17th January marks the 29th death anniversary of Hindi cinema’s favorite Mausi, Leela Mishra.

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Leela Mishra (1908–17 January 1988) was a film actress. She worked as a character actor in over 200 Hindi films for five decades, is best remembered for playing stock characters like aunts (Chachi or Mausi). She is most known for her role of mausi in blockbuster Sholay (1975), Dil Se Mile Dil (1978), Baton Baton Mein (1979), Rajesh Khanna films like Palkon Ki Chhaon Mein, Aanchal, Mehbooba, Amar Prem and Rajshri Productions hits like Geet Gaata Chal (1975), Nadiya Ke Paar (1982) and Abodh (1984)

Leela Mishra was discovered by a man called Mama Shinde who was working for Dadasaheb Phalke’s Nasik Cinetone. He persuaded her husband to make her work in films. During those days there was a severe scarcity of women actors in films; this was evident in the paychecks that the Mishras received when they went to Nasik for the shooting. While Ram Prasad Mishra was hired on a salary of Rs. 150 per month, Leela Mishra was offered Rs. 500 per month. However, as they fared poorly in front of the camera, their contracts were cancelled.

The next opportunity that came their way was an offer to work in the movie Bhikarin which was being produced by a company owned by the Maharaja of Kolhapur. However, Leela Mishra lost out on this opportunity too as the role required her to put her arms round the actor (who was not her husband) while delivering a dialogue, which she point-blank refused to do.

She faced a similar problem while working in another film titled Honhaar. She was cast opposite Shahu Modak as a heroine and was supposed to hug and embrace him, which she again refused steadfastly. Since the company was legally in a weak position, they couldn’t turn her out of the film, which proved to be a blessing in disguise for her. She was offered Modak’s mother’s role in the film and it clicked instantly. This opened the doors for her to play mother roles at the young age of 18.

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Celebrating Cinema

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