She died well before her time, yet Smita Patil left an indelible mark in the history of cinema.
Tall and good looking, she could exude seriousness and sensuality with panache. Like all good actors, she had presence and effortlessly changed from the slum-dweller in Chakra to an urban office worker in Namak Halal. Though initially restricted to parallel cinema and serious subjects, she adjusted to commercial cinema with ease.
Here are five Smita Patil films worth a repeat watch :
Cast: Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah, Ranjit Chowdhry, Kulbhusan Kharbanda
Director: Rabindra Dharmaraj
A slum dweller Amma (Patil) loses her husband in a scuffle and later takes on two lovers – one a truck driver (Kharbanda) and the other a petty thief Lukka (Naseeruddin).
She has a son who thinks of Lukka as a role model and joins him in his misadventures. Meanwhile, Amma gets pregnant again and tells the truck driver it is his child.
Lukka gets syphilis and a bit of conscience. He decides to reform but gets caught trying to steal some medicines for himself. Ultimately, the slum gets razed and the inhabitants move on in the wheel of life.
Cast: Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah, Farooque Shaikh, Supriya Pathak
Director: Sagar Sarhadi
Set in Hyderabad, the film deals with the story of selling young girls as brides to rich Arabs in the Gulf. It deals with two sets of lovers – Najma (Patil) and Salim (Naseeruddin) and Shabnam (Pathak) and Sarju (Shaikh).
Salim is an idealist who prefers Najma to be independent. On the other hand, Shabnam’s marriage is fixed with an old man solely for the purpose of the money involved.
However, Sarju is deeply in love with Shabnma and tries hard to get her to abandon the old man and marry him. The entire cast does a splendid job in the films and the songs are superb.
Cast: Smita Patil, Girish Karnad, Shrikant Moghe, Ashalata Wabgaonkar
Director: Jabbar Patel
The story revolves around an ambitious woman who wants to break out of tradition of staying at home and do something for needy women.
She meets resistance from her husband and mother-in-law but goes to another town as warden of a remand home. She faces many challenges here particularly from office-bearers and local politicians.
She takes them on but is forced to return after a tragedy. She again meets resistance at home and decides to go elsewhere. This film is in Marathi but a Hindi version called Subah was made simultaneously.
Mirch Masala (1987)
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Smita Patil, Om Puri, Suresh Oberoi, Ratna Pathak Shah, Dina Pathak, Benjamin Gilani, Raj Babbar, Paresh Rawal, Mohan Gokhale
Director: Ketan Mehta
This is a visually beautiful film with the splashes of red among the yellow sands of the desert. It deals with a strong young woman Sonbai (Patil) who refuses to yield to the advances by the local subedar.
Set during the Colonial rule, the wicked subedar imposes heavy taxes, loots the villages and has an eye on all the women there.
But Sonbai resists and tall the subedar’s efforts end in vain. The climax is set in a chilli factory and the surprise ending has the subedar on his knees. Smita simply sizzles in this film.
Cast: Smita Patil, Amol Palekar, Amrish Puri, Anant Nag, Naseeruddin Shah, Sulabha Deshpande
Director: Shyam Benegal
A complex, dark film, it deals with the story of an actress Usha, her liaisons with the men in her life and her constant battle with her mother.
Based on the life of actress Hansa Wadkar, the film dwells on the frustrations of a strong minded woman who marries a family friend much older than her Keshav (Amol Palekar) despite opposition from her mother (Deshpande).
Keshav sets up her career but gets jealous as she mingles with other men. The complexities of Usha’s many relationships are handled expertly by Benegal. Smita Patil is superb in the film and is well supported by Palekar, who reveals shades of grey very well.