Yogesh Pawar in Mumbai
Fiery actor-activist and daughter of well-known playwright Vijay Tendulkar, Priya aka 'Rajni', passed away following a heart attack on Thursday afternoon at her Prabhadevi residence.
Priya Tendulkar Slide show
She had been diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, but, true to her screen image, had fought right back into life, acting in three TV serials and hosting a show on SABe TV.
Her widowed sister-in-law Seema Tendulkar and her son Aditya were the first to reach her residence, followed by Vijay Tendulkar.
As news of her death spread, the who's who of Marathi theatre and the literary fraternity came calling.
After leaving instructions that the body should be taken to the electric crematorium at Shivaji Park, Vijay Tendulkar left with just a nod at all those gathered. He did not attend the funeral.
Priya's estranged husband and yesteryear's TV actor, Karan Razdan, who made a brief appearance at her residence, also stayed away from the rites.
He told rediff.com: "She was my worst critic. However, in those days, when I was struggling to establish myself, she encouraged and recommended me in a big way."
Veteran actress Sulochana fought tears as she spoke of how she had known Priya from the days when she would run around in frocks and pigtails. "While seniors like me drag on, I don't how destiny can take away someone so young and full of life?" she asked and wondered, "there seems to be a curse on Marathi theatre and literature. In less than two months we have lost so many gems. First Shantabai (poetess Shanta Shelke), then Babuji (singer Sudhir Phadke), then Vasant Bapat and Shivaji Sawant and now Priya."
The body was accompanied by Seema Tendulkar, Aditya Tendulkar and director and script-writer Vijay Kenkre to the crematorium around 7.30 pm.
A crowd of recognisable faces along with a battery of journalists were present to bid the actress adieu. Shekhar Navre, Reema Lagoo, Neelu Damle, Jabbar Patel, Aruna Raje, Nirmala Samant-Prabhavalkar, Dilip and Neena Kulkarni were among those present.
Aruna Raje, who directed "a terribly nervous" 15-year-old Priya shooting for her first commercial (a sewing machine brand), said: "My heart goes out to Priya's father who has seen so many tragedies one after the other."
Director Jabbar Patel spoke glowingly about how Priya had carried on with her father's literary legacy. "Not many know of Priya Tendulkar the short story writer who wrote very moving stories about ordinary women caught up in extraordinary situations," he said adding "along with being an aggressive feminist and anti-victimisation activist, she was also a great human being. Her dynamism was infectious."
Neena Kulkarni wept as she spoke: "Jeevachi sakhi gelyavar kai bolnaar (what does one say when one loses a bosom pal like her)?" she asked. "I have to say that between us she was more generous with her praise -- one moving expression here, a flick of the hand there."
Given the literary atmosphere at home it was no surprise that Priya grew up to become the kind of person she was. A rebellious teen, she had taken to compering music shows for Doordarshan, taking trouble to wear high-heels and heavy saris with a huge bindi to look grown-up.
The sewing machine commercial made her a known face and Marathi film offers started coming. "She would often laugh at some of the silly parts she played in commercial movies like Mumbaicha Faujdar and Gondhalat Gondhal -- both of which went on to become golden-jubilee hits and still make decent collections whenever exhibited in the interiors.
Fame came calling when she was offered the role of housewife-avenging angel 'Rajni' in a TV serial by the same name. In 'Rajni' she starred with Karan Razdan, whom she was to later marry. It was a role she could never outlive. The image stuck despite her sensitive portrayal of Sharada in the overtly feminist and sensitive Swayamsiddha made by Gulzar.
Though she did continue acting in TV serials, it was her talk show - 'The Priya Tendulkar Show' -- and the controversies it courted that brought her back into the limelight. She did bit parts in Hindi films too which she herself liked to call "forgettable."
When 'The Priya Tendulkar Show' was at its peak, several political parties -- including the Shiv Sena -- approached her. Her proximity to Matoshree, given the acrimonious relationship her father shared with Bal Thackeray, raised many eye-brows. In the end, she declined the offer, but would often think aloud to friends, "Maybe I should have tried." Now, she never will.
'She deserved to be happy': A tribute to Priya Tendulkar
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