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|February 26, 1998||
Lalitha, an actress and a gentlewoman
Lalitha Pawar, the renowned actress of yesteryear who passed away in Pune early this week, enjoyed a most chequered career on the silver screen.
In her seven decades onscreen, she has played roles of all variety -- from a heroine of the silent era to the squint-eyed mother-in-law of the talkies.
Born as Ambika Laxman Sagun on April 18, 1916 at village Yeole in Nashik district, she made her debut as a child artist in the film Patittodhar. Arya mahila was her first film as a teenaged heroine.
In a career spanning 72 years, she acted in more than 800 Hindi, Marathi, Gujarathi and Bhojpuri films. She was the leading lady of the silent era and, later, a character artiste till she retired from the celluoid.
Her classic silent films include Thugsen, Rajputra and Chatursundari. She also tried her hand at the production of Himmat-e-marda and Duniya kya hai. But the films did not do well.
Lalita acted as heroine to Baburao Pendarkar's Netaji Palkar and Jai Malhar. An accident on the sets abruptly ended her career as a leading lady. During the shooting of Jung-e-azadi, master Bhagwan had to slap her. Her left ear started bleeding profusely. The left part of her face was paralysed and she developed a squint in the left eye.
The Bombay film industry mourned the death of this 'actress par excellence' and 'fine human being'. Shammi Kapoor, with whom she worked in evergreen classics Junglee and Professor said she was a thorough professional.
"It is sad that age catches up with people," Dev Anand said, "We have lost a tremendous artist.''
Jairaj, a veteran actor from the silent era, described Lalita Pawar as a capable actress who had a mind of her own.
"She expressed herself very well," he said, "We acted together in Kirti which was remade as Sharda starring Raj Kapoor and Meena Kumari many years later. She also acted as the leading artiste in my home production Mohar.''
The Marathi film Sasurvashin, where Lalitha played the role of a wicked mother-in-law, earned her much popularity. In the Gujarati Mehndi rang laee, which was remade in various languages, Lalitha acted in all the remakes.
In Raj Kapoor's Shri 420, Lalitha was a banana vendor which earned her the Filmfare award. She had this to say about the film: Raj Kapoor gave her a clean and ironed Maharashtrian nine yard saree and dialogues with neat Hindi diction and accent. She told the showman she was prepared to do the role, but would rather do it her way. She improvised the dialogues into the typical Maharashtrian colloquial Hindi and got a very old and shabby saree. Accordingly, she performed the role and won rave reviews.
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