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Pataudi's legacy lives on in family of thespians

Sep 22, 2011 08:06 PM IST India India

New Delhi: As the cricketing world grieves the loss of one its finest captains in Mansur Ali Khan, erstwhile Nawab of Pataudi, little is said of a man who was a constant presence in the lives of his family of actors with quiet empathy towards a profession alien to his own.

The embodiment of grace and royalty with his clipped accent and unassuming charm, Pataudi has achieved towering respect within the film fraternity as in cricket.

Pataudi met actor Sharmila Tagore on the sets of 'An Evening In Paris' in 1966, sealing a love affair that spanned four decades. It took the tall and strapping lad four years to woo Tagore who came from the illustrious family of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

Despite their respective famous backgrounds, both families were against a marriage between a aspiring cricketer, not considered a career proper for a man in the 60s, and a Bollywood star, considered a sex symbol at the peak of her career. The fact that theirs was an inter-religious marriage also sparked off objections.

But despite dissimilar family backgrounds, they married in December 1969 and Tagore converted to Islam adopting the name Begum Ayesha Sultana. Despite her top billing and stunning good looks, Tagore decided to take a hiatus from acting.

Many in the industry pointed an accusatory finger at the man who swept Tagore off her feet and took her away from films at the prime of her career. There were still many films left in the dimpled Bengali star people loved, they said.

But Pataudi's contribution to the career of his wife, whose immortal role as the ill-fated child bride in Satyajit Ray's 'Apur Sansar' catapulted her to fame, is often left unsung.

Pataudi came from an old family of Muslim royals with a legacy that transcended many generations to imbibe a strict sense of discipline and grace in the members. Tagore, at the time of her marriage has burst in to the scene with a provocative photo shoot in a two-piece bikini that made her a pin-up star overnight.

Throughout the 70s Tagore's work in both Bengali films and Hindi made her a household name with 'Aranyer Din Ratri', 'Daag', 'Amar Prem' and 'Seemabodhho'.

But she was also then the mother to Saif Ali Khan, the firstborn of Sharmila and Tiger Pataudi, as Mansoor Ali was known amongst his cricketing peer. Call it the quirk of fate or genetic ties but Saif's decision was to follow his famous mother’s profession and not his father's. Later their third child, a daughter, Soha also entered tinsel town, with the critical and commercial hit 'Rang De Basanti'.

Her stunning looks and understated acting has often been compared to her mother's style, but the children (Saba Ali Khan included) have their father’s reclusive nature and polite civility.

Tagore returned to acting after a serious hiatus with Meera Nair's 'Mississippi Masala'. She has led the Indian Film Censor Board from October 2004 till March 2011. But Pataudi's counsel in matters of family and profession was often sought. He was to be seen clapping enthusiastically at his daughters' events even though he was initially reluctant to let Soha join the film industry.

The 'Nawab' earned tremendous respect among the film fraternity who reacted with grief and disbelief to the news of his demise. The 70-year-old cricketer breathed his last after battling a lung infection.

"Sad news...Tiger Pataudi passes away," said Amitabh Bachchan who starred with the cricketer's actress-wife in films like 'Chupke Chupke' and 'Viruddh'.

Filmmaker Shekhar Kapur called Pataudi one of the most "courageous cricketers" in the world. "Tiger has left us. One of the most courageous cricketers the world has known, who took on the fastest bowlers in the world after losing one eye."