Lalita Pawar – Memories
“My initials, L.P., stand for the longest playing record!”. Lalita Pawar had observed when recently, I met her at her bungalow Aarohi, in Aundh in Pune. Her latest Hindi film— Deepak Shivdasani’s Bhai, had released to a good box-office response. And she had expressed her happiness at this. One of her Marathi films being produced in Pune, is still under production.
She had lost count of her films. “I must have acted in over 700 films in 70 years. I started as a child artiste at the age of 12 in the silent era in 1928. Soon, I graduated to playing lead roles. In those days, we used to churn out half a dozen films in a year. In 1934, I started acting in the talkies. I had had no formal education, so I engaged a tutor to teach me Urdu. I even took training in classical singing, since in those days, the heroine had to sing the songs herself. I had a good voice, so I clicked in a big way. However, my career as a leading lady came to an abrupt end, due to an unfortunate incident during the shooting of Jung-E-Azadi. As per the scene, Master Bhagwan had to deliver a slap on my face and when he did so, it was so hard that I suffered facial paralysis as a result. My left eye was permanently damaged.
“After that, I was out of work for almost three years and when I did return at work, I had no other choice but to accept character roles, even though I was just 25 years old! I had to play mother to heroes who were as old as me! Would you believe, I am younger than Ashok Kumar? Raj, Dilip and Dev are also younger to me by just a few years…and I had to play mother to each of them! Anyway, I think the accident was a blessing in disguise. Otherwise, I would have got stuck being a heroine and wouldn’t have got the chance to play the various kind of roles that I have played over the years. I won awards and rewards, honor and respect, love and attention. I am grateful to God, my film makers and all my fans.”
With Raj Kapoor in Parvarish (1958): “I just loved the role of a lovable kelewali that I played in Raj Kapoor’s Shri 420 (1955). Raj and I shared a very good rapport. We did some memorable films together. Raj was a very caring, gentle human being.”
Marathi film, Netaji Palkar:”This film, made by Bhalji Pendharkar, wasa major success ,and is considered a milestone in the history of Marathi films.”
With the then President Radhakrishnan: “I was honored by the Government of India as the first lady of Indian cinema, in 1961.”
With Dilip Kumar in Daag (1952): “Dilip Kumar is basically a quiet and private person, who preferred to keep to himself. Yet he has always been such an unassuming man, in spite of being recognized as the uncrowned king of cinema. He would always converse with me in whatever little Marathi he knew.”
In Sharabi: “It was a treat working with Dev Anand, the handsome hero and Madhubala, the Venus of Hindi films. While Dev flashed his famous, toothless smile, Madhubala would be giggling throughout. It’s really sad that she died so young.”
On the eve of the 52nd anniversary week celebrations of Sangam, with Prithviraj Kapoor: “Raj Kapoor’s Sangam was a super duper success. When the film completed a year’s run, there was a major celebration. For me, it was like a family celebration. Prithviraj ji was much older than me but I had started my career before him. He was a giant of a man with a heart to match.”
From Dahej: “V.Shantaram was known for his strict discipline. He was a master film maker, who was generations ahead of his times. Prithviraj ji was so impressed by him, that in spite of being a top star at that time, he expressed a desire to work with him. Shantaram bapu told him this would be possible if he gave him four months’ dates at a stretch. And believe it or not, Prithviraj ji actually reorganized his work schedule to adjust dates for Shantaram bapu. During the making of the film, Prithviraj ji was like an obedient student. Shantaram bapu always had a soft spot for me. That’s probably because he admired the way I had risen in life. After all, I had no beauty, no education and no family support.”
With Ashok Kumar: “On the occasion of the Golden Year of Indian Talkies, some of us veterans were honored by Mrs Gandhi at a grand celebration in Mumbai.”
The Anadi silver jubilee: “Hrishida gave me one of my most memorable roles in his Anadi. Mrs D’Sa dies in the film but becomes an immortal character on the screen. Mehboob Khan gave away the trophy at the silver jubilee celebration (1959). Raj Kapoor’s warmth and affection extended to his off-screen persona as well.”
With Raj Kapoor: “When he erected the new building at R.K. Studios, Raj wanted me to inaugurate it. ”
With husband, filmmaker Raj Prakash Gupta and son, at Delhi Airport. “We had gone to Delhi-Agra for a holiday. My husband has always been a romantic person. Even the passage of time and our togetherness hasn’t changed him a bit.” (Lalita Pawar interviewed by Sushama Shelly in 1998).