‘She was this untameable stream gushing down from the Himalayas which I had the privilege of having touched in my life before it disappeared into the mountains again.’
To have known Smita Patil is to have touched a force of Nature.
“She was this untameable stream gushing down from the Himalayas which I had the privilege of having touched in my life before it disappeared into the mountains again,” film-maker Mahesh Bhatt, who directed the wonderful actress in one of her best films, tells Subhash K Jha.
“Arth, yes. But I directed Smita again in a film called Thikana when she was pregnant. We had to take good care of her. Scenes that required her to touch the dramatic summits of Arth were not shot to avoid tension,” Bhattsaab reveals.
He remembers meeting Smita at her home after son Prateik was born.
“The atmosphere was very tranquil. There was a strange quietude in that home when I went to meet Smita after motherhood. That raging energy which I associated with Smita was missing. Smita looked very serene and happy. We spoke in hushed tones.”
Mahesh came away from the visit, dissatisfied.
“I did not get to see the baby. Smita promised it would happen the next time. Alas, the next time never came. A few days later, she was in Jaslok hospital with… what was it, meningitis? I rushed to be there. Producer Yash Johar, the good Samaritan of the film industry, was running around trying to get the best possible medical treatment for Smita.”
Then she was gone.
“The day after, my phone rang to inform me that Smita was no more. I remember I let out a scream. My wife Soni (Razdan) came running out, wondering what had happened.
“I think I was never more shocked by death. It was so unfair. Smita was a regular visitor to my home. She would often drop in to discuss her relationship problems.”
Mahesh flashbacks to the time when he first saw Smita on television.
“There was something very special about her from the start. When I decided to make Arth with my brave producer Kuljit Pal, I wanted to make it with two powerful actresses as the Wife and the Other Woman.
“Looking back, I’m proud to say Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil made Arth what it was. If Ramesh Sippy brought the two great actors Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan together to make Shakti a milestone, Shabana and Smita did it for my film.”
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