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Remembering Smita Patil: Why The Actress is Irreplaceable in Indian Cinema

A file photo of Smita Patil from Mirch Masala.

A file photo of Smita Patil from Mirch Masala.

In the history of India cinema, Smita Patil will always remain an unforgettable face.

A radiant smile, intense eyes, sensuous looks and a fearless attitude, actress Smita Patil was undoubtedly a bundle of talent. Filmmakers who got an opportunity to work with her claim that no actress can match her finesse in acting. Actor Raj Babbar's wife and Prateik's mother, Smita passed away at the age of 31.

Just two weeks after giving birth to her first child, Smita died because of childbirth complications on December 13, 1986. Even after 25 years of her demise, Smita is still remembered for her matchless contribution to cinema.

Popular for her films like Bhumika, Chakra, Arth, Mirch Masala, Namak Halaal and many others, Smita was born in Pune. Her father was a politician and a social worker. Smita imbibed these qualities of her father. She made a place for herself in the male-dominated showbiz only on the basis of her talent. An extremely down to earth person and a dedicated professional, Smita's onscreen avatars reflected her true self on silver screen.

Sources claim while she was still studying, Smita got an offer from Manoj Kumar for Roti Kapda Aur Makan. Dev Anand also wanted to cast her in Hare Rama Hare Krishna. However, Smita's family wanted her to finish studies first.

A pass out from Film and Television Institute of India, Smita Patil began her career as a newsreader on Doordarshan. Thanks to her striking looks, Smita soon grabbed eyeballs. Smita made her big screen debut with Shyam Benegal's 'Charandas Chor' in 1975. Smita belonged to the era which is strongly associated with the radically political cinema of the 1970s.

In just a decade, Smita worked in more than 75 Hindi and Marathi films. She won the National Film Award for Best Actress twice, for Bhumika and Chakra. Smita was also honored with a Padma Shri in 1985.

After being committed to the parallel cinema for many years, Smita started accepting mainstream roles as well. She worked with filmmakers like Raj Khosla, Ramesh Sippy and BR Chopra. However, her forte always remained the art house cinema.

Smita was also a member of the Women's Centre in Mumbai and was an active feminist. She gave importance to films which highlighted the plight of women in India and reflected their role in changing the face of society. Smita was also involved in a lot of charity work. She donated her first National award prize money for a noble cause.

Like every other girl Smita was also looking for an ideal relationship. Her quest for love created a lot of troubles for her. Smita fell in love with actor Raj Babbar, who was already married to Nadira Zaheer. Smita and Raj worked in many films together, Tajurba, Bheegi Palken, Awam, Aaj Ki Awaz, Hum Do Hamare Do and others.

Known as a strong feminist, media soon termed Smita as a home breaker. Constant criticism from media and closed ones hurt Smita a lot. Reports claim that Smita's family was also against her marriage to Raj, but Smita always believed that things will get better with time.

Against all odds, Smita got married to Raj. Many reports claim that Smita realized the fate of her relationship very soon. The cheerful, spontaneous Smita at work was very lonely at heart. According to sources, Smita had plans of walking out of the relationship with her child, but destiny had something else in store for her.

Smita really wanted to enjoy her motherhood, but just two weeks after delivering a baby boy she passed away. Raj patched up with his former wife after Smita's death.

Her son Prateik grew up with his maternal grandparents. He avoided talking about her and watching her films for very long. Gradually, his family convinced him that how much his mother loved him. He always maintained a distance from his father.

Prateik who's a Bollywood actor now doesn't use his father's surname. Sometime back his PR agency issued a note saying, "He wants to only be known as Prateik and this has nothing to do with numerology."

Many new age actresses like Vidya Balan, Nandita Das are often compared to Smita Patil. However, the truth remains that there can be no other Smita. In the history of India cinema, Smita Patil will always remain an unforgettable face.

first published:October 17, 2016, 10:58 IST