Sumitra Devi (1923 - 1990) was an Indian actress who is recognized for her work in Hindi as well as Bengali cinema during the nineteen forties and nineteen fifties. She was one of the exquisite beauties of her time and has been regarded as the most beautiful woman of her time by veterans like Pradeep Kumar and Uttam Kumar. She is remembered for her delineation of sensitive women charaters in Hindi films like Mashal (1950), Deewana (1952), Mamta (1952) and Mayurpankh (1954). She made her acting debut in Apurba Mitra's Bengali film Sandhi (1944) produced by the then reverent banner New Theatres. The film won her the BFJA Awards for Best Actress in 1945. In the late forties, she appeared in a host of Bengali films like Abhijog (1947), Pather Dabi (1947), Pratibad (1948), Joyjatra (1948), Swami (1949) and Devi Chowdhurani (1949). In 1950, she appeared in Nitin Bose's Hindi film Mashal whose success earned her a host of offers from Bollywood directors and producers. Later on she appeared in Hindi films like Deewana (1952), Mamta (1952), Ghunghroo (1952), Raja Harischandra (1952), Mayurpankh (1954), Chor Bazaar (1954), Jagte Raho (1956), Delhi Darbar (1956) to name a few. She sustained her career in Bengali cinema also. In 1955, she appeared in Ardhendu Mukhopadhyay's Bengali film Dasyu Mohan which became a huge blockbuster. In 1956, she appeared in Kartik Chattopadhyay's Saheb Bibi Golam which is an adaptation of Bimal Mitra's classic novel of the same name. The film was a blockbuster at that time. She played the character of a beautiful alcoholic wife of a landlord who is indifferent towards her. She has been most remembered for her role in this film. In 1957, she appeared in Kartik Chattopadhyay's Nilachaley Mahaprabhu which again became a blockbuster. In the same year, she appeared in Haridas Bhattacharya's National Award winning Bengali film Aandhare Alo which was an adaptation of the renowned Bengali author Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's short story of the same name. In the late fifties, she was invited to the Asian Film Festival in China as a delegate from India. Her last film was O. C. Gangopadhyay's Bengali venture Kinu Gowalar Gali (1964).
Sumitra Devi was born in 1923 at Shiuri, in Birbhum, West Bengal. Her original name was Nilima Chattopadhyay. Her father Murali Chattopadhyay was an advocate. Her brother's name was Ranajit Chattopadhyay. She was brought up in Muzaffarpur. When she was in her teenage, she was immensely influenced by the beauty and stature of the veteran actress Kanan Devi and desired to be an actress. She decided to send an application along with a photograph of her own to the office of New Theatres. As her father was conservative, she decided to do it secretly and to make her plan fruitful she sought the help of her younger brother Ranajit who agreed to cooperate her. Her letter was answered and she was summoned for an interview and look test. In the office of New Theatres she was asked to read an article thoroughly and she mesmerized the every persons present there with her lucid, euphonic voice and the magnitude of her beauty. She was chosen to play one of the leading roles in New Theatres' film My Sister and adopted her screen name Sumitra Devi.
Though Meri Bahen was supposed to be the debut film of Sumitra Devi, she finally made her debut in Apurba Mitra's Bengali film Sandhi (1944) which became a huge hit at box office. She was going to the shooting floor of Meri Bahen but was stalled on the mid way by Debaki Kumar Bose who offered her to act in his nephew Apurba Mitra's Sandhi. After the film had been released, she was highly appreciated for her unlaboured acting skill as well as credited as an actress having an "outstanding luminous screen presence". The film won her the Bengal Film Journalists' Association - Best Actress Award in 1945. In 1945, she appeared in Soumyen Mukhopadhyay's Hindi film Wasiyatnama which was originally an adaptation of veteran Bengali author Bamkim Chandra Chattopadhyay's famous novel Krishnakanter Will. In this film, she played the character of a beautiful widow who seduces the male protagonist, elopes with him and ultimately gets killed by him. She earned rave review for her enticing as well as doleful performance in the film. She appeared in a host of Bengali films like Sushil Majumdar's Abhijog (1947), Satish Dasgupta and Digambar Chattopadhay's Pather Dabi (1947), Hemchandra Chandra's Pratibad (1948), Niren Lahiri's Joyjatra (1948), Pashupati Chattopadhyay's Swami (1949) and Satish Dasgupta's Devi Chowdhurani (1949). She was paired with Debi Mukherjee in Sushil Majumdar's Abhijog (1947) which became a huge hit at box office. In 1949, she delineated the character of Prafulla in Bengali Film Devi Chowdhurani which is an adaptation of the renowned Bengali author Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay's classic novel of the same name. She played the character of a woman, abandoned by her clink got kidnapped by some ruffians but managed to escape and hide herself in a lone forest where she met a person who trained her as the leading figure of his gang of robbers.
In 1950, she appeared in Nitin Bose's Hindi film Mashaal whose success earned her a host of offers from Bollywood directors and producers. Later on she appeared in Hindi films like Deewana (1952), Mamta (1952), Ghunghroo (1952), Raja Harischandra (1952), Mayurpankh (1954), Chor Bazaar (1954), Jagte Raho (1956), Delhi Darbar (1956) to name a few.
She sustained her career in Bengali cinema also. In 1955, she appeared in Ardhendu Mukhopadhyay's Bengali film Dasyu Mohan which became a huge hit at box office. In 1956, she appeared in Pinaki Mukhopadhyay's Bengali film Asabarna (1956) and Kartik Chattopadhyay's blockbuster Saheb Bibi Golam (1956) which is an adaptation of Bimal Mitra's classic novel of the same name. She plays the character of a beautiful, alcoholic wife of an aristocrat, who forms a loving yet platonic relationship with the protagonist Bhootnath. In 1957, she appeared in Kartik Chattopadhyay's another blockbuster Nilachaley Mahaprabhu.
|1944||Meri Bahen||Hem Chunder|
|1948||Oonch Neech||Hemchandra Chunder|
|1952||Deewana||Abdur Rashid Kardar|
|Raja Harischandra||Raman B. Desai|
|Chor Bazaar||P. N. Arora|
|Raj Yogi Bharthari||Raman B. Desai|
|1955||Ganga Maiya||Chandrakant Gor|
|1956||Jagte Raho||Amit Maitra|
|Delhi Darbar||Chandrakant Gor|
|1958||Hum Bhi Kuchh Kam Nahin||Raman B. Desai|
|1963||Mere Arman Mere Sapne||Arabind Sen|
|1964||Veer Bhimsen||Chandrakant Gor|