Tarun Bose is one of the treasures of Hindi cinema history. He is one of those consummate actors who could and did “disappear” into his roles, making it difficult if not impossible sometimes for a fan to identify him as “Tarun Bose.” He was taken from us and from his loved ones by a heart attack—far too soon and far too young—in 1974, but was a key player in many memorable films before that. The above screen shot is of his first appearance onscreen, about three minutes into his 1957 debut film Apradhi Kaun.
Many of you know that his daughter Shilpi has been sharing anecdotes about him for some time here. I asked her if she would be willing to write a guest post about him, and she has generously offered to share much more about his life and work and her memories of him than will fit in one post. I am thrilled! I know that regular readers of this blog will appreciate this rare glimpse into a wonderful actor and even more wonderful man. When she gets her scanner up and running again she may share photographs too, so let’s encourage her to keep going. Thanks so much, Shilpi—and over to you!
When Memsaab asked me to do a post on my father, I thought why not take advantage and tell the entire story. My father was born in Calcutta and brought up in Nagpur. Nagpur was then the capital of central India. Since Hindi and Urdu was spoken in Nagpur dad learned to speak both languages quite fluently without a trace of Bengali accent. English was taken care of by the British Raj and the missionary school he attended. He was therefore able to do plays in English, Hindi and Urdu without any difficulty. However he initially had a problem with his mother tongue Bengali—a language he only spoke at home. When he did his first Bengali play he faced a great deal of criticism. The reviews reflected disdain for his Bengali; the reviewers said, “Why do non-Bengalis attempt Bengali plays?” Deeply insulted, he worked on his Bengali and went on to do several Bengali plays. His desire to do a Bengali film however remained unfulfilled.
My father was one of the fortunate few who had found his calling right from his childhood. Most of us spend a major part of our lives wondering what to do; he knew he wanted to be an actor and he also had the talent. Thanks to a good voice my father had no difficulty in getting a break in AIR (All India Radio). He was only fifteen years old when AIR started operations in Nagpur; my father auditioned and was selected. So right from his teens his life revolved round the stage and radio station.
Despite his deep desire to be a film actor, he was not rash; the moment he got married he decided to take up a stable job at the Post and Telegraph Department. With a fixed salary to take care of his family life he was able to pursue his first love acting—through stage and radio plays—in peace.
I will not repeat the story of how Mr. Bimal Roy gave my father a break. [You can read it here.] Mindful of the fact that he had aged parents and a wife and child to look after he requested Mr. Roy to pay him a salary. To the best of my knowledge he was the only actor to draw a salary at that time. Although in those days the technical crew like cinematographers, editors, art directors and so on did receive a salary from the production house in which they were employed, actors had begun to freelance and were no longer tied to one production house as was the norm during the days of New Theatres, Bombay Talkies, Prabhat etc. It was a win-win situation for dad, for Mr Roy was such a gentle and kind-hearted person that after a year’s contract he allowed my father to accept work from other production houses.
Before he packed his bags and came to Bombay the producers at the Nagpur radio station requested my father to record different kinds of laughter which they planned to use whenever required. It was this ability of his—to laugh convincingly—which made a major impact in the suspense thriller ‘Kohraa’—based on Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’—and also led to a funny situation. More of that in my next post.