The biggest star for one of the premiere studios of Kolkata, Madan Theatres, and a leading light of Calcutta Theatres movement, Durgadas Bannerjee was one of the most influential actors of early Bengali cinema.
Born in a zamindar family in 1893 in Kalikapur, he initially made his mark in theatre. One of the significant plays he performed in was 1923’s Karnarjun, produced by Star Theatres. The theatre movement exerted a strong influence on early acting styles and aesthetics of Bengali cinema, particularly those produced by Madan Theatres. It was another theatre luminary, Sisir Bhaduri, who paved the way for Durgadas Bannerjee to enter films. After starring in Maanbhanjan (1923), he soon came to establish himself as the premiere leading man in Bengali cinema, initially with Madan, Arya Films, Indian Kinema and later at New Theatres. Some of his notable films during this period are Chandranath (1924), Jaler Meye (1925), Krishnakanter Will (1926), Durgesh Nandini (1927), Kapal Kundala (1929), Buker Bojha (1930), Dena Paona (1931), Punarjanma (1932), Chirakumar Sabha (1932), Chandidas (1932), Meerabai (1933), Bhagya Chakra (1935) among others. He acted in some of New Theatres’s most successful ventures in the 1930s, such as their first talkie Dena Paona, Debaki Bose’s Chandidas and later Bidyapati (1938) and Nitin Bose’s Didi (1937). His last role was Priya Bandhabi (1943).
His poise and composure, often attributed to his aristocratic lineage, is often credited to be influential to later actors like Chhabi Biswas. Early Bengali cinema is also replete with cinematic adaptations of successful plays, many of which were influenced by his acting style. Alongside cinema, he continued to exert a commanding presence at Star Theatres, The legendary thespian passed away in 1943.