The hospital where many icons of Bengal fought for life

In July 1980, when Uttam Kumar — Bengal’s biggest star till date — suffered a third heart attack on the set of Ogo Bodhu Sundori, he was rushed to the Belle Vue Clinic in south Kolkata, where he died several hours later, aged 54.

Today, 40 years later, Uttam Kumar’s contemporary Soumitra Chatterjee — about a decade younger, equally acclaimed and, with time, almost as popular — is battling for his life at the same hospital. Between then and now, the hospital, built by the Birla family in 1967, has witnessed several Bengali icons recovering from their ailments — or breathing their last.

Precisely six months after Uttam Kumar’s death, Belle Vue received another celebrity patient: Kishore Kumar, the country’s most popular playback singer at the time and who had lent his voice to Uttam Kumar for several hugely popular songs.

Kishore Kumar was in Kolkata — then Calcutta — at the time because his son Amit Kumar’s marriage was being fixed. For some reason the alliance was called off and Kishore Kumar, disturbed by the turn of events, suffered his first heart attack. He was taken to Belle Vue, where he remained for 24 days before returning to Bombay by train. Since he was advised bed rest for six months, several of the songs he was to record went to Amit Kumar.

In 1992, the hospital admitted another famous patient and soon found itself mentioned in newspapers across the world. It was on January 29 that year that filmmaker Satyajit Ray, by then a heart patient and suffering from breathing problems, was brought here. It was at the hospital on March 16 that a three-member delegation from the Oscar committee presented him with the golden statuette for lifetime achievement and recorded an acceptance speech. He died in the hospital a few weeks later, on April 23, aged 70. In 2015, his wife Bijoya died in the same hospital.

What makes Belle Vue synonymous with celebrity?

“For us human life is most important — it doesn’t matter when the patient is a common man or a celebrity — and because of this there is immense goodwill. We have a robust team of specialists in all departments. You will notice that we never advertise, we have developed a brand value through word of mouth,” said Dr. Rahul Jain, an internal medicine specialist at the hospital.

Like Satyajit Ray, the legendary Suchitra Sen, who paired with Uttam Kumar in close to 30 films, also spent her final days in this hospital in 2014. “She was very affectionate towards the doctors looking after her. That’s the USP of this hospital: the excellent doctor-patient relationship. I was a part of the team that was monitoring her and got to observe her closely. I can’t reveal anything because she was a very private person, but yes, I can tell you that her trademark smile came to her naturally — she didn’t need to act in order to smile. Each time she smiled, I felt as if I was watching a movie,” said a doctor who did not wish to be identified.

And this year, on October 6, Ray’s favourite actor Soumitra Chatterjee got admitted here after he showed symptoms of COVID-19. Even though he subsequently tested negative for the virus, the infection impacted his vital organs and he now remains in a critical condition at the same hospital where his mentor and several of his legendary contemporaries had, at different times, spent many a night.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 11:49:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/the-hospital-where-many-icons-of-bengal-fought-for-life/article32982112.ece

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