Remembering Shobhna Samarth on her 17th death anniversary.

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Shobhana Samarth (17 November 1916–9 February 2000) was a film actress, director and producer of Marathi ethnicity, who began her career in the early days of talkie movies in the Hindi film industry, and continued in lead roles into the 1950s. She started in Marathi cinema. Her first Hindi film, Nigahen Nafrat, was released in 1935. She is best remembered for her portrayal of Sita in Ram Rajya (1943). In 1997, she was honoured with the Filmfare Special Award for her contribution to arts.

Samarth later produced and directed a pair of movies that launched the careers of her daughters, Nutan and Tanuja.

Shobana’s first film was “Orphans Of Society” (1935) also called Nigahe Nafrat or Vilasi Ishwar for Kolhapur Cinetone, directed by Vinayak and starred Vinayak and Baburao Pendharkar. The film was not a success but Shobna was critically acclaimed for her role. The film was a bilingual made in Urdu and Marathi. Shobhna claims in an interview that she did not know any Urdu at that time of filming, speaking the dialogues by rote and it was only later that she picked up the language. She was with Kolhapur Cinetone for thirteen months but acted in one film.

She left Kolhapur Cinetone and joined Sagar Movietone (Sagar Film Company), she acted in one film called Kokila (1937) directed by Sarvottam Badami, starring Motilal, Sabita Devi and Sitara Devi. The other film for Sagar was Do Diwane (1936), directed by C. M. Luhar and co-starring Motilal, Yakub and Aruna Devi.

By the end of 1937, Shobhana left Sagar and joined General Films, acting in Industrial India (Nirala Hindustan) directed by Mohan Sinha with Prem Adib and Wasti. The second film for them was Pati Patni (1939) directed by V. M. Gunjal with co-stars Yakub, Sitara Devi and Wasti.

By 1939 she had joined Hindustan Cinetone making four films with them, which included Kaun Kisi ka (1939) and Saubhagya (1940) by C. M. Luhar, Apni Nagariya (1940) by V. M. Gunjal. She then worked for a film directed by her husband, Kumar Sen Samarth called Ghar Javai (1941) where she was cast with Damuanna Malvankar.

In 1942 came her career-defining film Bharat Milap, directed by Vijay Bhatt and starring Durga Khote as Kaikeyi, Shobhana as Seeta and Prem Adib as Ram. Following this was Ram Rajya in 1943, and Shobhana became identified as Seeta, leading to several other films where they recreated the roles. Shobhana as Sita and Prem Adib as Rama became extremely popular and were accepted by the audiences and had them featuring as Rama and Sita on calendars.

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Celebrating Cinema

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