In Praise of Gutsy Smita Talwalkar

Talwalkars opened their third branch in mid-seventies, next to a building near Citilight cinema in Matunga, a stone’s throw away from Shivaji Park. Avinash, one of the brothers, was in charge of the branch.

Pathare, a masculine looking but soft spoken man who resembled Omar Sharif and who established his own modest chain of gyms later in Lalbaag and Paral was one of the instructors.

Boys in college were occupied with doing their degree, part-time job, and line maarne (bird watching) in the evenings around Shivaji Park. Many did the same, minus jobs, except the necessarily born rich boys residing there.

To stroll around Shivaji Park to impress the sophisticated young girls was a hobby of the youth then. It was a sophisticated version of Bhau Padhye’s “VasuNaka” in a nutshell – too soft of course, unlike uncouth Kherwadi or Lalbaag-Parel.

I remember an anecdote narrated to me by my uncle. Ajit Pandit, university captain of Kabaddi got into 4-Ltd BEST bus near Shivaji Park bus-stop and jumped out after crossing Tilak bridge on the other side opposite Broadway Talkies in Dadar TT to run after the same bus that plied non-stop up to Parel TT to check his running speed and mostly defeated the bus in the evenings occasionally, but regularly in the mornings.

Not necessarily with six pack abs or toned muscles to show-off, the young generation then was resolute about fitness, sports, and largely obsessed with speed.

Avinash was one such chap crazy about speed. He was a terrific scooter rider of Shivaji Park. There weren’t any speed breakers and less number of evening walkers, with lot of civil discipline. So vehicular pace of harum-scarum riders was not a threat to life. Nobody felt it either, forget worrying or protesting.

A beautiful and slim girl who drew her glamour then as a news reader on newly started Doordarshan with a bindhaast smile on her face accompanied him as a pinion!

The question before the bird watchers was whether to look at the carefree glamour girl or at the zigzag path Avinash drew.

That was the would-be Smita Talwalkar, famous movie maker of ‘Kalat Nakalat’ (4 national and 13 state awards) and ‘Choukat Raja’ to start with; both par excellence and many other movies and tele-serials. ‘Choukat Raja’ was worth an Oscar in foreign language category, I still opine. ‘Kalat Nakalat’ was derived from “Crammer vs. Crammer”, though not plagiarized exactly and set well in Marathi milieu by the director Kanchan Nayak.

The lady (Talwalkar) was interviewed recently in a comparatively better Marathi programme of interviews, ‘Khupte Tithe Gupte’ by Avadhoot Gupte, a singer and composer who also had made a debut directorial attempt presenting a Marathi movie ‘Zenda’ that created controversy out of lack of understanding of cinema by a local group in Mumbai recently.

Smita Talwalkar, like in one of her earlier interviews, exhibited her true grit once again.

She suffered from ovarian cancer since a year that mostly nobody knew till then except her near and dear ones.

The most appreciable quality of this lady of fortitude is that she is still the same as she was in her young days.

Any lady who has been in the business of movie production doesn’t have any reason to be scared of cancer, she declared to the interviewer in a defying and nonchalant manner.

This resilience has a past reference. She narrated that in one of her earlier interviews. When she was making debut movie some local goons posing to be distributors asked for a ransom. The lady dared to visit their operating office and made them meow with her guts and carefree smile. Subsequently, looking at her Durga avatar, the mellowed ransom seekers offered whatever help she required. Our lady made a victorious come-out from their plywood protected battle field.

This reminds me of one more incidents that took place around same time.

Devayani Choubal alias Devi, the first Indian gossip queen who wrote ‘Frankly Speaking’ for Star & Style then, was threatened by Dharmendra making an issue on her column. Devi coolly wrote in the next issue of Star & Style that she would take the matter with Sena Supremo, Balasaheb Thackeray, if the threat is continued. Dharmendra noiselessly aborted the threat perhaps fuming inside.

No one had the himmat to provoke the supremo then. That reminds us that Devi was the 1st journalist to use Hindi words taking them into an easy stride in her writing and not Shobha De as she pretends to be.

Our lady of guts perhaps would have chased him and beaten too, I have a feeling. Unsure whether Smita Talwalkar and Devi were friends to postdate a jocular conversation over this issue. However, had I been in Avdhoot Gupte’s seat, I would have definitely asked about that incident?

The lady is as fit and ecstatic as she was. She responded in her typical vibrant manner when questioned whether she is going to give a movie of a kind of ‘Choukat Raja’, answering that she would present a more serious problem through her movie which is on the verge of completion. I wish this outspoken and fearless woman should have been in politics instead of films. One day she could have brought down the corrupt culture defying the white collar land rowdies in Maharashtra, had she been in politics. Though it’s never expected from the artists and who mostly have shunned the business of politics except a few in south, Smita Talwalkar has created that confidence in Marathi minds.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *