2. Bicharak (1959); Dir: Prabhat Mukherjee
Based on a story by Tarashankar Bandopadhya, this is one of the early films, along with Marutirthe Hinglaj, that showed Uttam’s willingness to experiment with non-heroic roles. A complex character study of guilt, responsibility and redemption, Bicharak casts Uttam as a judge supremely confident of his ability to deliver justice, who comes face-to-face with an ethical crisis when asked to judge a case that has echoes from his past and a choice he had made. Even as he decides on the fate of the defendant, he has to confront his own moral culpability – and Uttam’s every gesture, his face often in close-ups, reveals the agony of his soul.
3. Saptapadi (1961); Dir: Ajoy Kar
Along with Harano Sur (1957), this is probably the film that best epitomized the chemistry between him and his leading lady in thirty films, Suchitra Sen. One of their most entertaining and passionate outings together, Saptapadi stars Uttam Kumar as a happy-go-lucky medical college student Krishnendu who falls in love with an Anglo-Indian, Rina Brown, and converts to Christianity, with tragic consequences. This is the film with the outstanding scene from Othello (voiceovers by Utpal Dutt and Jennifer Kendal) where Krishnendu and Rina, after bickering fiercely at length (Uttam is a hoot in the song ‘Ebar Kali tomay khabo’), realize that they are in love. And of course, the dulcet duet, ‘Ei path jodi na shesh hoi’, with the two stars on a bike, set a thousand young hearts aflutter with romantic dreams of their own – much like how Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck running amok on a Vespa in Roman Holiday (1953) is said to have made the brand a name to reckon with.