Childhood & Early Life
Ruma Guha Thakurta was born Ruma Ghosh, on November 3, 1934, in Calcutta (now Kolkata), Bengal Presidency, British India. Her parents, Satyen Ghosh and Sati Devi, were artists. Her mother was a well-known Bengali classical singer. Her parents also ran a music school named ‘Swarabitan’ in Kolkata.
Having grown up in an artistic environment, Ruma naturally decided to become an artist. She eventually joined her parents’ music school and was trained in classical singing. She was also interested in dancing. Hence, her parents sent her to Lahore’s ‘Almora Academy,’ which was run by ace dancer Uday Shankar. There, Ruma received professional training in dance.
She then received advanced training in music from legendary Hindustani classical musicians such as Abdul Rehman Khan of the “Patiala Gharana” and Lakshmi Shankar in Bombay.
She also had a connection with the world of cinema. Her maternal aunt, Bijoya Ray, was married to filmmaker Satyajit Ray, who was then a budding filmmaker. Ruma and Ray later worked together in a few films.
At 10, Ruma auditioned for the first time in Mumbai and earned her first acting project.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
She made her acting debut with the drama film ‘Jwar Bhata,’ which was released in 1944. She was 10 years old back then. It was also the debut film of actor Dilip Kumar, who went on to become one of the most celebrated actors of Hindi cinema. The film, directed by Amiya Chakrvarty, earned rave reviews and was a box-office success.
Having tasted success with her debut film, Ruma starred in more Hindi-language films. However, she took a long break before appearing in her second film and was 16 years old by then. Her second role was that of a blind girl named ‘Sarala Das’ in the film titled ‘Mashaal.’ The film was directed by Nitin Bose and was a remake of his Bengali film ‘Samar’.
The same year, she appeared in a supporting role in the Chetan Anand-directed film ‘Afsar.’ The romantic comedy starred Dev Anand, one of the biggest stars of Hindi cinema. The film was a big critical and commercial success.
In the 1952 Hindi-language film titled ‘Rag Rang,’ she played ‘Ruma Devi.’ The film, directed by Digvijay, also turned out to be the last Hindi film of her career.
By then, she was married and had become busy with her household duties. However, following her divorce in the late 1950s, she moved back to Calcutta and began working in Bengali films.
Her first Bengali film was ‘Ganga,’ directed by Rajen Tarafdar. The film featured her as ‘Himi,’ one of the lead characters. The movie narrated the plight of poor fishermen and won the ‘National Film Award’ for the “Best Feature Film” that year. Her performance in the film, too, received widespread critical acclaim in Bangla film circles.
The same year, she appeared in Tapan Sinha’s critically acclaimed film ‘Khaniker Atithi.’
In 1962, she appeared in the film ‘Abhijan,’ directed by Satyajit Ray. The film starred two of the biggest actors of the film industry, famous Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee and Waheeda Rehman. Ruma played one of the key roles in the film. The movie received praises in the international circuits and won the ‘Second Best Feature Film’ award at the 1962 ‘National Film Awards.’
In 1963, she collaborated with director Tapan Sinha yet again, for the film ‘Nirjan Saikate.’ She played one of the lead roles in the film. It also starred Sharmila Tagore. The film went on to receive rave reviews, and all the four female leads, including Ruma, went on to share the ‘National Film Award’ for the “Best Actress” that year.
Continue Reading Below
In the 1960s, she was also known for her association with acclaimed filmmaker Tarun Majumdar, for films such as ‘Polatak’ and ‘Balika Badhu.’ The 1967 film ‘Balika Badhu,’ which was based on a novel of the same name, was critically acclaimed and is known as one of Ruma’s career-defining films.
The same year, she starred with Uttam Kumar in the critically acclaimed film ‘Antony Firingee.’
Toward the late 1960s, she appeared in two Bijoy Bose-directed films: ‘Baghini’ and ‘Arogya Niketan.’
In the 1970s, she worked in ‘Jadi Jantem’ and ‘Bairaag.’
She collaborated with director Tarun Majumdar for the 1980 film titled ‘Dadar Kirti.’
In the early 1980s, she played a key role in the film titled ‘36 Chowringhee Lane.’ The film was the directorial debut of Aparna Sen, a well-known Bengali film actor who later went on to become a critically acclaimed director.
Toward the late 1980s, she collaborated with director Sujit Guha for three films: ‘Amar Sangi,’ ‘Asha O Bhalobasha,’ and ‘Aakrosh.’
In 1989, she played the lead role opposite Soumitra Chatterjee in the Satyajit Ray-directed film ‘Ganashatru.’ The film was an “out of competition” entry into the ‘Cannes Film Festival.’
She worked in fewer films in the 1990s, two of them being ‘Indrajit’ and ‘Sangharsha.’ The Mira Nair-directed 2006 film ‘The Namesake’ was the last film of her career.
Apart from acting, Ruma had also sung in many films, such as ‘Antony Firingee,’ ‘Baghini,’ and ‘Amrita Kumbher Sandhane.’
Family, Personal Life & Death
Ruma Guha Thakurta married playback singer and actor Kishore Kumar in 1951. They had a son, Amit Kumar, who later became a singer. The couple divorced in 1958.
Ruma then married Arup Guha Thakurta, a film director, in 1960. She had two children with him: Sramana and Ayan.
She passed away on June 3, 2019, in Kolkata. She was 84 at the time of her death.