By MovieTalkies.com, 17 October 2011
Soft and vulnerable. Tough and indomitable.
The contradictions merged flatteringly in her personality, fleshing out a woman who later emerged as one of the finest actresses of her time. Smita Patil. Or more sorrowfully, the late Smita Patil.
As one of her most abiding admirers, October 17, her birth anniversary brings a lump to my throat. Not to mention the tears that well up in my heart... but don't quite reach my eyes. And sweep in a flood of memories into my psyche.
Like the time... I saw Smita on the telly in the Seventies reading the Marathi news on Doordarshan. "Aaajcha thalak baatmya" (meaning, today's leading news)... as soon as those words issued forth from her lips, I was rivetted. Both... by the voice and the woman behind it. And I listened raptly to the news, cursing myself every time I blinked when Smita showed up on the mini-screen.
Incidentally, years later, when I engaged her mentor Shyam Benegal in an interface, he echoed similar sentiments. "When I saw Smita for the first time, I was struck by her presence," he'd admitted. "Subsequently, when I cast her in Charandas Chor and then in Nishant and Bhumika, I realised that she was quite versatile. She could also dance, which is something that came of use to her when she went into mainstream Hindi cinema."
Like the time... I met director Jabbar Patel and requested him to respond to a few queries around his Subah actress. "You never ever met Smita when she was alive?!", he asked incredulously. "She was such a livewire! You would have loved to interact with Smita, she was such a genuine person."
Like the time... I was introduced to Aruna Vikas, her childhood friend and filmmaker, with whom Smita shared her birthday and an umbilical chord of palship. "What can I say about Smita?" Aruna said fondly, her face lighting up at the mere mention of her friend. "She was one from the heart. We'd shared such great times together. As an actress, nobody was in her league. I miss her every single day of my life."
Like the time... I interviewed Shabana Azmi and she said once, "Our lives were always inextricably entwined. Smita was quite unusual in one sense that despite not being a trained actress, Smita knew exactly how to catch the right 'sur' of the character that she was playing. The Press constantly pitted us against one another, but towards the end we had resolved our differences and had become friends."