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Photo of Smita Patil
Photo of Smita Patil

Smita Patil

[On the problems of working in commercial cinema]: “They don’t do justice to women. They think any film about a woman is a ‘heroine-oriented’ film and I should be very happy to act in it, even if it shows her in an old formula like that of the tawaif.”

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    MIRCH MASALA

    Ketan Mehta India, 1987

    This path-breaking film by Ketan Mehta uncovers the ugly realities of an oppressive patriarchal society. Set in colonial India, Mirch Masala remains relevant to this day because of its core idea of solidarity, where women rise up to support each other due to their shared experiences of trauma.

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    BHUMIKA

    Shyam Benegal India, 1977

    Featuring Smita Patil’s moving portrayal of an unconventional and fascinating actor, Bhumika is masterful work by Shyam Benegal. Based on the life of 40s Marathi stage actor Hansa Wadkar, this film is a fine study of feminism, male gaze and the price one has to pay for personal freedom.

    MANDI

    Shyam Benegal India, 1983

    Based on Urdu short story Anandi by Ghulam Abbas, Mandi is a sharp satire on the hypocrisy of society. Questioning the self-appointed guardians of morality and culture, director Shyam Benegal explores the world of sex workers a gaze full of empathy, kindness, and respect.

    IN SEARCH OF FAMINE

    Mrinal Sen India, 1980

    For arguably one of his best films, Mrinal Sen masterfully turns the film-within-a-film trope on its head to comment on the film industry’s apathy and blind privilege. Featuring an outstanding performance by Smita Patil, this nuanced critique of exploitative art practices remains extremely relevant.

    NISHANT

    Shyam Benegal India, 1975

    Based on a play by the noted playwright Vijay Tendulkar, Nishant is a compelling comment on tyrannical social hierarchies which unapologetically enable the oppressor. This visceral Shyam Benegal film is a haunting recreation of rural India’s feudal way of life.

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