At the launch of Maithili Rao’s book Smita Patil: A Brief Incandescence, timed to coincide with Smita Patil’s 60th birth anniversary, the late actor’s frequent co-star and arch-rival, Shabana Azmi, paid a glowing tribute to Patil’s immense talent and her “raw beauty and stillness”.
Azmi also regretted that the two could not be friends. She said, “There was rivalry – some of it manufactured by the media and some of it real – which caused tension. There were attempts at reconciliation and we maintained a civil relationship with each other, but we could never be friends.” Azmi is close to her late co-star’s family.
Amitabh Bachchan was the chief guest at the event. He remembered Patil with great fondness, saying, “I always fall short of words when asked to speak of Smita.”
He recalled her inner strength and commitment to her ideals, noting how she was once dismayed upon being recognised by the public for her work in Namak Halal only.
He also spoke of her sense of premonition which was demonstrated when Patil called him on the eve of his accident on the sets of Coolie and told him that
she had a nightmare about something happening to him.
Maithili Rao thanked Patil’s family and friends for their generosity with their time and memories of the actor. Never having met the actor when she was alive, Rao said that writing the book was a journey of getting to know her.
Shyam Benegal who had directed Patil in some of her most memorable roles in Manthan, Bhumika and Nishant, said that the actor’s lack of training was no
hindrance to her ability to “blossom in front of the camera”.
The event, which took place at the Sofitel hotel in Bandra-Kurla Complex, was attended by many personalities from the film industry. Nandita Das read an excerpt from the book, while Govind Nihalani, Mohan Agashe, Sonali Kulkarni, Jaya Bachchan also attended the event.
Patil’s father Shivajirao Girdhar Patil, her sister Anita Patil Deshmukh, her nephew Adeetya Deshmukh and son, Prateik Babbar, were also present. Babbar started the evening, saying that despite never having the good fortune to know his mother, he had found her to be an inspiration.