Chapal Rani’s fight for roots

Chapal Kumar Bhaduri, who is better known as Chapal Rani, won a long-drawn court case and proved his origins and blood relations with Sisir Bhaduri's family in a court in Howrah

Chapal Rani
Chapal Kumar Bhaduri
Ketaki Dutta

After an arduous court battle that lasted for 12 years, justice was done in a Howrah court to jatra artiste and Bangla Akademi Award winner, Chapal Kumar Bhaduri. Theatre-lovers’ popular Chapal Rani, proved his paternity and relation to theatre guru, Sisir Kumar Bhaduri. His sister, Ketaki Dutta and he are the children of Sisir Bhaduri’s younger brother, Tara Kumar Bhaduri. A defamation suit was filed in Howrah Court by Sisir Kumar’s nephew and Biswanath Bhaduri’s son, Chiro Kishore, in 2005, alleging that Chapal and Ketaki made false claims about their lineage. He said that they were not Tara Kumar’s children and made such claims only to glorify themselves and defame the reputed Bhaduri family.

As penalty, Chiro Kishore had demanded a fine of Rs 5 lakh from Chapal.  After hearing both sides of the case, third civil judge (senior division), Soumendranath Roy, in his verdict issued on May 19 this year, said, “I have no hesitation to say that the plaintiff (Chiro Kishore Bhaduri) miserably failed to prove that the defendant (Chapal Kumar Bhaduri) was not the son of Late Tara Kumar Bhaduri.”

In 1996, in an interview published in Anandabazar Patrika, Ketaki Dutta, also an acclaimed stage actor, had affirmed that she and her brother, Chapal, were the children of Tara Kumar. She had repeated the same to several other publications like The Statesman (1997), Kolkatar Karcha (1998), Bartaman (2000) and The Times of India (2001). Besides she had also appeared in various interviews on TV channels. Chiro Kishore, on the other hand, said that in 2004, when he visited his ancestral home at Brojonath Lahiri Lane in Santragachhi, Howrah, the neighbours questioned him on how Chapal Kumar and Ketaki were claiming to be related to the Bhaduri family. Later, other acquaintances had also expressed their doubts to him. However, Chiro Kishore failed to produce strong evidence to support his statement in court.

He produced his passport, ration card, certificate issued by RBU and death certificate of Tara Kumar Bhaduri as evidence. Chiro Kishore’s lawyer had argued that Chapal and Ketaki were offsprings of a live-in relationship between Tara Kumar and Prabhavati Devi. Thus they are not legitimate.

However, Chapal’s lawyer, Alok Kumar Laha, argued that Chapal was born on July 29, 1939, much before the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 came into existence. He said that in those days polygamy was commonplace and an accepted practice in Hindu society. Beside, in the Hindu Succession Act an illegitimate child can also claim property, name and fame of his father. Tara Kumar’s first wife, Gayatri Devi, died when he was 29 years old, leaving behind a son and two daughters. Tara Kumar later developed a relationship with Prabhavati, a stage actor who was then acting opposite Sisir Bhaduri in Srirangam.

Writer Sunil Gangopadhyay in his novel Nissanga Samrat had written that Natyacharya Sisir Kumar Bhaduri was aware of and approved Tara Kumar and Pravabati’s relationship. The book was produced in court as evidence. Tara Kumar and Gayatri Devi’s son, Mukunda Mohan and daughter Sarama Sanyal are dead and another daughter Lekha Lahiri is infirm.