Lalita Pawar Birth Anniversary: Asha Parekh Remembers The Actress; Recalls, ‘Audiences Loved Lalitaji’s Wicked Mother-In-Law Roles’

Lalita Pawar made wicked look so despicable it almost became a fashion statement. Here's looking back at this powerhouse performer on her birth anniversary.

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Lalita Pawar Birth Anniversary: Asha Parekh Remembers The Actress; Recalls, ‘Audiences Loved Lalitaji’s Wicked Mother-In-Law Roles’
Lalita Pawar was a powerhouse of performance. Her interpretation of evil matriarchal parts brought her the kind of strong negative image in the public mind which she found hard to obliterate. Not that she wanted to. 

The Image of the evil mother-in-law stuck in the later part of her career. And Lalita Pawar enjoyed every bit of it. 

She was heinous in roles that  required a disruptive mother-in-law. But she made wicked look so despicable it almost became  a fashion statement.  I remember how  much Lalitaji was hated  as the  domestic trouble maker  in  films in the 1960s like Sujata,  Patthar Ke Sanam, Gharana, Junglee, Sasural, Kohra( the  desi  remake  of   Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca where  Lalita Pawar played the eerie  and stern housekeeper), Apne Huey Paraye and Khandaan.

In the  1960s and earlier 70s, Lalita Pawar’s  wickedness  was as much a  boxoffice formula as  Helen’s cabaret. Lalita Pawar was  almost an  “item” in commercial cinema.

“Audiences  loved Lalitaji’s wicked  mother-in-law roles ,” recalls  the screen queen of 1990s  Asha Parekh. “She was often the driving force  in  the films  of that era. In  my film Raj Khosla’s Chirag Lalitaji played my mother-in-law, and  she drove  me and my co-star(Sunil Dutt) apart.So many films  of  the 1960s  wouldn’t have  worked without her wicked  act.”

Films like  Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi , Sau Din Saas Ke and Mem Didi featured  Lalita Pawar  in  the  title role. It was Hrishikesh Mukherjee who cast her  in a positive role  in  Anari (1958) while the  rest of the film industry was  enjoying her  vile  act .She played Raj Kapoor’s   ‘coconut’  landlady: tough  outside  soft underneath. Hrishida  followed this   up  with positive  roles  for Lalita Pawar  in Mem Didi and Anand.  She was  also remarkable  in Asit Sen’s Khamoshi where she played the  matron  in a mental hospital  and Ramanand Sagar’s Aankhen where she  was a spy.

Veteran Dharmendra who worked with  Lalitaji in Phool Aur Patthar, Mann Ki Aankhen  and Aankhen remembers her as  kind and  gentle. “She  played wicked women  on screen. But she was such a gentle  soul   in real life. People didn’t know that. They hated her because they saw her as the way  she was on screen.”

Speaking of Aankhen, it was a damaged eye(which she got when the dancer-actor Bhagwan slapped her too hard) which set  Lalit Pawar on the path  of wickedness. Prior to that , she  was  aspiring to lady ladies’ roles . She  was also an actress in  the silent era. In fact Lalita  Pawar  appeared in India’s first talkies  film Raja Harishchandr.  In  a  career spanning more than  70 years she played  them all, the good bad and the  ugly.

But she is remembered largely for her scheming mother-in-law parts and as evil Manthara in Ramanand Sagar’s serial  Ramayan. Lalilta Pawar died alone  in Pune in  1997. Her decomposed  corpse  was discovered  days after her death.  The best  compliment for her  acting prowess came from my grandmother . “Considering how wicked she was, this was  bound to be.”

Image source: Wikipedia