Rohit wrote on 11 Aug 2008
Leela Chitnis (September 9, 1909 – July 14, 2003) was an early actress in the Indian film industry. She was born in Dharwar, Karnataka to an English professor. She was one of the first educated film actresses. Her father was part of a Marathi theatre company called Natyamanwantar. Chitnis' early stage work included comedy Usna Navra (1934) and with her own film group Udyacha Sansar. She married and had four children but divorced her husband. She started acting to support her four children. She started as an extra and went on to stunt films.
She was publicized in the Times of India as the first graduate society-lady from Maharastra. By then she had already made her first major mark as an actress on the silver screen. Chitnis worked at Prabhat Pictures, Pune and Rajit Movietone before going on to be the leading lady in Bombay Talkies which saw her overtake and outshine Devika Rani. Her association with Bombay Talkies shot her to stardom and she made a particularly good pair with Devika Rani's leading man Ashok Kumar. Ashok Kumar was so impressed by her acting abilities that he admitted her to learning how to speak with his eyes from her. By the mid 1940s her career went downhill as the new leading ladies came in.
For 22 years, Chitnis played the mother of the later leading men including Dilip Kumar, often playing an ailing mother or a mother going through hardships and struggling to bring up her offspring. In fact she created the archetype of the Hindi Film mother, which was carried out by later actresses. She continued doing films and then migrated to the United States in the late 1980s to join her children.
She was also the first Indian actress to endorse Lux soap which she did in 1941. Since then, and to date, Lux has been advertised as the secret of beauty of film actresses. She died in Danbury, Connecticut at a nursing home, at age 93.