Nationality: Indian. Born: 1954. Education: Attended Bombay University. Career: Involved with a theater group in Poona; 1972—newscaster on a Bombay television station; 1975—film debut in Shyam Benegal's Nishant. Awards: Indian National Film Awards for Best Actress, for Bhumika, 1977, and Chakra, 1980. Died: 13 December 1986.
Films as Actress:
Manthan (Churning) (Benegal); Bhumika (The Role) (Benegal)
Gaman (Ali); Anugraham (The Boon) (Benegal)
Akrosh; Naxalitees; Chakra (Vicious Circle) (Dharmaraj)
Albert Pinto ko gussa kyon aati hai (Why Albert Pinto Is Angry) (Mirza); Sadgati (Deliverance) (Ray—for TV); Bhavni bhavai (A Folk Tale) (Mehta) (as Ujjan); Aswa medher ghora (Sacrificial Horse) (Bhattarcharya)
Namak halal; Shakti; Bazaar; Dil e Nadaan
Mandi (Benegal); Subah (Umbartha; Morning; Threshold) (Patel) (as Sulabha); Arth; Ardh Satya; Chatpatee; Ghungroo; Dard ka rishta; Qayamat; Haadsaa
Situm; Anand nur Anand; Raawan; Pet Pyar nur Paap; Tarang (Shahani)
Chidambaram (Aravindan) (as Sivakami)
Debshishu (Chakraborty); Mirch Masala (Spices) (Mehta) (as Sonbai)
Nazrana (Tandon); Sutradhar (Joshi)
Akarshan; Hum Farishte Nahin; Waris
Oonch Neech Beech; Galiyon Ka Badshah
By PATIL: article—
Interview with C. Tesson, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), February 1981.
On PATIL: articles—
Obituary in Variety (New York), 24 December 1986.
Obituary in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), January 1987.
Smita Patil 1953–1986: A Film Tribute, Greenwich Festival Booklet, London, 1987.
Rajadhyaksha, Ashish, and Paul Willemen, Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema, London and New Delhi, 1994.
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In India during the 1970s, the New Cinema movement arose as a challenge to mainstream popular cinema. Although it also hoped to alter mainstream cinema, the New Cinema's main thrust was a greater verisimilitude centered around contemporary social issues. Foremost among its concerns was the representation of an ideal modern woman. Smita Patil was the New Cinema actress most strongly identified with establishing the role model for this new woman.
Smita Patil was discovered by director Shyam Benegal while working as a newscaster for Bombay television. Her face soon appeared on every national magazine cover and she became a star overnight. Wearing little or no makeup and dressed in traditional saris, her "natural looking" image was somewhat antithetical to that of the usual Indian film star. She was increasingly cast in roles that used this image to blur any distinction between her personal and professional life. Originally described as the rural milkmaid "with fire in her eyes and a deep intensity in her soul," her screen persona was made concrete after appearing in Benegal's Bhumika, the story of a famous Marathi stage and screen actress (the Joan Crawford of India) whose life was fraught with drink and painful love affairs during her search for personal freedom in an orthodox society.
Although the art cinema world tended to champion her as a serious actress, Patil began an uneasy crossover towards more commercial films. A recipient of national awards within India, Smita Patil's talents also attracted attention outside her native land; Costa-Gavras organized a retrospective of her films in France.