired opposite Amal Palekar in only one film - Aadmi Aur Aurat. Few years back the Marathi actor remembered how he made friendship with Mahua. Amal Palekar said that Mahua used to sit silently at a corner after end of shoot. Amal came forward and talked with Mahua to break the ice. Ruma Guha Thakurata prayed for Mahua at Kalighat Kali Temple. Actor Shubhendu Chottopadhyay, who himself was a doctor also visited Mahua at hospital. Why so silence from from her co-stars? Any fear? Still today?

The fire was not due to oil-stove burst and that was proved. Police investigated and found the stove intact. Then why Mahua Roychoudhury said the investigation team that it was an accident and the oil-stove brust caused the fire? It may be due to the middle class mentality to save husband and family or tried to escape series of questions that would made their family life a public.  Madhabi Mukhopadhyay strongly opposed the accident or suicide, suspected something different. Madhabi Mukhopadhyay tried to continue the investigation on her death to reveal the truth but finally everything were stopped due to unknown reasons.

Mahua and Her Mood Swing

Debashree Roy is a popular actress of Bengali films and she made her debut in film Dadar Kirti (1980) in which Mahua was the main female lead. Debashree played the role of Nahua's sister in the film. Debashree recollects her memory “Mahua-di was extremely moody. Sometimes she would be extremely jovial and cordial and other times she would not even speak. I was quite junior to her and hence she would often tell me what to do and what not to.”

Debashree Roy worked with Mahua Roy Choushury in Subarna Golak (1981) and got to know her quite well. “I somehow felt she was never quite happy," Debashree said. "She had eloped and got married but then did not find peace. Perhaps that is why she used to have such mood swings.”
Debashree Roy recalled the last day she met Mahua. “She seemed like a totally different person," she said. "She used to participate in One Wall, which is now called Jatra, like many other artistes of the time. I was shooting for Bhalobasha Bhalobasha (1985) and she was doing One Wall, when we met on the set. Surprisingly, she came into my makeup room on her own and asked how I was doing. I offered her a seat.”

Mahua Roy Chowdhury then said Debashree that she was quite upset. Debashree asked why and she replied that she was to appear for a Jatra event and her entire makeup kit had been stolen and she had expensive stuff there. “Then she congratulated me for appearing in a lead role in Bhalobasha Bhalobasha and suddenly hugged me tight,” Debashree said.

“She was so affectionate that day that it was surprising for me because most of the times she was quite strict with me," Debashree Roy continued, getting quite emotional. "However, that day she was so soft with me. And after a few days, we got the shocking news!”

What Actually Happened

Stove burst issue is totally fake as the stove had been found intact by the police on investigation. After fire, Mahua was taken to the emergency ward of Calcutta Medical Research Institute, a private hospital near Mahua's home at Behala. Doctors found smell of kerosene when she was brought there.

Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the West Bengal Police closed the case on 18 July after Mahua herself gave a statement that the fire had been accidentally caused. Mahua did not mention any explosion. Then what was the reason of fire and why there was smell of kerosene? After death of Mahua Roychoudhury, the case was re-opened as local media and some members of the film industry who knew the actress closely raised their voices.

The investigation team interrogate Mahua's father husband and got some interesting information. Mahua's several joint bank accounts with her husband and father was closed at her bidding only four days before the incident.

Ratna Ghoshal believes that it was an accident but the question is why Mahua from her hospital bed requested Ratna to adapt her then seven-year-old son, Tamal if something wrong happened to her. Why Mahua did not considered her husband to take care of their son? Many Tollywood actors of her time don't believe the accident theory. Actress Madhabi Mukhopadhyay, 'Madhu Maa' of Mahua wanted to continue the investigation on Mahua's death but didn't got support.

After investigations, police came out with few findings. They claimed to have cracked some witnesses who have admitted that Mahua and Tilak had drunk a lot on that that evening, and that the fire incident was in fact preceded by a bout of drunken brawling in the presence of Mahua's father, the child and their two domestic helpers. Heavy kitchen utensils were thrown by the couple against each other. The post mortem revealed marks of haematoma under Mahua's eye and on her back, suggesting that she had been badly bruised. Mahua's husband Tilak had a badly sprained ankle which he said he had got while trying to rescue his wife.

It is said that Mahua's husband set fire on Mahua although not proved.

The forensic report, strangely, never came out.

Reason of Mahua's death may be known to many of her time actors but due to unknown reasons nobody is interested to reveal the truth. But one thing is true that Mahua Roy Choudhury was not allowed to live. Our system didn't allowed her to live her own life. In the male dominated film industry, she took the responsibility to pump oxygen to the sick industry. Film Industry extracted work from her, her husband and father extracted money from her. Too much load for the young girl. Bengali filmy audiences are still waiting to hear the truth from the actors of Mahua Roychoudhury era.

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