Smita Patil: A Brief Incandescence


Author: Maithili Rao

9789351775126 | PB | pp. 368 | 2015 | Harper Collins

Smita Patil: A Brief Incandescence tells her remarkable story, tracing it from her childhood to stardom, controversial marriage and untimely death.

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In the three decades since Smita Patil died-at the impossibly young age of thirty-one-she has unwaveringly been one of Indian cinema’s biggest icons. That is unusual enough for a ‘parallel cinema’ actor, rendered more remarkable in a career that spanned a mere ten years. Patil, one of the leading lights of the New Indian Cinema of the mid-1970s, has a body of work that would make veterans proud. Smita Patil: A Brief Incandescence tells her remarkable story, tracing it from her childhood to stardom, controversial marriage and untimely death. Her close friends remember ‘Smi’ as outspoken and bindaas, not beyond hurling abuses or taking off on bikes for impromptu joyrides. Film-makers like Shyam Benegal and Jabbar Patel, and co-stars Om Puri and Shabana Azmi talk about Patil’s dedication to her craft and her intuitive pursuit of that perfect take. From the difficult equation she shared with her mother to her propensity for ‘wrong’ relationships, about which she was always open unlike other stars of the time, this is a complex and honest exploration of Patil’s life. The book also includes a sharp critique of the films that defined her. They read like a roster of the best of New Indian Cinema: Bhumika, Mandi, Manthan, Umbartha, Bhavni Bhavai, Akaler Sandhane, Chakra, Chidambaram and Mirch Masala among them. Maithili Rao also examines Patil’s many unfortunate forays into mainstream commercial cinema. Incisive and insightful, Smita Patil: A Brief Incandescence is an invaluable addition to film studies in India, bringing alive an entire era when cinema in India was truly different. It is also the definitive biography of a rare talent and a haunting life.

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Maithili Rao







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Harper Collins





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About the Author

Maithili Rao is an ex-English lecturer who drifted into film criticism through happenstance. She has written extensively for Indian and international publications. Currently a columnist for Man’s World, she has written regularly for The Hindu, Frontline, Cinema In India, Film Comment, International Film Guide, BFI website, South Asian Cinema, Gentlemen, Eve’s Weekly (a long-running monthly column, ‘Images of Women’), The Sunday Observer and Independent (foreign film critic for the last two). She served as member of the jury for National Awards and critics’ jury at international film festivals (Sochi, MIFF-Mumbai, International children’s film festival-Hyderabad, Bengaluru International film festival). She also served as nominations council member of the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, Australia. She has contributed chapters to books on Indian cinema: ‘Rebels without a Cause’ for the Encyclopaedia Britannica India volume on Hindi cinema; ‘Heart of the Hindi Film’ for Bollywood, Dakini Publications, London; ‘To Be a Woman’ for Frames of Mind, Indian Council for Cultural Relations; ‘Images of Women’ for Rasa, Vol. II, edited by Chidananda Das Gupta; Amitabh Bachchan for Icons, edited by Anil Dharker, Roli; ‘Idealized Women and a Realist’s Eye’ for Bimal Roy: The Man Who Spoke in Pictures, edited by Rinki Bhattacharya, essays for Madhumati and Janani by Rinki Bhattacharya. She lives in Bombay with a forbearing husband who is not interested in films but calmly survives her deadlines and film mania. An allied activity has been subtitling films from Hindi, Telugu and Kannada into English.


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