It seems like yesterday that I met Smita Talwalkar or Smita Tai, as she was fondly called by one and all while she was in Pune to launch her acting institute. Her frank but sweet way of talking and very simple way of connecting with one and all got one to love here. That I have been a fan of her work was an additional reason. At that point in time, Smita Tai had fought ovarian cancer and returned to work with a gusto which will put a 20-year-old to shame. But life, as they say, can be shocking. She passed away on Wednesday, August 6 2014.
For the ones who haven’t had their cord with Marathi television & film industry cut, Smita Tai was a familiar face. Her successful films and TV series made it impossible to miss her. Most old-timers (people in their 70s now) knew her as a news reader on Doordarshan. Her colleague happened to be the renowned Smita Patil. Two Smitas and their fates were intertwined in an interesting way, one could say. Her initial foray into films included Tu Saubhagyavati Ho and Gadbad Ghotala.
Smita Talwalkar probably did not want to be just another good-looking face in films. She dared to think big and started her own production house – Asmita Chitra in 1989. Kalat Nakalat was a fascinating portrayal of changing values with new generations. Needless to say, the successful film won her a National Award of Best Marathi Film. Her next film was the very sensitive Chaukat Raja. The film is about a mentally challenged man, his struggles in the so-called normal world and his friend Minal who is there for him. Dilip Prabhavalkar won accolades for the film while Smita Tai’s support as his friend Minal was highly appreciated. The film hit the right mark and also saw the partnership of producer Smita Talwalkar and director Sanjay Surkar. They went on to make great films and TV serials.
One must feel that she went by her gut instinct and emotions to make the kind of movies and serials that she did. All of them which came from Asmita Chitra were received by people with open hearts. This is a rare treat for any producer or actor. Savat Majhi Ladki is a humorous look at marriage, monogamy, relationships and men with roving eyes. A loving couple’s marriage is threatened when the husband has an affair with his assistant. The wife comes with a plan of teaching them a lesson and she makes them get married but keeps a firm hold on them.
Her film Tu Tithe Mee spoke about the way we treat the elderly and never think of their emotions. A couple who want to enjoy their retired life in their own loving way are separated. Her next film was based on the rape of a college student in Pune at the Pune University. Saatchya Aat Gharat also spoke of careless youngsters who have taken to western values. Although a hit, the film’s preachy note was not liked by many.
Her production house came up with many serials which changed the Marathi television scenario. What intrigued many was the fact that the serials had strong female protagonists and were about real people. Avantika was about an ambitious young girl with innocent dreams and her troubles when the man of her dream cheats her. The serial is considered amongst the best on Marathi television. Few of her other serials were Uun Paaus, Peshwai, Suvasini among others.
Recently, Uncha Mazha Zoka created not just big TRP ratings for Zee Marathi, but also recreated history, literally. The serial was about the life of social reformer Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade from the the late 18th and early 19th centuries, who, apart from educating his wife Ramabai Ranade, brought in social reforms like women’s education, widow remarriage and so on. Maharashtra changed because of reformers like them. The serial elegantly depicted Ramabai’s story.
Smita Tai’s work reflected the person that she was – strong and one who makes a point. Many actors will also give examples of their careers going to great heights, due to Smita Tai’s support. Her easy-going nature was as well-known as her firm stand on doing what she believed in. Her husband’s family runs the Talwalkar’s gym chain, the irony being that she was a foodie!
Marathi films and television will not be the same without the strong support of the very talented Smita Talwalkar.
Feature image credits: http://www.radiomirchi.com/blog_images/Smita-Talwalkar.jpg