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Smita Patil was one of her kind, an actress who made her own way in the Indian film industry – mostly in Hindi and Marathi. 17th October is her birthday – here’s remembering her.
Born on 17th October 1955, we lost the veteran actress on 13th December 1986 at a tender age of 31. An age nowhere close to death. And the reason was complications during childbirth.
The Pune born actress had her first tryst with camera in the early 1970s as a television news reader for Doordarshan, India. Her acting skills did not remain uncovered for long and soon she was discovered by film director Shyam Benegal.
In those days, Smita was a news reader and also was an accomplished photographer. She belonged to that genre of actresses who performed more in the parallel cinemas rather than the commercial ones. To name a few – Sadgati, Jait re Jait (Marathi movie), Bhumika (Marathi & Hindi versions), Arth and many more. Her commercial movies include the blockbuster Namak Halal and Shakti, in both of which she was paired with the then superstar Amitabh Bachchan.
I was spell bound when I watched her performance in movie Arth. Both she and Shabana Azmi were par excellence. She was nominated as the Best Supporting Actress for the Filmfare Award in her role in the movie, as Kavita Sanyal.
I had watched that movie in my early twenties, and thus couldn’t understand the gravity of mental afflictions as beautifully portrayed by her in the same. Now when I watch it again I get amazed at how sensitively she had etched the role of a schizophrenic. I remember hating her when I watched the movie then, but that only goes to show what a wonderful actress she was, putting across a role with truly grey shades.
Her performance was also commendable in the Marathi movie Jait re Jait.
The story line revolved around the tribals of western Maharashtra called the ‘Thakar’ and Smita played the role of Chindhi, Nagya’s (played by Mohan Agashe) wife. The movie though had a name that means Win – Win! it had a tragic end showcasing Chindhi’s death.
I must recommend that each one of you watch this movie. You can see the mastery of Smita in depicting the lore of the Thakar tribe.
The virtuoso Satyajit Ray had also cast her in the movie Sadgati which dealt with untouchability.
The movie still gives me goose bumps, and it’s a combination of Ray’s direction and Smita and Om Puri’s acting which steals our heart. And yes here I developed a hatred for the upper caste Brahmin played by Mohan Agashe for torturing and ultimately killing a poor and low caste shoe maker Dukhi (played by Om Puri). Watching this movie gave me an overwhelming feeling of getting under the skin of Dukhi and Jhuria (played by Smita Patil as Dukhi’s wife). Both Om and Smita merit a standing ovation for characterizing a context which is completely alien to their personal lives.
The list is endless. I can firmly say that I had not missed watching any of the parallel cinema in which Smita had acted. I also admired her pairing with Om Puri in the movie Ardhya Satya.
The world knows about Smita. Google her name and she is everywhere.
Smita had acted in over eighty Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam movies in a career that bridged only a decade. She was considered one of the finest actress of her times.
In her short career stint she had received two National Film Awards for best actress for movies Bhumika and Chakra, and a Filmfare Award for best actress for the movie Chakra. She also was a recipient of Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award. She received the honor in the year 1985.
Smita would forever live in our hearts. An inspiration she was!
I would like to quote Israelmore Ayivor here: He says “Save your mind from a premature death by always learning something new no matter your age! Think every day, but make sure it’s not within the perimeter of the box! Think outside the box!”
Smita did think out of box. Had she been alive we would have witnessed several more of her masterpieces. Time we revisit her movies again as a reminder that yes we had in us a powerful actress much ahead of her times.
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Rimli Bhattacharya is a First class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of
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