Remembering Lalita Pawar, the Mother of All Mothers-in-Law
Modern filmi mothers-in-law aren’t a speck on Lalita Pawar. Remembering the actress on her birth anniversary.
‘Arrey Kalmoohi’ was probably not Lalita Pawar’s favourite dialogue, but she definitely said it like she owned it. Just one of the reasons she remains unbeatable as Hindi cinema’s most dreaded mother-in-law.
Lalita Pawar started young and dreamt of playing lead roles ever since her first performance as a child artiste at the age of 9 in Raja Harishchandra (1928). That dream was shattered by a miscalculated slap that resulted in facial paralysis, and pretty much limited her acting career to wicked character roles. Master Bhagwan accidentally hit her so hard during a scene in Jung-E-Azadi (1942) that it burst a vein in her left eye. Three long years of treatment left her with a permanent ‘evil’ looking squint in her left eye, and you know how well Hindi cinema plays up on stereotypes.
Pawar’s twitching eye became her most prominent and memorable feature. It lent so much character to her strict, conniving, tough and dubious on-screen persona in films like Anari (1959), Shree 420 (1955), Professor (1962) and Mr & Mrs 55 (1955).
And of course, who can forget her as the scheming Manthara in Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan. The evil hunchback maid who instigated Kaikeyi against Lord Ram gave nightmares to kids growing up in the 90s.
Her evil act came to an end in 1987, when she retired and led a life of seclusion. Her family was believed to have been unaware of her demise for two whole days after she passed away in February 1998. You will always be missed Lalita Ji, for only you could deliver this dialogue like you meant it-
Meri chhaati par aakar toh saanp bhi rassi ban jaata hai.Lalita Pawar (Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thhi ,1970)
(This story is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on 18 April, 2015. It is being republished in memory of the legendary Lalita Pawar, on her birth anniversary.)
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