Tag Archives: mahesh bhatt

Smita Patil – a powerhouse of talent

Smita Patil – a powerhouse of talent.

written by Souranath Banerjee

Numerous popular stage performances, more than 80 films in Hindi, Marathi and other regional languages, a torchbearer of the Indian parallel cinema, two National Awards as ‘best actress’, many Filmfare Awards and also the recipient of the prestigious Padma Shri – all-that in a career which spanned only over a decade as Smita Patil passed away at the young age of 31!

Smita-pic1In the early 70s Smita Patil used to be a television newscaster for Doordarshan when acclaimed filmmaker Shyam Benegal took notice of her and gave her the first role in his film Charandas Chor (1975).

Mr.Benegal who later worked with Smita in numerous other films recalled the first time he met her ‘She had a presence which I felt could be well utilised in cinema’. And indeed so.

Smita patil’s performance in Bhumika (for which she received her first National Award at the age of 21) impressed Jaya Bhaduri so much that she commented ‘makes you sit up and take notice. Her reflexes are uninhibited and she has a face with tremendous mobility’. 

A few starting scenes from Shyam Benegal’s Bhumika.

The most expressive eyes ever to have graced the celluloid; her dusky and sensuous looks and the capability to play any character (no matter how challenging) with extreme ease and perfection soon established Smita Patil as one of the most talented actress of Indian Cinema.

A scene from Mahesh Bhatt‘s precious film Arth (1982).

In the early years of her career she concentrated only on art cinema.

Along with Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri, Smita Patil formed the four essential pillars of the then popular parallel cinema.

A beautiful song sequence from the film Jait Re Jait (1977) along with Mohan Agashe

Smita Patil being an activist for women’s rights became particularly famous for her roles that portrayed women as capable and empowered.

Smita-pic2She was probably the first actress who gave the directors enough
courage to make films with female lead characters in mind, something refreshingly different from the conventional male-dominated cinema that existed in Bollywood.

In films like BhumikaUmbarthaBazaar and Mirch Masala Smita Patil’s performances were intensely appreciated both by the critics and the audience. 

A scene from Ketan Mehta‘s brilliant film Mirch Masala (1987) with Naseeruddin Shah as the notorious Subedar and Smita Patil as the daredevil Sonbai.

On the occasion of 100 years of the Indian cinema, in honor of Smita Patil a postage stamp bearing her face was released by the Indian government.

Probably the only actress who could do justice to critically acclaimed films like ChakraSadgati, Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Ata Hai, Ardh SatyaMandiAakroshChidambaram and on the other hand be equally comfortable with hardcore commercial films like Namak HalaalKasam Paida Karne Wale KiShakti and so on. 

In Smita Patil’s own words:

‘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.’

Picture curtsey: www.filmimpressions.com. 

City Lights (2014)

My Ratings: 4/5

After the National Award winning film Shahid, (director) Hansal Mehta and (actor) Rajkummar Rao comes together with yet another promising film – City Lights.

The dazzling lights in the big cities are often tempting from a distance but on a closer look one notices the dark shadows they cast that can easily swallow the weak and the naive along with their little expectations.

Deepak Singh (Rajkummar Rao), his wife Rakhi (Patralekha) and their sweet young daughter – lost and fragile yet desperate to try their luck in the city of Mumbai.

In this film we get to see a glimpse of the ugly side of Mumbai, the famous city of dreams that ruthlessly crushes the dreams of the poor and the helpless only to feed the riches. People are cheated manipulated and humiliated, pushed to their limits until they fight back and demand their existence.

City Lights is uncomfortably raw; it makes us look at poverty and despair from disturbing proximity.

A remake of the British film Metro Manila, City Lights is a superb effort to tell the story of the ordinary – their lives, their wishes and their endless limitations.

Brilliant performance by Rajkummar Rao – I personally think he deserves another National Award for this act. The portrayal of a naïve Rajasthani villager – the accent, the body language, the tone, the expressions – he was just perfect.

Patralekha, the debutant actress also did a pretty good job but the surprise package in the film is Manav Kaul who plays the superior of Rajkummar in the film. A very powerful actor – so natural and spontaneous.

The director Hansal Mehta has done it again. It seems that he has perfected the art of telling stories of ordinary people in a simple, realistic fashion which is kind of rare in Bollywood. He along with his cinematographer Dev Agarwal has deliberately set a dark tone for City Lights to get the gritty feel of poverty and hunger. A wise decision.

Well edited by Apurva Asrani and of course with the backing of Mahesh Bhatt (in production and marketing levels) the film has evolved into a fine piece of cinema.

The only problem is the songs in the film; actually it’s not that the songs are bad but I think they are over-used. It can be irritating at times when every emotional scene is underlined by heavy doses of mediocre songs in the background. Then again Jeet Ganguly could have done better.

On the whole a very emotional film; it certainly makes you reach out for the central characters – to warn them, to protect them from this cruel world (or rather the cruel city).

It’s not advisable to miss this film.