Bengali actor-politician Tapas Pal, who died of a cardiac arrest at 61, will be remembered as Kedar Chatterjee. That is the name of the character the actor and former Trinamool Congress lawmaker played in his first film, Dadar Kirti.
This film endeared him to every Bengali household, and eventually sent him to the Lok Sabha twice. Not even his time in jail for links with Ponzi scams is going to take that away.
Kedar Chatterjee was a simpleton, some would say a little soft in the head, who is introduced to his love interest as everything he is not, a brilliant student and athlete. And yet he wins her heart with his unwavering sincerity and earnestness.
Kedar made Tapas Pal the boy every Bengali mother wanted for a son-in-law. That’s a stereotype Tapas Pal never really escaped in his acting career. He did later in his career play the tough guy in some films.
But sample the names of films he has acted in and it will tell the story of how Tapas became Kedar. Bhalobasha Bhalobasha (Love Love), Anurager Chowa (Loving Touch) and Maya Mamata, which probably doesn’t need a translation.
When Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee named Tapas Pal as the candidate for Krishnanagar seat in 2009, the concept of fielding actors in elections was still alien, certainly in West Bengal where politicians were hard-bitten ideologues who worked for years for the masses before trying their luck at the ballot.
Everybody loved the idea that Kedar was contesting. But win? That question would be greeted with giggles, mostly. But win he did in 2009 and 2014.
After that, some blots on his copybook. The Ponzi scheme link and some sexist comments that shocked more than they would have had they come from anyone but Kedar.
But as all the condolence messages pouring in show, it is Tapas Pal of Dadar Kirti who will be remembered. Even Mamata Banerjee, in her condolence message, first describes him as a superstar and then party MP. Yet others are calling him the superhero of Bengali cinema after Uttam Kumar.