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Leela Naidu: A rare beauty

Last updated on: July 29, 2009 

Leela Naidu: A rare beauty

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Leela Naidu, the woman who truly put Indian beauty on the international map, passed away on Tuesday in Mumbai at the age of 69. She had been battling influenza.

Born to an Indian father and an Irish mother, Naidu was crowned Miss India in 1954, and made her film debut in 1960 in Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Anuradha

Today, in an era that's seen Sushmita Sen, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra effortlessly nab top honours at international pageants and competitions, it's easy to forget how overlooked Indian beauty once was.

But when global fashion leader Vogue magazine named Naidu and Gayatri Devi to their famed 10 most beautiful women in the world list, for many in the West it was an introduction to the unique charm and mystique of Indian femininity.


Image: Leela Naidu

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Looking back, Naidu's most remembered role might well be in the 1963 film, Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke, based on the famous real-life Nanavati case, India's last trial by jury.

That same year, she won praise for her work opposite Shashi Kapoor in the English-language film The Householder, which was directed by the legendary James Ivory.

Before quitting Bollywood altogether in the 1970s, she also worked on Baaghi (1964), The Guru (1969 and Ummeed (1962).

In 1985 she briefly returned to cinema to play a Goan family-matriarch in Shyam Benegal's Trikaal, and then appeared in 1992's Electric Moon, directed by Pradip Krishen.


Image: A poster of Anuradha

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Her personal life also attracted much attention, as her first marriage -- to husband Bikki Oberoi, the son of hotel titan Mohan Singh Oberoi -- ended in divorce, with Naidu losing custody of the couple's twin daughters.

She later married Goan poet Dom Moraes.


Image: A scene from Trikaal

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