The Uttam Kumar and Aparna Sen Pair lit the silver screen with their grounded romanticism and uninhibited performances. Though senior in age to Aparna, Mahanayak adjusted well with her on screen. Uttam Kumar had the rare ability to match any actress be it Suchitra Sen, Arundhuti Devi, Supriya Chowdhury or Madhabi Mukherjee. His romanticism had a sublime charm that only Dev Anand could match.
Once asked about his pairing with Aparna Sen, Uttam Kumar stated that she was an intelligent performer, good looking with the ability to improvise. Aparna Sen always says, the evergreen legend was blessed with a unique screen personality and smile and was a versatile actor with an excellent sense of music.
They first performed together in Aparichito which also starred another stalwart Soumitra Chatterjee. The film was a super hit due to its strong content and stellar performances. There were no conventional romantic scenes between Uttam Kumar and Aparna Sen in Aparichito. Aparna Sen terms her performance in the film as not a mature one.
The first romantic interaction in the true sense of the term between the two was Alor Thikana in 1970, directed by Bijay Bose. The sensitive director pitted the two against each other in a mature and realistic format. There were no romantic duets and only in the last scene did both embrace each other. Uttam Kumar’s studied romanticism matched well with Aparna Sen’s spontaneity.
The wet romance scene of the not-so-memorable Sonar Khancha, directed by Agradut was evident during the song sequence, Brishti, Brishti, Brishti. Drenched in the monsoon rains a young Aparna Sen lip-synched the Lata Mangeshkar solo well. Uttam Kumar delivered a romantic silent look while sitting in his car. However, Aparna Sen confessed she felt uncomfortable performing such scenes. It was the credit of Uttam Kumar in addition to the directors to extract the required romanticism from Aparna Sen.
In the early ’70s, the Uttam Kumar and Aparna Sen pair became popular. Meaningful roles in Memsaheb, Ekhane Pinjar and Jay Jayanti (Bengali remake of Sounds of Music) had both delivered brilliant performances. Ekhane Pinjar was the best of this film trio where their silent emoting abilities of them were at their hilt. Though Jay Jayanti was not remembered for long, there was no dearth in the honesty and sincerity of the performers. Memsaheb with the backdrop of the turbulent 70s was a social statement with romantic and tragic shades.
The pair reached its peak with Jadubansha a directorial venture of the highly gifted Partha Pratim Chowdhury. It showcased superb histrionics by Uttam Kumar and Aparna Sen. The film also starred Sharmila Tagore and Dhritiman Chatterjee. Cinematic documentation of decaying middle-class values in Bengali society of the middle 70s, unemployment of the youth, and conflicts born from compulsion highlighted the cinematic essence of Jadubansha. All the actors are unforgettable, especially Uttam Kumar and Aparna Sen.
Kalankita Nayak was the last memorable film of the duo. Uttam Kumar was memorable as usual. Aparna Sen rubbed histrionic shoulders well with a senior and more gifted actress, Sabitiri Chatterjee in Kalankita Nayak. Rater Rajanigandha (a takeoff on Roman Holiday), Kayahiner Kahini and Nidhiram Sardar fizzle out of our memories. Author Nabendu Ghosh was upset at the way Ajay Kar (then out of form) directed Kayahiner Kahini.
On his 42nd death anniversary, Mamata Shankar remembers the Uttam-Aparna pair as a real-life romantic couple. Director Abhijit Guha of present Bengali cinema feels though not like the Uttam Suchitra or Uttam Supriya pairs, the Uttam Aparna combination was well rooted in Bengali ethos.