You’ll never guess who the hottie in this old photo is. That is a lady called Amba Laxman Rao Sagun, from Yevle village near Nashik.
We know her as Lalitha Pawar.
Yeah, the woman who was the original nasty Saas of Hindi movies, the angry mother-in-law of Bollywood. Few people know that Lalitha Pawar was one of the hottest stars of her generation and had the longest movie career in Bollywood. From 1928 to 1998, over a period of seventy years, Lalitha Bai acted in over 700 films. Her career began at the age of 12, during the silent era of Indian films.
While watching a film shooting at Aryan studios in Pune, little Amba was injured and was taken to the studio dispensary to be treated. Between sobs she demanded that she be filmed too. To pacify her, they yielded to her request. Then Amba wanted to view the trial footage to see how she looked on screen, so it was screened. Nanasaheb Sarpotdar, the proprietor-director of Aryan Productions, was so impressed with the rushes that he cast her as an innocent child in his film Patit Uddhar.
Amba Sagun was given the screen name of Lalita and she gave a wonderful performance. In the next 18 years, she was cast in all kinds of roles and became the leading actress of the silent era. Her career was abrubtly cut short in 1938, at the age of 25. During a scene with Bhagwan Dada (of Albela fame), she was slapped hard by him, and her left eye was badly injured and paralysed as a result. That brought an end to her days as a leading actress. Undeterred, Lalitha Pawar used her paralysed face as an asset and moved over to vampish roles. Ironically, her handicap brought her fame and helped her to successfully make the transition from silent movies to talkies. Many of her co-stars of the silent era were left behind after the advent of talkies.
Her longevity was amazing. No other star from the 1920’s lasted as long as Lalitha Pawar. She kept acting right upto 1998, the year of her death. She even left her mark on TV as the evil Manthara in Ramayan. Lalitha Bai received a Filmfare award for her performance as a strict matron in Professor (1962).
For me, her most memorable performance was in the central role of the original ‘Saas bhi kabhi bahu thi’, in 1970. I saw this movie in Nataraj Talkies, Chembur with my parents.
Lalita Pawar spent the last years of her life at Aundh in Pune, where she died in February, 1998.
Check out this famous song, from Gharaana, (1961). ‘Daadi amma daadi amma maan jaao’. Really cute!
Cheers … Srini.