Remembering Utpal Dutt, a powerful actor, director, playwright, and political activist, on his 90th birth anniversary today.

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Remembering Utpal Dutt, a powerful actor, director, playwright, and political activist, on his 90th birth anniversary today.

Utpal Dutt was one of the greatest actors both on stage and in Hindi cinema. He is best remembered for his title roles in Mrinal Sen’s Bhuvan Shome and Satyajit Ray’s Agantuk. Hindi speaking audiences remember him more for his comic or villainous roles in films of the 1970s and 1980s. Utpal Dutt’s famous Hindi films include Guddi, Gol Maal, Naram Garam, Pasand Apni Apni, Rang Birangi, Shaukeen, Kissi Se Na Kehna and Baat Ban Jaye.

For over four decades Utpal Dutt entertained Indian audiences with compelling stage performances and productions centered around historical and contemporary political trends and events. In between, he joined the Naxalbari or underground Maoist guerrilla movement in Bengal, eastern India, to try and engineer a political revolution through violence and acted brilliantly in scores of commercial art films.

Utpal Dutt, who was committed to the leftist theatre movement, wrote and directed plays by Ibsen, Shaw, Brecht, and Shakespeare. He played King Lear, Richard III, and Othello. He could recite Tagore, Gorky, and Shakespeare by memory. He won the National award, the Sangeet Natak Akademi award, and the Sangeet Natak Fellowship award for his lifetime contribution to theatre. His stint in Hindi cinema brought him three Filmfare awards for Best Comedian. It raises a question of whether Hindi cinema could really understand a man whose philosophy, political understanding and art went further than comedy.

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