Remembering Leela Chitnis, a pioneer of early Indian cinema, on her 110th birth anniversary today.

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Remembering Leela Chitnis, a pioneer of early Indian cinema, on her 110th birth anniversary today.

One of Indian cinema’s earliest educated ladies, Leela Chitnis was one of the topmost heroines in the country, in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Chitnis faced social disapproval when she took up acting in the 1930s to support her four children.

With her trademark arched eyebrows, Chitnis rose to fame in movies produced by Bombay Talkies, one of the country’s earliest film studios.

Leela Chitnis is familiar to many moviegoers as the famous mother figure to the top trio of the 1950s and 1960s. She was Raj Kapoor’s falsely-accused-of-infidelity mother in ‘Awaara’; Dilip Kumar’s falsely-accused-of-theft matriarch in ‘Ganga Jamuna’ and Dev Anand’s mother who is under the impression her soldier son is dead in ‘Hum Dono’. She was particularly good in ‘Guide’ as Dev Anand’s helpless mother, who cannot overcome her trepidation at society’s condemnation of her son living in with Waheeda.

Famous bhajans like “Tora manwa kyon ghabrayeamji ke dware” (Sadhana) and “Na main dhan chahoon na ratan chahoon” (Kaala Bazaar) were picturised on her.

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Celebrating Cinema

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