Rohini Hattangadi, an Indian theatre, film and television actress, was born Rohini Oak on 11 April 1951 in Pune. She studied at the city’s Renuka Swaroop Memorial Girls’ High School. In 1971 she joined Delhi’s National School of Drama (NSD). She married, who Jayadev Hattangadi was her batchmate at the NSD.
She initially played supporting roles in films like Arvind Desai Ki Ajeeb Dastaan, Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Ata Hai and Chakra. The film that got her international recognition was the 1982 biopic Gandhi. Directed by Richard Attenborough, the film went on to win multiple awards, including several Oscars. In it Rohini played the role of Mahatma Gandhi’s wife Kasturba. Her performance fetched her a BAFTA Award (in the Best Actress in Supporting Role category).
Recalling the audition for the role, she said in an interview to The Hindu: “As a theatre person I had this habit of rehearsing my lines before going on stage. I was anxious as to how to approach Ben [Kingsley]. Fortunately, Ben was also from theatre. When he said can we do our lines before the audition, I felt so relieved. Sir Richard took three, four shots from different angles and next day he announced the results. Even before we got to know, my good friend Smita [Patil] was already sure that I will get the role.”
One of the outcomes of playing Kasturba was that Rohini was often given older or mothers’ roles in films after that.
Among her subsequent notable performances was the critically acclaimed Arth, directed by Mahesh Bhatt. Here, she plays the role of a domestic help who painstakingly saves money for her daughter’s education, only to realise that the money is stolen by her husband, a drunkard, who is also having an extra-marital affair. She won the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress award for this performance.
She won the National Film Award (Best Supporting Actress) for her role as a poet’s wife in the acclaimed 1984 Govind Nihalani-directed film Party.
In an article in the Caravan magazine, Jai Arjun Singh wrote: “In Party’s opening 20 minutes, we are introduced to various sets of people . . . who will gather at the house of arts patron Damayanti Rane (Vijaya Mehta). The much-felicitated poet Barve (Manohar Singh) is accompanied by his depressive, alcoholic wife Mohini (Rohini Hattangadi), a failed actress who seems constantly to be ‘performing’, even in private moments with her husband.”
Both Rohini and Anupam Kher were praised for their performance as an elderly couple in the Mahesh Bhatt-directed Saaransh. The other films she has acted in include Aghaat, Anjuman, Agneepath, Damini and Ghatak, mostly in supporting roles. Rohini has also had a long run as a television and theatre artist. Her well-known plays include Aparajita, a two-hour solo act. A respected presence in cinema, theatre and television, Rohini Hattangadi does not believe in melodramatic acting, but likes to internalise her characters’ emotions to add layers of nuance to her roles.
Also on this day:
1869 — Kasturba Gandhi, wife of Mahatma Gandhi, was born
1887 — Jamini Roy, Indian artist, was born
1937 — Ramanathan Krishnan, Indian tennis player, was born