, Dharwar, Karnataka
Leela Chitnis was an actress in the Indian film industry. She was one of the first educated film actresses, publicized in the Times of India as the first graduate society-lady from Maharashtra.
Chitnis worked at Prabhat Pictures, Pune and Ranjit Movietone before going on to be the leading lady in Bombay Talkies which saw her overtake and outshine Devika Rani. Her association with Bombay Talkies shot her to stardom and she made a particularly good partner with Devika Rani's leading man, Ashok Kumar. Ashok Kumar was so impressed by her acting abilities that he admitted to having learnt how to emote with his eyes from her.
The mid 1940s saw her career go downhill as new leading ladies appeared. For 22 years, Chitnis played the character of the mother for leading men including Dilip Kumar, often playing an ailing mother or a mother going through hardships and struggling to bring up her offsprings. In fact she created the archetype of the Hindi Film mother, which was continued by later actresses.
Her father was part of a Marathi theatre company called Natyamanwantar. Chitnis'early stage work included the comedy flick, 'Usna Navra' (1934). She had her own film group, Udyacha Sansar. She got into film to support her four children, starting out as an extra and eventually getting into stunt and character roles.
She emigrated to the United States in the late 1980s to join her children. She died in Danbury, Connecticut at a nursing home, at the age of 93.