Flower in the shade: Leela Naidu passes away
29 July 2009
Leela Naidu, the actress once renowned worldwide for her beauty as well as talent, died in Mumbai on Tuesday at the age of 69 following a long illness. Naidu was crowned Miss India in 1954, and later voted by Vogue magazine as one of the 10 most beautiful women in the world.
Although her acting career spanned several decades, her films were relatively few and far between, as she rejected standard Bollywood fare and preferred more meaningful roles.
Her first film was Anuradha in 1960, directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and starring Balraj Sahani. Reportedly, the already well-known Mukherjee took one look at Naidu's pictures shown to him by a photographer and decided that he had to have her in the title role.
Naidu played a woman who has to sacrifice her musical talent when life with her doctor husband takes her to a village. Although the film bombed at the box office, it won the national award for the best film and a nomination for the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 1961.
She became considerably more well-known after she starred with Sashi Kapoor in Merchant Ivory Productions' The Householder in 1963, portraying a rebellious young bride. However, she achieved real fame only after doing an unorthodox role with Sunil Dutt in Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke in the same year.
The film was based on the K M Nanavati v/s State of Maharashtra case, in which Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati was tried for shooting dead Prem Ahuja, his wife Sylvia's paramour. The incident shocked the nation, got unprecedented media coverage and inspired several books and movies. The case was not only the last jury trial held in India but also a direct cause of the abolition of jury trials.