Smita Patil was a distinguished Indian actress in the Indian film, television, and theatre industry. She was famous for her finest and greatest acting skills on the stage and in films of her time. She was prominent among the top paid actresses of her time. In her film career, Smita appeared and gave performances in over 80 movies that were in Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Malayalam, and Kannada languages. However, her career span was just for a decade. She is known as a women’s rights activist and is very popular for her roles in films that portrayed women as empowered, competent, and self-sufficient. In Indian cinema, Smita became one of the leading actresses of parallel cinema. Many mainstream movies were also featured Smita Patil as a leading actress. Since childhood, Smita participated in dramas.
Smita Patil was born on Monday, 17 October 1955 (age 31 years; as of 2020) in Pune, Bombay State, India. Her zodiac sign was Libra. Smita’s early education was from Renuka Swaroop Memorial School, Pune. She studied literature at Bombay University, Maharashtra. Patil was a part of local theatre groups at the campus of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Maharashtra. Smita Patil worked as a television newsreader on Mumbai Doordarshan in the initial days of her career.
Height (approx.): 5′ 10″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
Her father was Shivajirao Girdhar Patil who was an Indian social activist and politician from the state of Maharashtra. Smita Patil’s mother is Vidyatai Patil who is a nurse and a social worker.
Smita has two sisters. Her elder sister Anita is a school teacher. Anita has two sons. Varoon and Adeetya (a teacher in New York, US). Adeetya is married to Katherine. They have a daughter named Zoe Smita. Smita’s younger sister, Manya Patil Seth, has produced the Indian film ” Dubai Return” and was involved with Dev Anand’s discovery ‘Atlee Brar’ in 1984.
Smita’s cousin Aboli Patil and aunt Vidya Malvade are Indian actresses.
Husband & Children
Smita Patil was married to Raj Babbar, an Indian Hindi and Punjabi film actor and politician. Smita’s son Prateik Babbar is an Indian actor who predominantly appears in Hindi language films.
Smita Patil had a close relationship with Vinod Khanna (an Indian actor) in 1980. She was involved with producer Johnny Bakshi (was an Indian film director and producer) before getting married to Raj Babbar in 1986.
Smita Patil, apart from acting, was an active feminist and a member of the Women’s Centre in Mumbai. During her very short life span, Smita thoroughly worked for the upliftment of women’s status in India and gave recommendations and support to those films that highlighted the role of Indian women in traditional Indian society. She preferred to work in those films that depicted the challenges faced by a middle-class woman in urban societies in India.
The film ‘Teevra Madhyam’ by Arun Khopkar was Smita Patil’s first film and it was an FTII student film.
Smita Patil’s debut movie was Shyam Benegal’s Charandas Chor in 1975. In an interview, Shyam Benegal (a film director) reminded an incident of the movie Bhumika (1977), He said Smita was hesitant to play the role of a prostitute or a goddess in the movie but her mother, Vidyatai Patil motivated and guided her to take the shot in full devotion to highlight the situations faced by the real prostitutes in India. He further added that Smita’s mother supported and helped her to make a successful film career. he said-
Once Smita was shooting for Bhumika at Jyoti Studio, opposite her old house in Tardeo. Her mother, Vidyatai, got a call from director Shyam Benegal asking her to visit the set. There she learnt that Smita was unwilling to do the thrusts required in the song Tumhare bin jee na lage. Vidyatai told Smita, ‘You’ve taken up this profession of your own will. So whether your role is that of a prostitute or a goddess, you have to play it with devotion.’ The shot was okayed in the next take.”
Shyam Benegal (a film director), in another interview, revealed that everyone in the Indian film industry was astonished to see that Smita would become a film star as she was a dark skin lady. he further added that in India there was a big bias against darker skin and Indians were one of the most color-conscious people all around the world. he stated that from day one of Smita’s entrance into the Indian film industry he had the feeling that Smita would photograph brilliantly in the Indian cinema. He said-
I have a way, I don’t know what it is… of being able to tell how people will photograph. With Smita, no one would think that she’d make a film star. A, because in India you have this bias against darker skin. It is ridiculous but that’s the way it is. We are one of the most colour-conscious people in the world. B, how does having an attractive personality translate in physical terms? That’s very difficult to understand, but sometimes you know that this person has it. I felt that from the beginning, from what I saw on TV and Khopkar’s film. I could tell that this girl would photograph brilliantly,”
In 1977, Smita Patil won the National Film Award for the best actress for her Hindi film ‘Bhumika’ just after three years of her debut in the Indian film industry.
In the movie Manthan, Ms. Patil portrayed the role of a Harijan woman, which was her major role. This film Manthan was a blockbuster hit and gave sudden fame and stardom to Smita’s film career that brought her talent and acting skills to the attention of the world.
In 1982, Smita Patil’s work and the role were greatly appreciated while acting opposite Shabana Azmi, in the film Arth. In an interview, Shabana Azmi (an Indian actress) stated about Smita that Ms. Patil was born for the camera and she inspired and challenged her co-actor during her roles in the movie. She said-
She was born for the camera. It lingered over her face and she held it captive without the slightest effort. I felt both challenged and inspired by her as a co-actor.”
Reportedly, Smita devoted about five years of her career to the small cinema. In a conversation with a media house, Smita told that she dropped all the projects that were offered to her by the commercial cinema. She further stated that she wanted to work in commercial cinema and make her imprints on the women-centered films; however, she was not bothered about making money. She said-
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.”
Many big commercial filmmakers including Raj Khosla, Ramesh Sippy, and B.R. Chopra offered roles to Smita to work in their films in the 1980s. All of them regarded her as an ‘excellent actress.’ Movies such as Shakti showed that Smita had worked in ‘serious cinema’ flawlessly; however, the movies like Namak Halal depicted her glamourous side in the Indian film industry.
Smita Patil was paired with Rajesh Khanna (an Indian Actor) in the movie Dil-E-Nadan n 1982. Director C. V. Sridhar was the first one to pair them. After the huge success of the movie Dil-E-Nadan, they were paired in many other famous films including Aakhir Kyun?, Anokha Rishta, Angaarey, Nazrana, and Amrit. The songs “Dushman Na Kare Dost Ne Woh” and “Ek Andhera Lakh Sitare” from the movie Aakhir Kyon? were chartbusters. These films portrayed various Indian societal issues. Their performances were critically appreciated. Rajesh Khanna and Smita Patil were paired together in 6 successful super-hit Indian films.
The character portrayed by Smita Patil in the art cinema was magnificent. Her movie Mirch Masala was released after her death in 1987. Smita was featured as an energetic Sonbai by producer and director Ketan Mehta. It was her final role in the Indian film industry before her death. Forbes included Smita’s performance in the film ‘Mirch Masala’ on its list, “25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema” on the centenary of Indian cinema in April 2013.
In the early 1970s, Smita Patil began her career as a television newsreader on Mumbai Doordarshan that was run by an Indian government broadcaster.
Smita Patil’s marriage with Raj Babbar was full of controversies. Raj Babbar was already married to Nadira Babbar when Raj decided to marry Smita. Raj and Nadira had two children, Juhi Babbar and Arya Babbar. Raj Babbar was not divorced from Nadira when he got married to Smita Patil. Raj Babbar and Smita met on a film shoot and they started liking each other. Later on, Smita and Raj decided to get married and the couple had an only child, Prateik Babbar. Smita faced a lot of criticism from feminist organizations when she married Raj Babbar.
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- She won National Film Award as the Best Actress in the film Bhumika in 1977 and for the film Chakra in 1980.
- She received Filmfare Marathi Awards as the Best Actress for the film Jait Re Jait in 1978 and for the film Umbartha in 1981.
- She won Filmfare Awards as the Best Actress for the film Chakra in 1982.
- She received Padma Shri – India’s fourth-highest civilian honor from the Government of India, in 1985.
- The Priyadarshni Academy started with the Smita Patil Memorial Award as a tribute to the veteran actress in 1986.
- She received Bengal Film Journalists’ Association Awards for the Best Actress (Hindi) for the film Mirch Masala in 1987.
- In 2011, Rediff.com listed Smita as the second-greatest Indian actress of all time, behind Nargis.
- In 2012, the Smita Patil International Film Festival Documentaries and Shorts were initiated in her honor.
- On the occasion of 100 years of the Indian cinema, a postage stamp bearing her face was released by India Post to honor her on 3 May 2013.
Smita died from childbirth complications (Puerperal sepsis) on 13 December 1986 in Bombay, Maharashtra.
- She also goes by the name Smi.
- Reportedly, Smita Patil was a soft-hearted person and loved to bring stray dogs and cats at home. Smita admired playing Jijabai in childhood drama shows. In an incident, once, Smita voluntarily took the responsibility to take tea every day for a new mother, who was abandoned by her family members for delivering a baby girl in Vidyatai Patil’s workplace at a local hospital in Mumbai.
- Smita’s parents motivated and encouraged her to join the Rashtra Seva Dal (RSD) (a cultural organization that remained outside politics during her school days. Smita’s father was interested in diverting the mind of young Smita towards the service of India. Smita joined RSD and became an enthusiastic member of RSD. Smita went on Bharat Darshan and Maharashtra Darshan tours during her membership in RSD. She actively devoted her time in the remote villages of Maharashtra and educated, entertained, and served the poor local people who were regarded as insignificant in Indian society. Vidyatai, mother of Smita Patil was also a member of Seva Dal Sainik.
- Vidyatai Patil, the mother of Smita Patil, said in an interview that she attended the Filmfare with Smita where work was greatly appreciated by the jury and the film industry. She further added that after getting so much success and fame in the movies, Smita used to dress very simply and she looked like a Bhikaran (a tramp). She explained the physical appearance of Smita-
After I reached home, I got a call saying she’d given a perfect shot. 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.”
- Reportedly, in the late 1970s, Smita Patil got engaged to Dr. Sunil Bhutani. Bhutani was well known and recognized for modeling in the advertisement of “Four Squares Cigarette Environment.”
- In an interview, Manya Patil Seth, younger sister of Smita Patil, said that Smita was ambivalent in doing high-budget films and was not comfortable with the same. She said-
Smita was never comfortable in big-budget movies. She wept her heart out after performing the rain dance with Mr. Bachchan in Namak Halaal; she felt she wasn’t doing the right thing.”
- Reportedly, it is said that Smita was attracted to kids. In an incident of Jabbar Patel’s movie ‘Jait Re Jait’ in 1977. Smita went to Karnal fort for the shooting of the film. During the movie shoot, Smita got mixed with the tribal women on the set and shared the food and other eatables from their plates. Smita loved to play with their kids and she took them around. Jabbar Patel warned Smita that some kids had a skin infection but she did not bother. Eventually, Smita too developed the disease.
- In the 1980s, in movies including Jawaab, Aaj Ki Awaaz, and Dehleez, Smita paired with actor Raj Babbar. Both fell in love during the movie shoots. The rumors of their relationships spread and astonished the other Indian film personalities and some feminists in Mumbai. Soon, they got married and on November 28, 1986, Smita becomes a mother to Prateik Babbar.
- Vidyatai Patil, the mother of Smita Patil, stated in an interview that after few days of the delivery of the baby, Smita did not go to the hospital and repeatedly nursed her baby at the 104-degree fever. Smita slipped into a coma and finally hospitalized. Vidyatai added that Smita told her sister Manya that she had a premonition that she wouldn’t live long as she was born prematurely. Smita died after developing septicemia only two weeks after the birth of Prateik. She explained the incident-
A week later, she developed 104 degree fever. But she insisted on putting ice packs on her body and then nursed him. She loved mogras (jasmine). She’d sing the abhang mogra phoolla (sung by Lata Mangeshkar and written by Sant Dyaneshwar) to Prateik during the little time she had with him.”
- Smita Patil served as a jury member of the Montreal World Film Festival in 1984.
- Reportedly, it is said that Smita Patil used to drape Saree over the jeans while working as a television newsreader on Mumbai Doordarshan in the 1970s.
- In an interview, Anita Patil, the older sister of Smita Patil, memorized her sister and said that Smita was a very sentimental and emotional person from childhood and was easily moved to tears. She explained an incident about Smita-
The young Smita was easily moved to tears. At seven, she once found a dead sparrow. She lovingly made a bed of cotton wool, mourned over it and buried the sparrow with grave solemnity. She would pick up all the stray dogs, clean and feed them biscuits dipped in tea, under the water tower near the house. Smita needed space, and more and more people to nurture.”
- Maithili Rao wrote the biography of Smita Patil. In this biography, Rao said that Smita’s friends considered Smita as a very outspoken and cool type of superstar. She wrote,
Her close friends remember ‘Smi’ as outspoken and bindaas, not beyond hurling abuses or taking off on bikes for impromptu joyrides.”
- After the death of Smita Patil, over ten of her movies released. Smita Patil died on 13 December 1986 at the age of 31.
- In an interview, Raj Babbar, husband of Smita Patil said that Smita was a very down-to-earth character. He further remembered the eating habits of Smita and stated that Smita was not selective on the food she ate and would eat whatever was cooked. He said-
One thing I must say that she was not fussy about the food or how it was cooked. She would eat even boiled bhindi with boiled rice — which even the workers refused to eat.”
- In December 2017, while remembering Smita Patil on her death anniversary Amitabh Bachchan tweeted a statement related to Smita Patil. He wrote that Smita had already a premonition of his Coolie accident a night before it happened.
- Smita Patil will always be remembered as an unblemished actress in the history of Indian cinema. Many new-age and upcoming Indian actresses are often compared to Smita Patil in looks for example Indian actress Chitrangada Singh. However, the truth and reality are that there can be no other Smita in the Indian film industry.
- According to Vidyatai Patil, the mother of Smita Patil, Smita had a death wish. Smita gave up at the end; however, she was a fighter. Vidyatai further added that Smita enjoyed her pregnancy period and was excited about the future and upbringing of her child. She said-
Smita was fed up. She did have a death wish… and that’s why perhaps she gave up. Or else being the fighter she was, she would have fought back the infection. When things went wrong she’d often say, “Mala nako (I don’t want this)!”
- Reportedly, Smita was a very humble and pure soul. She donated the whole amount that she received from her first National award to a charity for a noble cause.
- In an interview, Smita Patil’s sister Manya Patil revealed that in real life Smita Patil was a loner (a person that prefers not to associate with others).
- Pictures of Smita Patil were exhibited in the New York exhibition of World cinema while remembering her after her death.
- Smita was featured on the cover page of many famous and renowned magazines and tabloids.
- Smita Patil’s remarkable Indian movies were Manthan (1977), Bhumika (1977), Jait Re Jait (1978), Aakrosh (1980), Chakra (1981), Namak Halaal (1982), Bazaar (1982), Shakti (1982), Arth (1982), Umbartha(1982), Ardh Satya (1983), Mandi (1983), Aaj Ki Awaaz(1984), Chidambaram (1985), Mirch Masala (1985), Ghulami (1985), Amrit (1986), Waaris (1988).
- ‘Galiyon Ke Badshah’ was Smita’s last film that was released after death in 1989.