She was the cheerful teenage heroine in Shutorang who transitioned to the vivacious leading lady in Shareng Bou. That vivacity was perhaps one way for her to conceal her sorrows, the disappointments which dogged her in her quiet, lonely moments. For Kabori, the woman who once was Mina Pal before the larger world of movies claimed her, life was till the end an adventure. It was experience with an admixture of pain and pathos, of the interplay of laughter and deep silences.
Life has now drawn to an end for Kabori. But what will remain in the imagination, of those who have grown into adulthood watching her movies or reading of her as also of those born decades after Subhas Dutta introduced her to the showbiz world, is that quintessential image of the Bengali 'mishti meye'. You could translate the term into sweet girl or adorable girl. But there it is, this quality of the adorable we have always associated with Kabori.
It was a life lived in the full, constant glare of publicity. There were the movies and there were all the reports and rumours of romance swirling around her. But then, romance, perceived or real, is part of the life of an actor. And Kabori was no ordinary artiste. People associated her with Zahir Raihan, with Razzak, with a host of others. She laughed off such rumours, certainly sad that no one could or would spot the pains she endured as she went through life away from the cameras and the studios. She did not wear her disappointments on her sleeve but went through motherhood in her quiet way. As she would herself note, in rare moments, her marriages were unfulfilling, the love she craved --- of a companion or friend who could show her the stars in all their grandeur --- eluded her.
And yet Kabori did not lapse into silence or go into superannuation. For a generation such as ours, Kabori is a journeying back to a placid evening on the banks of a lake, where she breaks into song --- 'premer naam bashona / shey kotha bujhini aage' --- with Razzak. Such images of Kabori are enduring, as full of vibrant poetry as when Faruk woos her in Shareng Bou with the coruscating song, 'shob shokhi re paar korite nibo aana aana / tomar bela nibo shokhi tomar kaaner shona'.
If accomplishment is the term we dwell on, let it be applied to Kabori. In Devdas, with Bulbul Ahmed, it is difficult love she goes through as part of a difficult story. On her virginal face are the creases of sadness, a proper reflection of life transmogrified into literature. With Razzak, she was happy and comfortable, a point she would repeatedly make during any discussion of her career on celluloid. Movies such as Mainamati, at this distance of time, have never fallen behind in appeal, for they are part of the Bengali repertoire of romance. Kabori's biggest quality was to bring the full flavor of romance, with that remarkable dash of naughtiness, in her roles. Be it with Razzak or Bulbul or Alamgir or Farook, she did it with panache.
She loved it when someone, in the intimacy of dinner at a friend's place, reminded her of particular scenes from her movies, black and white in the more innocent era of the 1960s, scenes where a song drew forth the essence of her beauty in the shape of poetry. If the song was the Mahmudunnabi number, 'borho eka eka laage / tumi paashe nei bole' --- picturised on Razzak, with Kabori approaching the room in silence, in curiosity, she made it a point to ask the individual talking about it to sing it to her. And then she joined in the singing. There was a twinkle, of a lost age, which flashed in her eyes at the memory.
In a very broad sense of the meaning, Kabori was a fighter. Her foray into politics was from day one an effort to convince people that she meant business. She was an elected lawmaker, trying to do her job even as she knew of the adversaries arrayed around and against her. When under assault, she gave as good as she got. For a woman, even a politician, street battles are a risk to life. But in Narayanganj, Kabori let it be known to those who would emasculate her politics, that she could be feisty, could be properly combative. She served a single term in parliament and then tried to have a shot at the mayoralty in the nation's capital. Soon she let her candidacy retreat in deference to her party leader.
Kabori was a powerful presence in our midst till the last breath went out of her a few minutes after midnight on Saturday. It was just as well, for she passed on even as the country prepared to recall the anniversary of the Mujibnagar government of 1971. And 1971 was a season Kabori spent in exile, meshing in with the struggle for national liberation.
With Kabori goes much more than an actor we have loved through the generations. There was the producer in her, of the movies Balaka Mon, Sheeth Boshonto and Gunda. There was the 1971-based Ekattorer Michhil where she had a directorial role. And then there was the touching representation of the trauma of women falling prey to acid attacks in Aina. All of this is the legacy Kabori leaves behind.
A few years ago, as she signed copies of her memoirs, 'Smritituku thaak', at the Ekushey book fair at Bangla Academy, she was moved by the crowds who dropped by to say hello to her, to be photographed with her. She had come through the years, had crossed newer frontiers of experience, was overjoyed at knowing that she was loved by so many.
As sunlight gave way to twilight on that day, Kabori had a good word for everyone who came to collect her book or say hello or simply gawk at her. The old smile bathed her beautiful face. She was yet the 'mishti meye' for everyone.
It is that 'mishti meye' we say a fond, heartbreaking farewell to today.