There some unfulfilled dreams, some unfulfilled souls in Bollywood; we have taken you through one-Divya Bharti. But there is yet another exceptional and talented actress we lost to fate. She defied the conventional norm set by Bollywood. For those who think Shilpa Shetty or Bipasha Basu got dusky complexion the status of being eye-catching then you are absolutely wrong! It was this beauty who made a difference with her style, her looks and her flair. She was the dusky queen who made unconventional her buzzword. From Naseeruddin Shah to Amitabh Bachchan, she worked with eminent actors. Commercial or uncommercial, she bothered not about the type of film but her part in it and how well she could play it. Even now when you think about The Amul Story Manthan isn’t complete without the presence of this enchanting diva of Bollywood- Smita Patil.
Nuggets of her life that we recently came across were alluring as much as beautiful. After reading about her magnificent persona we came closer to being more than just her fans. She was a gifted actress who had no tantrums, no ego, whatsoever of being an actress. She was more like us who would drive her car herself, scrub it when necessary, and wash the utensils when her maid isn’t in! There was this side of her personality which her mother spelt and which amazed us! “Once she had to catch a flight to Goa to shoot for Bhumika. That day my maid was absent. Quickly, she ran into the kitchen and washed all the utensils. She never depended on a driver; she had no issues washing her car and driving away. Even after she became famous there was no change in her attitude. She used to dress like a bhikaran (a tramp). She’d wear a pair of jeans, pull on a kurta (even her father’s), Kolhapuri chappals, tie her hair into a bun and rush out. She never needed a mirror. Once she was to meet a well-known editor for an interview at a restaurant. He couldn’t recognise her. He kept waiting for ‘actress Smita Patil’, till she introduced herself. They both burst out laughing,” recalls her mother, Vidya Patil, in an interview.
Smita Patil was an aura which still is as tout and fresh as a newly bloomed flower. Her pictures say so. Her eyes speak volumes. Veteran photographer, NK Sareen who photographed Smita on several occasions says, “There are people who can speak with their eyes and Smita Patil was one of them. Smita would look at a person and convey everything.”
She was one rare personality who was taken to her death by her fans-turned-haters. She had no qualms to declare her love for a married man. She moved in with him. But she became a housebreaker in the view of the moral police and that’s what took her life, they say. Well, there are many theories that spurred immediately after her death. The question about Smita Patil’s sudden death still remains unanswered.
Smita’s peer, Mrinal Sen, in an interview given to a publication in 2005, said that Smita’s death was solely because of gross medical negligence. It was because the inappropriate treatment given by the doctors that led to her death. Some even claim that she was murdered! Her Husband, Raj Babbar and her mother too, claim that it was a simple fever that took her to coma and then to her death. “…she developed 104 degree fever (a week after she delivered)…. She feared being taken to hospital. She had to be taken forcibly. She slipped into a coma on the way.”But her sister Manya differs. She says, she believes, that her sister died because the people she loved the most, broke her heart.
Indeed, she was an emotional being, recalls her mother, “There was a music which would be played at 8 am on the radio. The minute she’d hear that she’d start crying because she knew that it was time for me to leave for duty. She’d come running and hold my legs, ‘Ma tu jao nako, mazi shala palun tak, tujha dawakahna palun tak (Ma, don’t go, break my school and break your dispensary)!” Even as a mother she was emotionally attached to her new born, “She was delighted to become a mother. She was very keen to breastfeed Prateik. When she developed 104 degree fever (a week after she delivered), she’d put ice packs on her body and then feed him. She watched as I bathed Prateik, because she wanted to do it herself.”
Not just with her family and friends, Smita went out of her way to help those in need, giving away such anecdotes her mother says, “Years after her death, we met a lady whose husband (a clapper boy) she had helped. She recalled, ‘Smitaji emptied her purse and gave my husband money to get a tin roof so that my children would be protected in the monsoon’.” In another incident she mention, “Once when Amitabh Bachchan was convalescing (after his Coolie accident), my husband and I had gone to pay him a visit. He revealed, ‘We’d eat in our room during lunch break. But Smita would call everyone, from the spot boy to the clapper boy, and eat with them’.”
Smita Patil is merely a memory for those who belonged to her time. We saw her in flesh and blood but for the coming generation she will be just another actress who had an unfulfilled, sketchy, if not rueful, life.