Interesting Facts and Figures: Smita Patil

April 20th, 2009 - 8:38 pm ICT by Sampurn Wire  

Smita Patil Interesting Facts and Figures: Smita Patil

Smita Patil (October 17, 1955 – 13 December 1986) was a leading Indian actress from the 1970s to the 1980s in both Hindi and Marathi cinema.

Along with actresses like Shabana Azmi, she was one of the potent quartet representing India’s parallel cinema. In a succession of landmark films like Manthan (1977), Bhumika (1977), Aakrosh (1980) and Chakra (1981).

Patil was also an active feminist and a member of the Women’s Centre in Mumbai. She was deeply committed to the advancement of women’s issues, and gave her endorsement to films which sought to explore the role of women in traditional Indian society, their sexuality, and the changes facing the middle-class woman in an urban milieu.

Smita was the daughter of a Maharashtrian politician Shivajirao Patil and social worker mother from Shirpur town (Village-Bhatpure) of Khandesh province of Maharashtra State.

She studied at a Marathi-language school.

Her first tryst with the camera was as a television newscaster for Doordarshan Pune, the Indian government controlled television, which was the only channel on the airwaves during those days.

Smita Patil belongs to a generation of great actresses, including Suhasini Mulay and the aforementioned Shabana Azmi and, like them, is strongly associated with the radically political cinema of the 1970s.

Her work includes films with parallel cinema directors like Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani and Mrinal Sen as well as forays into the more commercial Hindi Film Industry cinema of Mumbai.

Patil was working as a TV news reader and was also an accomplished photographer when Shyam Benegal discovered her.

She was an alumna of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune.

In 1977, she won the National Award for ‘Best Actress’ for her performance in the Hindi film Bhumika.

In her films, Patil’s character often represents an intelligent femininity that stands in relief against the conventional background of male-dominated cinema (films like Bhumika, Umbartha, and Bazaar). Smita Patil was also a women’s rights activist and became famous for her roles in films that portrayed women as capable and empowered.

She played a non conventional rebellious protagonist in most of the movies. Her presence on screen had a magnetic charm of its own.

She was a rare combination of haunting beauty, a sensitive soul and an intelligent mind.

As time went on, Patil moved away from her strictly “art house” reputation and, to the consternation of cinemaphiles, began to take parts in mainstream Hindi Film Industry extravaganzas.

Patil’s glamorous roles in her more commercial films — such as Shakti, Namak Halaal and Akhir Kyon — revealed the permeable boundaries between “serious” cinema and “Hindi Cinema” masala in the Hindi film industry.

Her arguably greatest (and unfortunately final) role came when Smita re-teamed with Ketan Mehta to play the feisty and fiery Sonbai in Mirch Masala (1987).

Smita won raves for playing a spirited spice-factory worker who stands up against a lecherous petty official.

Always a bit of a rebel, she would grin when people complimented her on looking lovely in the saris she sported for the telecasts because minutes before going on air, she would have hurriedly wrapped the sari over her jeans.

One of the interesting facts about her and raj babbar: smita acted in a marathi film named umbarthaand raj acted in a hindi movie named dahleez, both the film names have the same meaning.

When Patil became romantically involved with the actor Raj Babbar, Patil drew severe criticism from her fans and the media, clouding her personal life and throwing her into the eye of a media storm.

Raj Babbar left his wife, Nadira Babbar to marry Patil.

Overnight, Patil was labeled a “home-breaker” by the very Feminist organizations she had worked so assiduously for, and became the target of barbed criticism. Feminists could not understand this radical divide between her expressed ideology, and her conduct in her personal life.

Smita died as a result of childbirth complications on December 13, 1986, barely 6 hours after having given birth to her son, Prateek Babbar.

Nearly two decades later, one of India’s greatest film directors, Mrinal Sen alleged that she died because of gross negligence.

Prateek made his debut in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na playing Aditi’s Brother.
-Sampurn Media
Smita Patil

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