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Bobita in Satyajit Ray's Ashani Sanket, her most celebrated movie. The poster is for the French-language version of the film.

Bobita (Farida Akhter, also known as Babita) (Bangla: ববিতা) is a renowned Bangladeshi film actress. During the 1970s and 1980s, she was arguably the most popular actress in the country, and to this day, she enjoys a large popular following. She has also participated in several NGOs focusing on the welfare of women and children and founded a community seed bank.[1]

Contents

Early Days

Her family full name is Farida Akhter. She was born to an educated family that had its origins in the west-Bangladeshi district of Jessore, Bangladesh. Her family nickname was Poppy, and like her mother, she had early ambitions of becoming a doctor. Instead, she was to become the most accomplished actress among three sisters, all of whom became movie stars. She also has three brothers whom are not in the movie business.

In the mid-1960s, her elder sister Kohinoor entered the movie industry in the capital Dhaka, and adopted the screen name Shuchonda. In 1968, Shuchonda married Zahir Raihan, a talented film director,myrtyard intellectual who was later to lose his life in an ambush by West Pakistan forces[2] during the Bangladeshi war of independence. Raihan was casting around for a heroine for his movie Jaltey Suraj Ka Nichey, when his producer Afzal Chowdhury mentioned that his sister-in-law might fit the bill [1]. Poppy was photogenic and had already acted on television. Raihan agreed to cast her, and although the film was not completed in the end, she had found an entry into the industry. Her first released feature was Shesh Porjonto. She was Acting in India and Bangladesh joint production Movie "Durdesh" in 1986 (Gehri Chot in Hindi) and also in Pakistan and Bangladesh joint venture flim "Miss Lanka".

In an interview with the Independent newspaper in 2004, Bobita says that it was Afzal Chowdhury who suggested the screen name Bobita for her. In another interview with the Daily Star in 2005, she mentions that Raihan originally cast her for the movie Shongshaar [2]. A different version of the story is that she adopted the name after appearing in Ehtesham's movie Pitch Dhala Path [3]. Whatever the truth, what is beyond dispute is that 35 years later, Bobita remains one of the most beloved and enduring names in Bangladeshi popular culture.

Working with Ray

Bobita was notable not only for her beauty and charm—which were in the classical Bengali mould—but also for being a highly talented actress, and her performances in films such as Taka Anna Pai, Shorolipi, and Anarkoli were noted by the critics. Her acting gained the attention of the legendary Indian director Satyajit Ray. In 1973, Ray cast Bobita in Ashani Sanket ("Distant Thunder"), his film about the Bengali famine of 1943. Bobita appeared in the lead role of Ananga, the demure wife of the village doctor Gangacharan, who was played by long-time Ray favourite Soumitra Chatterjee.

Ashani Sanket was a great critical success and won the Golden Bear prize at the 1973 Berlin Film Festival. Bobita's performance was central to the film, and she became the first Bangladeshi actress to achieve widespread international acclaim. Two decades later, Bobita's younger sister Chompa also received international recognition for her performances in arthouse films such as Padma Nadir Majhi, but Bobita's achievement remains the more significant one to this date.

Arthouse and commercial success

Bobita appeared in a series of high-brow hits during the next two decades. A few of these movies are worthy of mention:

  • Arunodoyer Agnishakkhi (1972) by Subhash Dutta
  • Dhirey Bohey Meghna (1973)—a war drama by Alamgir Kabir
  • Golapi Ekhon Trainey (1978) by Amjad Hossain; Bobita's portrayal of the migrant girl Golapi is regarded as one of her finest performances.
  • Dahan (1986) by Sheikh Niamat Ali

In addition, Bobita was also very successful—and prolific—in commercial cinema. The Bangladeshi film industry centres around the Film Development Corporation in Dhaka, popularly known by its acronym "FDC". The typical FDC feature is aimed at the poorly educated working classes, and it consists mostly of over-the-top melodrama and multiple song-and-dance numbers. But Bobita was no less adept in these low-brow movies than she was in arthouse films. Classic examples are her hits from the early 1980s, Miss Lanka and Love in Singapore.

She formed memorable screen partnerships with male stars Faruk, Zafar Iqbal, Bulbul Ahmed, and Sohel Rana. Bobita won the Best Actress award at the National Film Awards for several of her movies, some of which are:

  • Bandee Thekey Begum (1975)
  • Noyon Moni (1976)
  • Boshundhora (1977)
  • Ramer Shumoti (1985)

Recent career

Her acting career continues, though less vigorously than before. In 2002, Bobita won a National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Hason Raja, Chashi Nazrul Islam's biopic of the famed Bengali folk-poet. She has also formed her own film-production company and has expressed an interest in directing in the future.

Bobita has campaigned actively on behalf of various social causes in Bangladesh. Notable among the causes she has supported are the campaign against throwing acid on women; the national immunization drive for children; and a support group for children who suffer from leukemia.

An example of Bobita's popularity with the masses can be found in rickshaw art. In her heyday, she was one of the favorite subjects of Bangladeshi rickshaw artists—so much so that France Lasnier, in her book about the subject, devotes an entire chapter to the career of Bobita as depicted in rickshaw art.

References

  1. ^ "Farida Akhtar". UBINIG. http://www.grain.org/seedling/?id=201. Retrieved 2009-05-20.  
  2. ^ The Pakistani Slaughter That Nixon Ignored , Syndicated Column by Sydney Schanberg, New York Times, 3 May 1994

External links

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