Smita Patil is regarded among the finest stage and film actresses of her times. She appeared in over 80 Hindi and Marathi films in a career that spanned just over a decade. She received two National Film Awards for ‘Best Actress’ in 1977 for the Hindi film Bhumika and in 1982 for Chakra. In 1985, she was the recipient of the Padma Shri Award. Smita married actor Raj Babbar. Her career was tragically cut short by her death on 13 December 1986 at the age of 31 due to childbirth complications, barely two weeks after having given birth to her son Prateik. Her son Prateik Babbar an upcoming actor made his debut in Bollywood with Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na in 2008.
Smita Patil was born on 17 October 1955 in Pune to a Maharashtrian politician, Shivajirao Girdhar Patil (a former Member of Parliament) and social worker mother Vidyatai Patil. She graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. Smita was working as a TV news reader in the 1970s and was also an accomplished photographer when Shyam Benegal discovered her. She made her film debut with Shyam Benegal’s Charandas Chor (1975) and became one of the leading actresses of parallel cinema, a new wave movement in India cinema, though she also appeared in several mainstream movies. Her performances were often acclaimed, and her most notable films include Manthan (1977), Bhumika (1977), Aakrosh (1980), Chakra (1981), and Mirch Masala (1985).
Apart from acting, Smita Patil was an active feminist and a member of the Women’s Centre in Mumbai. When she became romantically involved with actor Raj Babbar, she drew severe criticism from her fans and the media, clouding her personal life and throwing her into the eye of a media storm. Raj Babbar left his wife Nadira Babbar to marry Patil. Overnight, Patil was labeled a “home-breaker” by the very feminist organizations she had worked so assiduously for and became the target of barbed criticism. Smita died from childbirth complications on 13 December 1986, age 31, barely two weeks after having given birth to her son, whom she named Prateik Babbar.