Basu Chatterjee, the renowned writer-director of the ’70s and ’80s, passed away on 4 June 2020 at his residence in Mumbai. He was 93 and wasn’t keeping well for quite some time due to old age.
Chatterjee was born in Ajmer, Rajasthan. He started his career as an illustrator and cartoonist with the weekly tabloid Blitz that published from Mumbai (then Bombay). After working for 18 years in print media, he changed his path and joined director Basu Bhattacharya as an assistant director for the film Teesri Kasam, in 1966, which later won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film. Basu Chatterjee eventually, made his directorial debut with Sara Akash in 1969, which won him the Filmfare Best Screenplay Award. He adapted (with Ranjit Kapoor) and directed the remake of the American film 12 Angry Men (1957), which was in turn an adaptation from a 1954 teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose. This courtroom drama film was named Ek Ruka Hua Faisla which has acquired a cult classic status since it came out in 1986.
Chatterjee became known for his lighthearted films which had relatable characters and comic situations mostly in a middle-class set-up, like Rajinigandha, Chhoti si Baat, Chitchor, Shaukeen, Chameli Ki Shaadi among several others. He was one of the very few Indian filmmakers whose films got box office success and critical acclaim, both. While primarily being a director, he wrote dialogue and screenplay for almost two dozen Hindi films. Some of his other known films are Sara Akash, Piya Ka Ghar, Us Paar, Khatta Meetha, Priyatama, Baton Baton Mein and Apne Paraye.
Basu Chatterjee directed many Bengali films such as Hothat Brishti, Hochcheta Ki and Hothat Shei Din, as well as the popular TV shows like Byomkesh Bakshi and Rajani, for Doordarshan. In his overall career, he received seven Filmfare Awards in categories such as best film, best direction and best screenplay from 1972 to 1991. In 1992, he won the National Film Award for Best Film on Family Welfare for the film Durga while in 2007, he received the IIFA Lifetime Achievement Award.
The film industry mourned Chatterjee’s demise as Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor, Anurag Basu, Anupam Kher, Shabana Azmi, Anurag Basu, Shoojit Sircar, Divya Dutta, Jimmy Sheirgill among others took to social media to express their pain.
Amitabh Bachchan recalled working with Chatterjee in Manzil, with a Tweet – “Prayers and condolences on the passing of Basu Chatterjee .. a quiet, soft spoken, gentle human .. his films reflected the lives of middle India. Did MANZIL with him .. a sad loss …. in these climes often remembered for ‘rim jhim gire saawan’”. Anil Kapoor posted a picture of the filmmaker with the following condolence message – “A director who was always ahead of his time… Basu Chatterjee will be truly missed. He was an effortless genius and an amazing human being. May he rest in peace.”
SWA’s Hon. General Secretary Sunil Salgia paid tribute to Chatterjee on behalf of the entire Executive Committee of SWA and all its members, with these words – “He passed away who had passed the baton to me saying, ‘this boy identifies with the subject, he can direct Rajani’. It was my first meeting with him at producer Aanand Mahendroo’s office and I was launched as the director of the famous TV serial. My tribute to the legend, the master of simple yet heart touching stories that were woven around the Indian middle class life. Basu da, your films like Khatta Meetha, Chitchor, Rajnigandha, Chhoti Si Baat, Shaukeen, Baaton Baaton Mein and Priyatama will live for ever.”
The Screenwriters Association expresses its grief at the demise of Basu Chatterjee as we pray for his soul to rest in peace.