Lalita Pawar was a prolific Indian actress, who later became famous as a character actress, appearing in over 700 films in Hindi and Marathi cinema, where she gave hits like, Netaji Palkar (1938), made by Bhalji Pendharkar, New Hana Pictures’ Sant Damaji, Navyug Chitrapat’s Amrit, written by VS Khandekar, and Chhaya Films’ Gora Kumbhar. Her other memorable roles were in film, Anari (1959), Shri 420 and Mr & Mrs 55, and the role of Manthara, in Ramanand Sagar’s television epic serial, Ramayan.
Born Amba Laxman Rao Shagun, on 18 April 1916, into an orthodox family in Yevle in Nashik, where her father Laxman Rao Shagun was a rich silk and cotton piecegoods merchant, she started her acting career at age nine in the film, Raja Harishchandra (1928), and later went on to play lead roles in silent era and 1940’s films, in a career that lasted until the end of her life, spanning seven decades.
She co-produced and acted in a silent film, Kailash (1932), and later produced another film, Duniya Kya Hai in 1938, a talkie.
In 1942, as a part of a scene actor Bhagwan Dada was to slap her hard. Being a new actor, he accidentally slapped her very hard, which resulted in facial paralysis and a burst left eye vein. Three years of treatment later, she was left with a defective left eye; thus she had to abandon lead roles, and switch to character roles, which won her much of her fame later in life.
She was known particularly for playing maternal figures, especially wicked matriarchs or mothers-in-law. She also notably played the role of the strict but kind Mrs. L. D’Sa in Anari (1959) with Raj Kapoor, under Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s direction, she gave the performance of a lifetime, for which she received Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award; as the tough matriarch who falls in love in Professor (1962), and the devious hunchback Manthara in Ramanand Sagar’s television series Ramayan.
Her first marriage was to Ganpatrao Pawar, which went sour after his affair with her younger sister. She later married film producer Rajprakash Gupta, of Ambika studios, Mumbai. Pawar died unnoticed on 24 February 1998 in Aundh, Pune, where she had been staying, for a while. She was survived by her husband, a son and daughter-in-law, who live in Mumbai.