Neetal wrote on Aug 11 2008 7:11PM
Smita Patil was born on October 17, 1955 . She was a leading Indian actress from the 1970s to the 1980s in both Hindi and Marathi cinema. Smita was the daughter of a minister and a social-worker mother. Born in Pune, Maharashtra, she studied at a Marathi medium school. Her first tryst with the camera was as a television newscaster. Her dusky beauty and large eyes drew attention. 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. Smita shared a special relationship with the camera and, incidentally, she was very good behind the camera too: an exhibition of photographs clicked by her was held posthumously.
One of the major beneficiaries of the mid-1970s efflorescence of the art movement in Hindi cinema, Smita's film career got off the ground courtesy mentor Shyam Benegal. After he cast her in the children's film Charandas Chor , and in a small role in Nishant , Smita seemed to suddenly hold a monopoly over Benegal. For a while, she even seemed to have won him away from Shabana Azmi, with whom the filmmaker had done some excellent work in Ankur and Nishant. Smita sprang to the spotlight with Benegal's Manthan , where she played a Harijan woman who spearheads a revolt at the milk co-operative. Next, Benegal cast her in a more demanding role --- Bhumika . A fictionalized biography of Indian actress Hansa Wadkar, Bhumika won Smita the National Award for Best Actress. Smita played the complex role of an actress struggling to lead her life on her own terms (through her chequered history with four men --- Amol Palekar, Anant Nag, Naseeruddin Shah and Amrish Puri) and imbued it with an insight that belied her 22 years.
Smita was compared ad nauseum with Shabana Azmi, her senior and rival in the off-beat films' arena. So when the two were pitted opposite each other in Arth , comparisons were inevitable. Shabana had the sympathetic author-backed role but Smita's on-the-edge characterization of a guilt-ridden mistress had its fair share of admirers, including Amitabh Bachchan and Kamal Haasan. Smita had that rare ability to stand out even in a supporting role --- witness Nihalani's Ardh Satya , the 1984 hit Aaj Ki Awaaz and J P Dutta's Ghulami . By the mid-1980s Smita was regularly paired with Rajesh Khanna --- Aakhir Kyon , Amrit  and Nazrana  --- and there was a noticeable rise in her glamour quotient. Her earlier harem sacrum look segued to her picture-perfect makeup in her popular Aakhir Kyon song Dushman na kare. Smita retumed with Ketan Mehta to play the feisty and fiery Sonbai in Mirch Masala . Smita won raves for playing a spirited masala factory worker who holds out against a lecherous zamindar. Before the pungent Mirch Masala could release, Smita shocked everyone when childbirth complications resulted in her death December 13, 1986. She passed away even before she could cement her relationship with her just born son, Prateik. Her son, now a strapping teenager, is not the only Prateik (symbol) of her memories. Smita has left behind a rich haul of films that showcase her enormous ability to offer us a glimpse into her soul each time she performed a role. Prateik got good reviews for his performance in JTYJN and many say, he reminds people of her mother.