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Lalita Pawar: The Dominating Matriarch And Scheming Manthara

February 24, 2015 | By

A tribute to Lalita Pawar, the prolific Indian actress on her death anniversary with some interesting anecdotes on her life and times.

Lalita Pawar

Lalita Pawar playing a lead role in early 1940s (Before 1942, as she lost her left eye in a 1942 accident)

It was on 24th February 1998 when veteran film actress Lalita Pawar, 82 died lonely at her residence in Aundh, Pune. Her death went unnoticed. Today, remembering her steadfast and remarkable contribution to Hindi cinema over a space of 6 decades, I pay a tribute to this prolific Indian actress with some interesting anecdotes on her life and times.

Early Years

Lalita, born Amba Laxman Rao Sagun on 18 April 1916, was the daughter of a wealthy silk merchant. While visiting a film studio, young Lalita requested to be photographed so she could see herself on film. The director was so impressed with her screen presence that he signed her for a role in his next movie.

In 1942, while filming a scene which required her character to be slapped, Lalita was struck way too hard by the new actor Bhagwan Dada across the face. The accident resulted in burst in her left eye vein damaging the eye and leaving her with a noticeable permanent squint. She was in her early 20’s. The accident forced her to abandon lead roles and switch to character roles which won her immense fame and popularity later in life.

A Career Spanning 6 Decades

The unforgettable Mrs D'Sa in Anari (1959)

The unforgettable Mrs D’Sa in Anari (1959)

Lalita Pawar’s acting career that started as a nine-year-old in the era of silent movies with Raja Harishchandra (1928) matured to build up a repertoire of more than 700 Hindi and Marathi films. She received the Filmfare award for the Best Supporting Actress for her role in Anari, which gave her big breaks and many more offers on her roads to achievements. She was honored by the Government of India as the first lady of Indian cinema, in 1961.

Pawar’s first marriage was with Ganpatrao Pawar who had directed many of her silent films and early sound films. The marriage developed cracks when he took a fancy to her younger sister.

Her second marriage with Rajkumar Gupta of Ambika studios, Mumbai, provided her with some much needed companionship.

Memorable roles

Mrs. L D’Sa: After switching to character roles Lalita Pawar became synonymous with roles of the dominating matriarch or mother-in-law. Hrishikesh Mukherjee broke the stereotype by casting her as the strict but golden-hearted Mrs. L. D’Sa in the Raj Kapoor-Nutan starrer Anari (1959), a character which the maestro filmmaker repeated in Anand, as the firm but kind matron.

Bimal Roy’s Sujata cast her in the role of the orthodox Buaji who is unable to accept Sujata as one of the family.

Bimal Roy’s Sujata cast her in the role of the orthodox Buaji who is unable to accept Sujata as one of the family.

Giribala, Buaji/aunt – Bimal Roy’s acclaimed film Sujata that explores the practice of untouchability in India cast her in the role of the orthodox Buaji who is unable to accept Sujata, the adopted girl as one of the family as she is an “untouchable”.

Seeta Devi, Anita’s Aunt: In Guru Dutt’s Mr & Mrs 55, Lalita Pawar plays the dominating, authoritative aunt who is championing the cause of women’s emancipation by forcing her niece to go in for a divorce under the newly enacted Divorce Law.

Major’s mother – Dev Anand’s Hum Dono cast Lalita Pawar in the role of the Major’s mother who clings on to her son’s lookalike in the belief that he is her war-hero son.

Manthara – The role of the scheming Manthara suited her screen image perfectly in Ramanand Sagar’s magnum opus on TV Ramayan.

A Lonely End

Her career was thrown out of gear in 1990 when she developed cancer in the jaw. She was forced to undergo treatment of intensive radiation leading to weight loss, drain of energy and memory lapses. It was then that she decided to shift to Pune for treatment. She died alone at her residence as her husband was in Mumbai then recovering from throat operation in a private hospital.

Niilesh A Raje views writing as meditation. He is a "Business Analyst" by profession and a "Writer" by passion. In 2007, he was selected as "The Youth of the Nation" to represent India at the first CCS World Youth Forum held in the European Parliament, Brussels on the theme of Leadership and Motivation. As a thought leader he also received the invitation as India delegate to The Climate Project's Asia-Pacific Summit held in Melbourne, Australia in July 2009 to undergo personal training from Al Gore (Ex-Vice President of America and Nobel Peace Prize laureate). With a strong publication background his articles have been published by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), a leading association in the profession of Business Analysis in USA, in, Business Analyst Times and In Flight Magazines to name a few. His magazine "Nosstalgiaaa", a free online bi-monthly magazine pays homage to the masters of Hindi cinema and enlightens the readers on all facets of film making through articles, interviews, trivia, anecdotes and book reviews. Nosstalgiaaa, is the first of its kind and is solely dedicated to the golden era of Indian Cinema.
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<div class=at-above-post addthis_tool data-url=></div>Secret of happiness quotes: The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one does. ~ James M Barrie<!-- AddThis Advanced Settings above via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Advanced Settings below via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Advanced Settings generic via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons above via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons below via filter on get_the_excerpt --><div class=at-below-post addthis_tool data-url=></div><!-- AddThis Share Buttons generic via filter on get_the_excerpt -->
Secret of happiness quotes: The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one does. ~ James M Barrie