Bengali film star-turned-politician Tapas Paul passes away

Published : February 18, 2020 18:56 IST

Tapas Paul. Photo: PTI

Tapas Paul, one of the biggest stars of Bengali cinema, passed away on the morning of February 18 of a cardiac arrest. He was 61. The actor-turned-politician, who was also a two-time MLA and a two-time Lok Sabha member of the Trinamool Congress, was reportedly suffering from nerve-related problems. Paul is survived by his wife Nandini and daughter Sohini.

For nearly 20 years Tapas Paul, who was born on September 29, 1958, remained arguably the biggest star of Bengali cinema. He emerged as an overnight sensation with his debut film, the Tarun Majumdar classic Dadar Kirti (1980). Other huge hits followed, including Saheb (1981), Bhalobasha Bhalobasha (1985), Anuragery Chonya (1986), Gurudakshina (1987) and many others. He and Debashree Roy (who also later joined the Trinamool Congress) made a hit pair on the silver screen. Paul remained a major force in the Bengali film industry until active politics drew him away.

“From the point of view film studies and the Bengali film industry, Tapas Paul is an incredibly important figure because at a time when the industry was perceived to be going through a crisis he became the face of popular romantic and family melodramas and revenge and action films. His popularity continued for almost two decades and was one of the sustaining factors for the Bengali film industry,” the filmmaker and professor of film studies at Jadavpur University Madhuja Mukherjee told Frontline.

Paul proved that he could be incredible in both commercial films and parallel cinema. The internationally acclaimed filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta, who directed him in three of his films, Uttara (2000), Mondo Meyer Upakhyan (2002) and Janala (2009), believes that Paul was an outstanding actor who never really got his due recognition. “Many actors may enjoy box office success, but that does not mean they possess any talent. Tapas Paul had tremendous talent. I have worked with many actors, but Tapas Paul was unique, and I will never forget the experience of working with him. He was also a good man, a simple straightforward human being. When people enter politics, sometimes they fall into traps,” Buddhadeb Dasgupta told Frontline.

However successful his film career may have been, Paul’s stint in politics was full of controversies. Although he was elected twice to the Assembly from Alipore (2001-2009) and to the Lok Sabha from Krishnanagar (2009-2019), his statements often landed him in trouble. In 2014, a video recording of his speech surfaced, in which, while addressing party workers in Nadia, he threatened to kill and unleash his boys to “rape the family members” of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and other opposition parties. The video, which sent shock waves across the State, considerably tarnished Paul’s image and popularity. Even his party leaders condemned his words.

On December 31, 2016, Paul was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the Rs.17,000-crore Rose Valley scam. He was on the board of directors of the Rose Valley Group’s films division for a period of eight months. After spending more than a year in prison, Paul was released in early 2018. Plagued with illnesses, he had since kept a low profile.

The Bengali film industry expressed sorrow at his death. His party leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, commented on social media, “Saddened & shocked to hear about the demise of Tapas Paul. He was a superstar of Bengali cinema who was a member of the Trinamool family. Tapas served the people as a two-term MP and MLA. We will miss him dearly. My condolences to his wife Nandini, daughter Sohini & his many fans.”

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