Bollywood Nostalgia

Uttam Kumar’s last film

Photographs By NK SAREEN

You have probably heard that Uttam Kumar’s last film is a Bengali film called Ogo Bodhu Shundari. Wrong!

Uttam Kumar died while filming Ogo Bodhu Shundari. Just a few months before his death, Uttam Kumar finished dubbing for a another crime thriller called Plot number 5There he played a serial-killer who’s bound to a wheelchair.

The film was released in 1981 and ran for 10 weeks at Elite Cinema in Kolkata. In the rest of the country, the film – with no songs, romantic scenes or a lead heroine – sank without a trace.

The film was a beautiful experiment where parallel cinema met mainstream cinema, an art that took almost 30 years to perfect in Bollywood!

Uttam Kumar finished dubbing for the film in 1980 and returned to Kolkata to shoot his Bengali films. He suffered a massive heart-attack in his green room after he gave a shot for Ogo Bodhu Shundari. He was taken to the best nursing home (as private hospitals were known then) called Belle View in Kolkata where the doctors tried in vain to revive his heart beat. 

The Bengali acting legend died on July 24, 1980 at Tollygunge, Kolkata.

Plot Number 5 had no songs, no romantic scenes  and the screenplay progressed at faster speed than what was considered ‘normal’ at that time. 

The shooting for the film started in 1978 and it released in 1981, year after the acting legend passed away! Considering the wave of romantic stars sweeping across Bollywood, the film stuck out like a sore thumb. Obviously, it didn’t score at the box office despite being the last film that Uttam Kumar shot for and the only film where three of the most talented actors of Hindi cinema came together – the other two being Amol Palekar and Amjad Khan. The film also starred Pradip Kumar, Sarika, Viju Khote, Benjamin Gilani, Vidya Sinha and Shriram Lagoo. 

Indian audiences were not used to seeing a film like Plot number 5 and predictably it vanished from public memory soon after. 

But till date, that film remains the only film where Salil Chowdhury scored a brilliant background score and had no songs to compose.

 Much later, it was Amol Palekar who spoke about the film in his later interviews. 

“One film, a murder mystery, I will always remember working in is Plot No. 5 directed by Yogesh Saxena. I performed the character of the disabled , who used to murder anyone, who pitied his disability to move. Working with Uttam Kumar I understood I was facing India’s most gifted actor who co-operated with each of us just like a family friend,” Amol Palekar said in an interview.

Amjad Khan too spoke about the very highly in his interviews.  

Not too many photographers ventured into the sets of that film and perhaps only one photographer captured some off-the-set moments . That photographer was NK Sareen. 

Sareen ventured into the sets when the climax scenes of the film were being shot – one of the rare scenes where the camera ventures out from their indoor set (the majority of the film is shot inside a house).

 Over to NK Sareen now… as he takes over the narration. 

 Sorry, I am not smiling

 Both Amol Palekar and Uttam Kumar looked grumpy and unsatisfied that day. 

 There were takes and retakes happening on the set and both actors looked terribly unhappy with their performance.

Uttam Kumar was sitting in one corner and smoking one cigarette after the other while Amol Palekar was in another corner, brooding. The situation was tense and I could feel that in the air.

I knew that some of the most important scenes of the film (read the climax) were being filmed that day and the tension was palpable.

Apart from Uttam Kumar, I also saw Amol Palekar but they were not together in one shot. He was hovering around wearing a similar looking but a different coloured gown. I was not interested in clicking Amol as I had met him several times before and after. My only photo-target was Uttam Kumar who seemed to be in an awful mood.

 When I pointed my camera at him, Uttam didn’t even smile, he just looked at the camera. It was clear that his mind was preoccupied with what was happening inside the sets.

 You may term it whatever you want to, but I will call that extreme concentration. When you are doing something very intense, your mind and body is completely focussed on that. I have hardly seen actors who are more serious and preoccupied about their work than Uttam Kumar.

That was the only time I met him.

The entire film has been uploaded on Youtube last year. Here is the complete film in two parts. 

Watch it and realise why the film was sticking out like a sore thumb when romantic films saturated with song and dance sequences had become de rigueur in Bollywood.

Part one:

Part two:

Short-link ->
All photographs are copyrighted to NK Sareen. 
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Sareen's last post on this blog -> Extreme Close Up With Satyajit Ray
Logo taken from here

4 replies »

  1. My partner and I love suspense movies with a passion. Really good Indian language movies too. So after reading your post last week, we watched Plot No. 5 this weekend and I have to say, I had a very unique experience.
    I liked that it had no sensibility-defying song-&-dance sequence. I loved that they used the background score in lieu of dialogue. I do wish that they had developed Amjad Khan’s character a little more.
    And I absolutely dug that scene where Lagoo’s character is almost consumed in his antagonistic stance wrt Sarika’s character, and we are drawn into that moment with him, thereby rendering the surrounding conversation inaudible. It was a very real moment for me.
    All in all, an enjoyable experience.
    I can imagine why it might have not received it’s due credit then, but then that has been the case for most trend changers up until very recent times.


    • You got that right. great observation. There are moments where the background score is used to replace dialogues. Great observations.
      The background score in this film was scored by Salil Chaudhury and this is one of his best works in that department.


  2. I didn’t have the full-blown Indian childhood experience, even though my parents are Indian, we lived outside. My mother, in fact, forbade me from watching Hindi movies while growing up, I’m guessing because she thought (or perhaps knew) that seeing Madhuri gyrate to Ek Do Teen was all it would take for me to run away from home and do something artsy with my life. I did spend 4 years in India though, during my Bachelor degree. My roomie and bestie at the time was a die-hard Amitji fan from Chandigarh and it was under her loving and watchful eyes and in front of my hostel and local guardian’s TV sets’ Zee and Star channels that my inner child sat wide-eyed and fell in love with 80’s and 90’s Bollywood. However, 4 years of catching up on Bollywood can never make up for living and breathing Indian cinema for the first 20 years of your life. So, I’ve been playing catch-up ever since. And it’s partially thanks to the internet and people like you that my journey continues. When you said Salil Chaudhury, I’ll be honest, I had to google him. But what a beautiful trip down memory lane it was. Little did I know I owe this man some of the simplest joys of my life. There are some songs that are my absolute favorites and forever I have only associated those songs with their respective singers and movies. I know, how shallow of me. Well thanks to our convo, I now am inspired to do an evening of music in honor of Salil Chaudhury with my buddies before the end of the year. So thank you!


  3. ” tanSEN was bengali my dear friend, so were a lot of other people! want to see the entire list as it stands today? so was subash chandra bose and sri aurobindo :)

    and i can name a million others and i am proud to say our greateness can be exerted beyond our national borders.
we are the fifth largest speakers!

    we bengalis have won pretty much every award in the world stage
you name it we have it and we are damn proud of what we have :)
its the only country in the world which took rebellion because it couldn’t speak its mother tongue and it won! and won so hard that the UN had to adopt that day as the international language day, which celebrates languages from all over the world. ”

    MBA (2013), IMT Bhaziabad
    Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
    hometown: Kolkata


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