Veteran film critic Swapan Mullick`s "Mahanayak Revisited: The World of Uttar Kumar" goes behind the professional life and public face of Bengal`s most idolised actor to reveal little-known details of the star`s unconscious power in the film industry for more than 30 years.
"There is the hint of a new awareness that explains the fresh wave of enthusiasm to greet the discovery of the motorcycle that Uttam and Suchitra were supposed to have ridden for the song `Ei path jadi na sesh hoi`," says the author.
He mentions an interesting footnote by Kumar`s grandson Gaurav who claims that his grandfather and his illustrious co-star never actually sat on the bike for the song sung by Hemanta Mukherjee and Sandhya Mukherjee.
"Director Ajoy Kar, who had a special flair for camera techniques, had picturised the song on the pair in manipulated close-ups, and featured the vehicle, on the long and winding road in the village, in long shots with a series of dummies sitting on it in turn," the book, published by Westland, says.
According to Mullick, the BMW bike used in the film in 1961 was found in a garage in south Kolkata. It was used till 2008 and was intended to be preserved as a museum piece. The motorcycle had no grand associations, according to the writer.
"It was merely a prop, like the thousands of others that production managers are expected to organise.
"The surprise in this case was that the vehicle changed hands from a German tourist to someone in Kolkata whose only interest could have been the famous connection of the vehicle, and is today valued in lakhs rather than the standard price of old bikes that is, if the present owner is at all inclined to part with it."
The book attempts to examine the stunning heights scaled by the superstar that were, to an extent, clouded by pitfalls and practical realities.
Kumar established his credentials as the perfect, self-taught professional who could transform himself into characters ranging from the simple servant in ‘Khokababur Pratyabartan’ to the hard-drinking, womanising zamindar in ‘Stree’, but in all cases keeping his stardom intact.
His films were wide-ranging, his personality was a curious mixture of personal weaknesses and natural brilliance, and he projected a cultural identity that extended well beyond the films he acted in.
The milieu that he was born into, and lived within, was magically revived by a continuing hysteria that no hero had known in Bengal since the arrival of the talkies.