Utpal Dutt’s ability to mould himself into distinct avatars with profound diversity made him indispensable to filmmakers. One of India’s tallest theatre personalities, he was a conscious and revolutionary playwright and theatre director. From villainous to comical to intense, he played all the characters with effortless finesse.
Utpal Dutt was part of some iconic creations by legendary makers and turned his characters into timeless icons. He once famously said that he developed a technique of shutting his mind off. If asked he would not be able to tell the names of the films he had done. On his birth anniversary, we look at some of his defining roles in cinema:
Gol Maal (1979): Undoubtedly Utpal Dutt’s most loved character in mainstream Hindi cinema. Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s directorial had the actor play an eccentric Bhavani Shankar, known for his bristling anger and trademark moustache. Odd, funny, and unforgettable Bhavani Shankar has become a part of our collective consciousness over the years. He won the Filmfare award for Best Comedian.
Naram Garam (1981): Utpal’s rapport with Hrishikesh Mukherjee was evident in the role where he depicted an ageing landlord. He stole the show with his comic timing and won a Filmfare award for Best Comedian.
Shaukeen (1982): A Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara for seniors, the Basu Chaterjee directorial had Utpal take on the role of a harsh middle-aged conservative man dragged into an adventure by his friends. Very unlike his iconic filmography, Utpal Dutt would occasionally choose roles that veered off his strict patriarch typecast.
Kissa Kursi Ka (1978): Utpal Duut, as we know, often played a bumbling fool in films. In Amrit Nahata’s burning satire on the Emergency, he played a manipulative politician who wants to keep his constituents under his thumb. He played the villain with glee. Sadly, not many people witnessed this performance as during the Emergency, the ruling party secretly destroyed multiple prints of the film
Joi Baba Felunath (1979): In this Feluda film, the thespian made his mark shining as the shrewd villain. Maganlal Meghraj was a corrupt and powerful businessman who was made immortal by Utpal Dutt’s dexterity. He infused deviousness and manipulation, speaking in broken Bengali. Not overtly violent or threatening, Maganlal was sly and preferred to harm in silence.