Latika – Profile
Real Name – Hungu-Lamou
Profession – Actress
Active Years – 1940s
Religion – Christian (Jehovah’s Witnesses)
Ethnicity – Mixed
Date of Birth – 13th October, 1924
Date of Death –
Debut Film – Perhaps Wapas (1943)
Last Film – Perhaps Manzoor (1949)
Significant others in the Film Industry – Gope (Husband, Comedian)
Miscellaneous Info – I do appreciate the writings of yourself and other film historians on the internet. Latika is my mother. Although she has told us many wonderful stories about Gope and her life in India, she has never been very good with dates, but I can give you her birth date and an outline of her life leading to films.
Latika was born 13th October, 1924 in Darjeeling. Her Tibetan name was Hungu-Lamou. Her mother was Tibetan. Her father was an Australian who adopted Buddhism, living in India as a race horse trainer for the Maharajas. He died when Latika was still very young leaving her with a newly born brother. As a child, Latika was sent to the Kalimpong girl’s orphanage also called ‘The Homes’ for her education by her mother and new step-father until she was 16. Her mother had four more children, her half-brothers and sisters.
The Homes (one for girls, one for boys) were founded by a Scottish missionary, so as a child, Latika was christened Agnes and this is the name she uses in England. Her mother was Buddhist, her step-father, an Anglo-Indian by the name of Webber, was a Protestant but Buddhism was the prevalent faith among her surrounding family of aunties and uncles in Darjeeling.
Latika’s step-father was an engineer who built bridges and due to his work, when she was a teenager, they moved to Mumbai. It was there that Latika made friends with a neighbor who was a kathak dancer and actress. She was invited to visit the Minerva film studios and was there spotted by the director Sohrab Modi and offered the opportunity to act. This was where she was given the stage name Latika, which she is still called by friends and family in India to this day.
In those days, all the scripts were written in Urd,u which she read beautifully and also learnt kathak dancing. I’m sure you already know the 12 films Latika acted in from the mid 1940’s to early 1950’s, in particular the film Gopinath with Raj Kapoor (1948), where she played the ‘femme fatale’ and her lovely dance sequence in Jugnu (1947).
Latika had always had a respect and interest in holy writings. It was during this period that she met a Jehovah’s Witness who was able to explain the bible, not as a church book, but as holy writings, it’s answers to the ‘big’ questions we all ask and it’s promised blessings. It satisfied all of Latika’s questions about life, so she became a Jehovah’s Witness.
It was while as an actress she met and eventually became friends with Gope at the studios. To this day, Latika says he was the kindest, most compassionate man she ever met. They married and, at Gope’s request, Latika retired from the film industry.
Latika did introduce Gope to the bible. He would read by himself (or as my mother would say, ‘exclaim in delight!’), passages from it, early mornings on the verandah before work. She said he was particularly taken with the accounts of Jesus and how tenderly he treated people. To her surprise, of his own volition, he too become a Jehovah’s Witness.
Gope had a large house in Juhu which also came to house all Latika’s family. When we saw it, it had became a hotel but I’m not sure what has happened to it now.
Before Gope’s death, they had two sons, Gope Jr, and Lalith. When Gope suddenly and unexpectedly died, when the boys were three and five, mum decided to join her siblings who had earlier migrated to the UK. I came from her second marriage.
Latika is still alive and very well and living in the UK. She is in her 90th year, still beautiful. My niece’s second name is Latika and Gope Jr’s two sons bear the (second) name of Gope also. Latika has a big family with grand-children and great grand-children, all from Gope’s lineage.
As a strange coincidence, my daughter’s paternal grandmother happens to be Saroja Ramamrutham, who was the ‘baby Saroja’ of Tamil Nadu, also known as the ‘Shirley Temple of India’, whose uncle was Indian film director K. Subramanian.
I do hope this helps. We often look on the internet for films of Gope and Latika. It is fairly easy to find films of Gope, as he was such a prolific, well known actor but it is more difficult to find anything with Latika.
If you know or have access to any films of hers, especially Gopinath (1948), please let me know. I would love our family, especially the younger generation in our family, to see it. I do understand it was a very long time ago. Information provided by Latika’s daughter Sindy Bell to Arunkumar Deshmukh
Filmographies might not be 100% accurate or complete because of various reasons including artistes with similar names