Director: Shyam Benegal; Writer: Shyam Benegal, Hansa Wadkar, Girish Karnad, Satyadev Dubey; Producer: Lalit M. Bijlani, Freni M. Variava; Cinematographer: Govind Nihalani; Editor: Bhanudas Divakar; Cast: Smita Patil, Amrish Puri, Amol Palekar, Anant Nag, Naseeruddin Shah, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Sulabha Deshpande, Baby Rukhsana, B.V. Karanth, Dina Pathak, Mohan Agashe, Kusum Deshpande, Rekha Sabnis, Baby Bitto, Savita Bajaj, Sunila Pradhan, Master Abhitab, H. Lani, Kiran Vairale, G.M. Durrani, Abhishek, Om Puri, Mathew, Swadesh Pal, Sudarshan Dhir, Vijay Padukone, Santosh Sah, Benjamin Gilani
Duration: 02:16:33; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 14.634; Saturation: 0.160; Lightness: 0.126; Volume: 0.165; Cuts per Minute: 6.540; Words per Minute: 43.528
Story: Hansa Wadkar's "Sangtye Aika (1970)"
Benegal abandons his rural settings for this cinephile fantasy based on the autobiography of the Marathi/Hindi actress Hansa Wadkar. Usha (Patil, in the role of Wadkar) is taught music by her grandmother. She tries to become a film actress as a child and eventually becomes a star in adulthood, a trajectory inflected by the four men she meets at various points in her life: husband Keshav (Palekar), narcissistic male co-star Rajan (Nag), effete film-maker Sunil Verma (Shah) with whom she makes an unsuccessful suicide pact, and the landowner Kale (Puri) whose second wife she becomes. Many aspects of the story allow the question of women’s oppression to be raised although, tragically, Usha seems to end up identifying herself with the romantic cliche of the self-sacrificing heroine, defeated by the patriarchal mores that have weighed on her since early childhood (shown in sepia flashbacks). The film opens with scenes alluding to the making of Wadkar’s best-known title, Lokshahir Ramjoshi
(1947). The music test which Govindrao Tembe and Baburao Painter gave the young Wadkar at Shalini Cinetone is reconstructed, a rather poignant moment since Wadkar hates the very music which elevates her to stardom. However, film history is treated with poetic licence as the story roams through some pre-WW2 genres: Bombay Talkies is evoked through Sunila Pradhan who is made up to look like Devika Rani; this is followed by quotes from Kismet (1943) and allusions to Wadia’s masked stunt films. The soundtrack uses radio broadcasts about Pearl Harbor and other events to provide historical markers.