Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Giancarlo Lombardi

Subject Categories

Film and Media Studies


Smita Patil, Film, India, Parallel Cinema, Creating characters, Defying gender stereotypes


Smita Patil is an Indian actress who worked in films for a twelve year period between 1974 and 1986, during which time she established herself as one of the powerhouses of the Parallel Cinema movement in the country. She was discovered by none other than Shyam Benegal, a pioneering film-maker himself. She started with a supporting role in Nishant, and never looked back, growing into her own from one remarkable performance to the next. She quickly became the go-to actress for most of the film-makers working in Parallel Cinema at the time. Patil was soon critically acclaimed both within the country and outside, for her work. She created some of the truly unforgettable female protagonists in Parallel Cinema, roles for which she is still remembered and admired. These characters are feisty, fiercely feminine, and have left an indelible impression on critics and audiences alike. What is it about her that enabled Patil to create these portrayals with such honesty and intensity? This thesis looks at her persona, as well as her craft, in order to answer this question, examining three of her films in detail: Bhumika, Manthan, and Subah.