Fifteen years after she committed suicide, the sultry actress known as Silk Smitha is making a posthumous comeback. Director Milan Luthria’s “The Dirty Picture,” which stars award-winning actress Vidya Balan as Silk, and veteran film star Naseeruddin Shah, releases this December. Through the 1980s, South Indian film star Silk Smitha was shorthand for sex. Her fans just couldn’t get enough of her inviting eyes and heaving bosom, but her racy roles meant she never made in big in Bollywood. The picture about her life is already generating heat, months ahead of its release. The film’s first trailer, which was released this month, has found a huge audience (over 800,000 hits on YouTube). A poster of Silk Smitha from “Miss Pamela,” released in 1989.The sobriquet Silk came from her first Tamil film “Vandi Chakkaram,” in which she played a bar girl named Silk. In a career spanning 17 years, she did more than 450 films in a variety of languages: Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi. The Dirty Picture promises to push at the boundaries of what is sexually acceptable in Bollywood. Ahead of the film’s release, here is a look at some other female film characters who rewrote the rules.
Vidya Balan in The Dirty Picture.Chetna (1970): A hard-drinking, hard-talking prostitute who, incredibly enough, has no tragic back story. She’s there because it’s convenient and easy. In one scene, she says: “Yeh sab mujhe pasand hai, bhaut pasand hai.” (I like all this. I really like it.) Chetna was so controversial that Rehana Sultan, the actress who played her, said that the film permanently damaged her career.
Paroma (1984): Paroma is an upper-middle class housewife, played by Rakhee, who embarks on a doomed love affair with a much-younger photographer. When the affair is discovered, she attempts suicide. Aparna Sen’s film outraged viewers – there were even reports of protests in Kolkata.
Maya Memsaab (1993): An adaptation of Madame Bovary, Ketan Mehta’s film created headlines because it included a nude scene. His wife Deepa played Maya, a married woman who embarks on a series of affairs which end, as they must, in tragedy.
Fire (1998): Fire is considered the first portrayal of lesbian love in Hindi movies. The relationship between two unhappily married sisters-in-law incited violent protests. Theaters were vandalized with the tacit approval of authorities. Then Chief Minister of Maharashtra Manohar Joshi said: “I congratulate them for what they have done. The film’s theme is alien to our culture.”