Smita Patil was regarded as “the queen of parallel cinema ” in India during her short career in mid-70s to 80s. She died in 1986 when she was only 31 shortly after childbirth. She was married to actor Raj Babbar. Her son, Prateek Babbar, is a talented actor.
The Polish Film Institute and the Indian embassy in Warsaw, with the help of Indian Film Directorate, organised “Smita Patil Retrospect”. A similar festival was held earlier in a medieval Polish town, Torun, ten days ago.
The programme coincided with the festival of ’100 Years of Indian Cinema Week’.
The organisers screened Smita’s famous films like “Bhumika”, “Manthan”, “Mirch Masala”, “Sadgati” and “Umbratta”. The artistic crowd in both the cities were charmed by her histrionic heights.
“We in Poland are attuned to Bollywood movies such as ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’, or ‘Zindgi Nahin Milegi Dobara’ among others. Now we realise the importance of Indian parallel cinema movement in the last twenty five years of the 20th century,” said
Jacek Bromski, president of the Association of Polish Filmmakers.
“These Indian movies are no less artistic and realistic than our movies made by Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi and Roman Polanski. No doubt Smita was a shining star in that age and that is visible from senstive films,” Bromski said.
In the beginning, Smita was promoted to art movies first by Shaym Benegal and then by Govind Nahilani in his films “Aakrosh” and “Ardh Satya”.
She did few Bollywood films like “Namak Halal” with Amitabh Bachchan, “Aakhir Kyun” with Rajesh Khanna and “Anand Aur Anand” with Dev Anand.
Addressing the audience at the inaguration ceremony, Govind Nahilani said: “Smita was one of the most talented actresses of her time. She was very senstitive used to go deep in her role without much reherasal. Both in her personal life as well as in cinematic life she was very honest and candid. She had tremendous commitment to social cinema as well as to Indian society.”
Smita’s sister Manya Patil, who is the president of Smita Patil Foundation, came specially for these two occasions.
Smita was very fond of Poland as she had visited the country in a film delegation in 1980.
“She wanted to come to Poland again but it was not to be because of her sudden death. It is because of her affection for Poland that I agreed to have this programme ‘Smita Patil Retrospect’ with the help of Indian Ambassador Monika Kapil Mohta, who is also a great fan of her,” Manya said.
“This is for the first time that I have organised such a programme outside India,” she added.
Janusz Krzyzowski, president of the Indo-Polish Cultural Committee said: “Fate had snached such a talented actress at her prime. I feel as if future had betrayed us otherwise we would have got many more powerful movies from Smita.”
Krzyzowski, a noted indologist along with an Indian Urdu poet, based in Warsaw had brought out an anthology of Bollywood poetry four years ago in Polish language.
Anna Bem, an Indophile, who had met Smita when she had come to Poland in 1980, has sweet memories of her meeting.
“Smita was very unassuming and warm person. She was never in a hurry to impress people. We chatted for a long time on art movies as I could communicate with her because I was teacher of English literature and a professional interpretator,” said Bem, who is now married to an Indian professor.