Veteran actor Sharmila Tagore finds it cumbersome to come to terms with iconic Bengali star Soumitra Chatterjee’s demise as she has lost one of her oldest friends. Their friendship started when she was a teenager, reported PTI.

The 85-year-old Chatterjee died on Sunday after more than a month long fight with post novel coronavirus ailments.

The legendary actor was admitted to hospital on October 6 after he tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Later, he was moved to ICU as COVID-19 encephalopathy set in, creating problem for his central nervous system and causing renal dysfunction.

He recovered from the infection after that, but his condition was not stable.

Tagore and Chatterjee started their career with filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s final installment of the “Apu” trilogy, “Apur Sansar” in 1959.

Subsequently, they featured in acclaimed films, including Ray’s 1960 directorial “Devi”, filmmaker Ajoy Kar’s drama “Barnali” (1963) and “Aranyer Din Ratri” in 1970.

Tagore, 75, told PTI that she hasn’t processed the loss of Chatterjee, with whom she shared a deep and close relation apart from films.

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“I was 13 years old and he was 10 years elder to me when we started working in ‘Apur Sansar.’ In the film, those beautiful dialogues that we spoke to each other also endeared us to each other. That was the beginning. I really respected, admired him and for what he stood for,” said Tagore.

“He was one of my oldest friends, after my husband Tiger (cricket legend Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi) and actor Shashi Kapoor. He has been such a loyal and fun friend,” she further said.

Tagore said Chatterjee’s non-judgmental nature only strengthened their relationship.

She told their bond wasn’t transactional. Adding, “We could lead our parallel lives and yet have a connection, somewhere because our thoughts, depth and loyalty was the same. Soumitra knew I’d never speak ill of him. There was no questioning of what we shared, we didn’t have to prove it.”

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“If I didn’t talk to him or if he didn’t talk to me, I wouldn’t feel ‘Oh God he hasn’t wished me, he doesn’t remember my birthday.’ It was just so organic. I can’t give it any name.” The multiple National award winning star said they grew fond of each other over similarity in the way they saw the world.

One of her most admired memories with the star was that their long conversations on everything under the sun.

Chatterjee was a wonderful companion, Tagore said, which ensured that their banter would be eternal. Sometimes he would fathom her viewpoint, other times she would agree with his belief, she recounted.

“We would talk for hours on sports, history, our vision of India. I find him irreplaceable that way because there’s nobody else I can share so much with. If I expressed a certain point of view, he’d agree and expand or shoot it down and give his reasons. That kind of friendship is so rare. To lose that is huge.” Tagore observed his personality was so well-rounded, it reflected in all aspects of his life.

One of Tagore’s cherished memories of their time together is of her sipping her morning coffee and listening to the actor sing outside while performing yoga.

“Soumitra’s interests went beyond acting. He would paint, sing, was well read, had immense knowledge of theatre, he would write poetries and short stories for his grandchildren. His interests were vast and that’s what made him who he was – a man of all interests, a powerhouse talent,” she said.

“I know he will live forever in our memories because his legacy is so immense. It encompasses so much,” she added.

Chatterjee is now survived by wife Deepa Chatterjee, daughter Poulomi Basu and son Sougata Chatterjee.