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Smita Patil

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

Along with actress and co-star Shabana Azmi, Smita represented India's parallel cinema. Her performances were often acclaimed, and she was mostly noted for her work in films as Manthan (1977), Bhumika (1977), Aakrosh (1980) and Chakra (1981).

Patil was also an active feminist (in a distinctly Indian context) 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.

Early life

Smita Patil was born in Pune, India to 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 owned television.

Career

Smita Patil belongs to a generation of actresses, including Suhasini Mulay and 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.

I remained committed to small cinema for about five years ... I refused all commercial offers. Around 1977-78, the small cinema movement started picking up and they needed names. I was unceremoniously dropped from a couple of projects. This was a very subtle thing but it affected me a lot. I told myself that here I am and I have not bothered to make money. I have turned down big, commercial offers because of my commitment to small cinema and what have I got in return? If they want names I'll make a name for myself. So I started and took whatever came my way.

In time she was accepted by commercial filmmakers and from Raj Khosla and Ramesh Sippy to B.R. Chopra, they all agreed that she was "excellent". Her fans, too, grew with her newfound stardom. Patil's glamorous roles in her more commercial films—such as Shakti and Namak Halaal -- revealed the permeable boundaries between "serious" cinema and "Hindi Cinema" masala in the Hindi film industry.Her association with artistic cinema remained strong, however. 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.

Personal life

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.

Death

Smita died from childbirth complications on 13 December 1986, aged 31, 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 Smita Patil had died due to gross medical negligence.

Awards

Winner
  • 1978 - National Film Award - Best Actress for Bhumika
  • 1982 - Filmfare Best Actress Award for Chakra
  • 1982 - National Film Award - Best Actress for Chakra
  • 1985 - Padma Shri Award
Nominated
  • 1978 - Filmfare Best Actress Award for Bhumika
  • 1983 - Filmfare Best Actress Award for Bazaar
  • 1984 - Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award for Arth
  • 1984 - Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award for Mandi
  • 1985 - Filmfare Best Actress Award for Aaj Ki Aawaz

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