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A Closer Look at Bengali Superstar Uttam Kumar

Satyajit Ray’s The Hero revolves around a movie star: Arindam Mukherjee (Uttam Kumar), a popular performer who comes to reflect on the wounded man beneath the seemingly invulnerable persona, as he bonds with a discerning journalist (Sharmila Tagore) over the course of a long train ride from Kolkata to Delhi. With his casting of Kumar—who was at the time the biggest leading man of the Bengali screen, a charismatic figure not otherwise known for contemplative roles—Ray brought an element of glamour to his humanist brand of art-house cinema, resulting in an intriguing examination of the nature of celebrity and the costs of toiling in the dream factory. In the above excerpt from a supplement on our brand-new release of The Hero, film scholar Meheli Sen discusses the particular qualities that made Kumar a star, as well as Ray’s atypical presentation of the actor, including highly revealing close-ups of the matinee idol wearing only a minimum of makeup.

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