Smita Patil

24 Oct

I posted  songs from movie “Bazaar” yesterday. The songs took me in memory lane and wanted to do a follow up post on beloved actress of my generation Smita Patil. A actor so formidable and yet so vulnerable she was one of the finest actress on Indian screen. Destiny cut short the journey as it always does cruelly. We were in school.  Those days there was only state owned television, newspapers and magazines. We saw songs and films in television. They showed all of her fine perfomances and formidable movies which later came to be coined as ” Parallel cinema”. The realistic cinema.  Smita Patil is one of my best memories of childhood.  A great actor and in my opinion a most beautiful actor. I thought she was really beautiful. I remember her movies ”  Manthan” ” Bhumika ” ” Mirch masala”  ” Chakra” and ” Namak Halaal”. I want to share some pictures and tribute to a fine fine Indian actor, Smita Patil.


Isn’t she beautiful , most beautiful ..

smita patil

She was a great actor , good in meaningful and commercial cinema..

smita patil2

The best Indian actress of my generation..


The great actor and India’s biggest Superstar, Amitabh Bachchan  wrote a fine  tribute few years ago on his blog :

” The few moments spent with this most gentle yet strong woman of substance, Smita Patil does warrant not just mention, but indeed a description of moderate length of my memories of her, on a day when we lost her.

We used to first see her as a news reader on the Marathi Channel. Or was it the Doordarshan broadcast in Marathi for the people of Maharashtra, I am not quite sure. Probably the latter. Marathi specific channels came much later after the advent of satellite deliveries.

She had a unique presence about her. There was a soft vulnerable quality that came across her gentle face, yet when she spoke out the news of the day, a confident believable expression took over the often mundane matter that she was delivering. I am quite certain, many of those that listened in would ever remember the matter. They were, I am sure, more interested in the image that was being unleashed before them.

In time of course we heard that this electric face of Doordarshan was entering the movies and many among us did feel that it was not long before this would happen. The visuals of her earlier films, committed to cause and reality were generating great talk among the industry, when Ramesh Sippy putting together his cast for ‘Shakti’ announced her name. I cannot remember what exactly I felt at the moment, but somehow it seemed to me to be a choice that would match the temperament of the film. Matching temperament is more than half the battle won in the execution of a film and when she reported for the first days’ shoot we all knew that the decision was indeed right. For me personally there was apprehension. It was the scene when a disillusioned and inebriated Vijay talks to his wife, Smita, on there being two Fathers in his life. It was a long and complicated scene and I had wished to do it all in one shot. Your own capability to perform such moments is heavily challenged by the capability of your co artist. If the co artist falters, you could be Brando at his best but would tragically fall short without the cooperation and support of the one facing you.

As we began the rehearsals and then the take, it became apparent to me that all my fears of a first day first time colleague were misplaced. She was just what was needed for the scene and conveyed a comfort that critics, audiences and trade refer to as ‘chemistry’. In the days that followed she did have many misgivings about what she was doing and how it needed to be done. She was not adamant about it, but sensibly questioning. She was soft spoken and never contributed to the loud demeanor that commercial cinema at times demanded. She felt awkward with the dance routine and would often express her inability to accomodate such actions. But she was a professional and gave all that came her way a very deserving try.

‘Shakti’ happily for her, did not demand any of what she was to encounter in the next one with me – ‘NamakHalal’. But even though her discomfort may have crossed her mind on many an occasion, she freely let herself be guided by the tenor of the film.

We shot a portion of ‘Shakti’ in Madras now Chennai, after the release of ‘NamakHalal’ and I remember her coming on the sets with wonder and amusement written on her face, exclaiming – ‘ Amit, people actually recognized me on the flight ! I have done so many meaningful films till now and all they refer to when they see me is ‘aaj rapat jaaen ..’ , the rain song in the film !! ‘

Many may not know, but she was a keen photographer. Actually neither did I, until on an outdoor shoot for ‘Shakti’ when work was interrupted by rain and we sat under make shift shelters among the tall eucalyptus tree forests of Ooty, she pulled out her camera, opened each part of it, cleaned it, screwed it back together again and took some rather picturesque shots of low clouds over a distant lake. Nature does provide better aesthetics than humans, I would imagine.

Despite having worked together we never did meet or connect socially after work hours. So, one late night in Bangalore as I slept after a grueling action sequence for my film ‘Coolie’ in my Hotel, a call came through and the operator announced that it was Smita Patil on the line. I turned it away thinking it to be a crank connection, but when it repeated itself I took it. Yes it was her. It was the first time ever that she was calling me and I was a bit surprised. She asked how I was and whether I was well, for she said she had had a bad dream and seen me in some trouble physically. I laughed over as did she and that was it. Next day I was critically injured, and most of what happened after is and has been documented well enough !

A premonition !

When I recovered she along with many others would drop by at the house regularly, here in Prateeksha to spend time with me, cheer me up, give me company as I recuperated. She knew I was fond of the ‘mogra’ and each day a small delicate little basket of the gorgeous smelling flower would be either sent to me or she would bring it along with her on her visits to the house.

She was averse to anything that was loud or ostentatious. Her choice of jewelry personally and also in the designing of her costume in films was meagre and much like her own countenance, gentle and delicate. It suited her. In her desired appearance there would follow a desired performance. A performance that looked as if it did not say much, but did indeed say a lot. That was the grace and the dignity with which she was identified always, till her very last.

She loved motherhood and was adamant, insistent almost, that it come to her. It shall remain one of the greatest misadventures in her life that the life she wanted, she was unable to spend much time with – her child, her son.

A very special individual, a soft breeze, cool and calming in nature was what I would like to remember her by. The promise that she built among all of us and the film fraternity in particular, shall remain with us forever. That vacuum created by her absence remains, perhaps with just a hint of the mellow flavor of her favorite flower, the ‘mogra’ .. ”

―Amitabh Bachchan ( Dec 13/14,  2011 )

Source : Please see

The great Indian film director who discovered the fine actress Shyam Benegal..

” Smita Patil was someone I noticed on TV as a Marathi newsreader on Doordarshan. She made for an attractive presence and the camera just loved her. Her father Shivajirao Girdhar Patil was a Minister in the Maharasthra cabinet those days. So the family had shifted to Mumbai from Pune. Smita was completing her graduation at St Xaviers College. After making Ankur (with Shabana Azmi in 1973), I was looking for someone to play the second lead in Nishant (1975) and hold her own in front of Shabana, an FTII graduate and a National Award winner for Ankur (1973).

I asked through my sound recordist, who knew Smita’s family well, whether she’d be willing to act. Her parents readily agreed but it took a while to convince her. Her mother (Vidyatai Patil, a social worker) had seen Ankur and didn’t want her to refuse me off-hand. It was an everyday situation when I first met Smita, nothing remarkable. She was casually clad in jeans. ” (  Reluctant actor)

” Though my plan that year was to make Nishant, I also wanted to do Charandas Chor (1975), a children’s film. I thought casting Smita in that would be sort of a rehearsal for her. We shot in a village close to Bhilai in Chattisgarh. It took Smita some time to get familiar with us. Most of the time, she kept to herself. She didn’t come down even for dinner. I learnt later that she felt homesick.

Though she didn’t have much to do in Nishant (Shabana played the protagonist and abducted wife of a teacher), Smita’s presence as the compassionate wife of the ruthless zamindar, was strong. When Nishant went to Cannes, Smita came along with me. Shabana joined us later. This was Smita’s first exposure to world cinema while Shabana’s relationship with world cinema had already been established. Both of them were introduced to the audiences on stage. Smita was offered films from well-known filmmakers from Latin America but she refused them. She was shy and awkward then. ” ( Movie Nishant)

” After that I offered Manthan (1976, a film set against the backdrop of Gujarat’s dairy industry) to Smita. It was originally to be done by Shabana. But Shabana had already become a star by then and was busy. We hired a dialect coach to help Smita acquire a Gujarati tonality. She did Manthan with panache. I remember it was a Sunday and we were shooting in a village near Rajkot. She sat with four-five local women squatting against the wall. A few college students came down cycling to watch the shooting. They asked for the heroine. Someone pointed out to her. They refused to believe him saying, “Will a heroine sit with local women?”  So much was Smita in character. ” ( Movie Manthan)

” Initially, I had considered Shabana for Bhumika (1977) too but Smita’s body language and dialect seemed culturally apt for her Maharashtrian character. Bhumika, based on the life of Marathi actress Hansa Wadkar, required Smita’s visual presence from the beginning to the end. There were contradictions, complexities and also sexuality in her character. Hansa Wadkar was what you could call a pro-feminist. Yet she yearned for a family life. She wanted to be her own person and yet missed a relationship, which she could depend on and feel secure. There remains a certain restlessness in her. But despite the ambiguities you couldn’t take a dislike to her character. The audience didn’t feel antipathy towards Smita.

There was a scene in Bhumika where Smita had to look shattered. But she was not getting it right. I was upset. But she said adamantly, “I can’t do it.” I asked Govind Nihalani (who was the cinematographer of the film) to set up the camera. I went and gave her a tight slap. She was shocked! And I got my shot. Of course, she didn’t speak to me for two-three days after that. That year she won the National Award for the role, which put her way ahead of the others. In fact, it was only after she won the National Award that she finally found her calling as an actor. ” ( Movie Bhumika)

” There was a phase where Shabana and Smita were said to be competitive but it was not something I knew of. Ours was a repertory like company, a kind of a family. In Mandi (1983), Shabana played the Madam of the brothel to perfection and Smita, the star of the brothel. Shabana was a perfectionist who thought deeply about her role and worked hard on her character. Smita was not a trained actor and so was spontaneous. She was a director’s actress. But she didn’t suffer from any inferiority complex vis a vis Shabana. She had confidence. Her transformation on screen was remarkable. If you saw her sitting with four people, you wouldn’t notice her. But once the camera was on, she was fascinating. ” ( Mandi)

” Govind Nihalani photographed her most beautifully in my films, even more than his own films (Smita acted in Nihalani’s Ardh Satya, Aakrosh). Her face was not perfect, her nose was tilted but the imperfections became a part of this powerful personality she projected. Usse swar mein aane mein waqt nahin lagta tha.

Our heroines have had to look fair though our literature has references to dark-skinned beauties. But this changed after Smita came along. She redefined Indian beauty. To digress a bit, I was doing Kondura (1978, Telugu title Anugraham) with Smita and Vanisri, who was considered the Meena Kumari of the South. Vanisri had beautiful, dark and shiny skin. I told her she’d have to go without make-up for my film and she was happy. But NTR saw her and remarked that she looked like ‘a crow’ without make-up. Vanisri was so upset that she had a nervous breakdown. ” ( Beautiful)

” Smita always felt she wouldn’t live long as she was born prematurely. But that was about it, she was not prone to any kind of drama. The last time we met was in Paris. I was shooting Susman (released in 1987) there. She was also shooting there and came across to meet us. Then all of us went around Paris and had dinner. She was already married then (Smita married Raj Babbar) and overall our worlds had changed.

Her death soon after on December 13, 1986 came as a shock. She had slipped into a coma after developing septicaemia barely two weeks after the birth of her son Prateik (November 28, 1986). I was there when she passed away at Jaslok Hospital, right next to my house. She would have been 59 today and surely done much more than just films. How can I forget her? She left a void no one can fill.  ” ( Too young and left..)

― Shyam Benegal ( Farhana Farook, Filmfare, April 16 2014)

Source: Please see :

Another pictorial Bio : Please see :

I was 15 in class tenth when she passed away and remember reading  newspaper and being incredibly sad. I still feel sad whenever see a song or a movie. I am born that way. Sometimes think ” how diffcult it must be to live with a vain person “. My choice is always a ” real person”. if the person is ” real and  beautiful ” as great actress that would be ideal, Smita Patil for me was always a ideal.

I think Smita Patil was a brilliant,  formidable  Indian actor and in my opinion a most charismatic actor..

Goodnight my friends! Hope you have a lovely day!

Thank you!



2 Responses to “Smita Patil”

  1. Deepak Mirani .. July 28, 2016 at 3:37 pm #

    Smitaji Is Really A Boon to Indian Cinema , Her Eyes Speak More than Her Mouth , If She Was Still Alive We Would Have Got Many More Meaningful Movies & Extraordinary Acting Abilities of A Female Actor ..Really Smitaji & Shabanaji Can be Termed As Indian Filmy Goddesses ..Miss Smitaji ..

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