Smita Patil belongs to a generation of
actresses, including Suhasini Mulay and Shabana Azmi, strongly
associated with a radically political cinema of the 1970s. Her work
includes films with parallel cinema directors like Shyam Benegal,
Govind Nihalani and Mrinal Sen and the more commercial Bollywood cinema
of Bombay. Patil was working as a TV news reader and was also an
accomplished photographer when Shyam Benegal discovered her.
was an alumna of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. In
1977, she won the National Award for 'Best Actress' for her performance
in the Hindi film Bhumika. In her films, Patil's character often
represents an intelligent femininity that stands in relief against the
conventional background of male-dominated cinema (films like Bhumika,
Umbartha, and Bazaar). Smita Patil was also a women's rights activist
and became famous for her roles in films that portrayed women as
capable. In her more commercial films, her glamorous roles reveal the
permeable boundaries between 'serious' cinema and 'Bollywood' in the
Hindi film industry (films like Shakti and Namak Halaal).
Due to complications from the birth of her son, she died in 1986. She was married to the Hindi film actor Raj Babbar.