January 11, 1951 — July 17, 2018

Reeta Bhaduri’s friends recount stories of her talent, kindness and rare professionalism in the wake of her demise at age 67 in Mumbai

Veteran actress Reeta Bhaduri, who suffered from prolonged renal illnesses, passed away at 67 on Tuesday in Mumbai. “Her health started deteriorating two weeks ago and she succumbed to cardiac arrest,” her niece, Mini, told Mirror.

Anil Kapoor, who worked with the late actress in films like BetaGhar Ho Toh Aisa and Virasat, decribed her as “one of the finest talents to come out of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII)”. Shabana Azmi, the actress’s 1973 FTII batchmate, who kept in touch with her through their WhatsApp Group chats, informed that Reeta had injured her spine during a shoot a month ago and subsequently contracted an infection for which she had to undergo surgery.

“She was in excruciating pain as she couldn’t be administered strong painkillers due to ongoing dialysis,” said Shabana, adding that their friends called her Tanuja because of her effervescence. “There was something cute and impish about her. She was a good student and had the prettiest face in the class. She was extremely photogenic, but I felt that she didn’t take her talent seriously. As a student, she was happy to be one of the yaars, chewing Paan Bahar and not caring about appearances. Her mother Chandrima Bhaduri, a veteran actress, was ambitious for her but Reeta was content with what she had,” she added.

Zarina Wahab, another FTII batchmate and her co-star in the Rajshri film Saawan Ko Aane Do, couldn’t make it to the funeral, which took place at noon on Tuesday, due to work commitments, but promised to attend the chautha. “I had met her last a year ago,” she informed. Meanwhile Poonam Dhillon, who acted with her in the daily soap Ekk Nayi Pehchaan in 2013, recalled how once, Reeta wasn’t feeling well but no one knew about it till she fainted. “Later, she admited she didn’t tell anyone as she didn’t want to disrupt the shoot.”

Anant Mahadevan, who worked with the late actress in the 1992 film Kamsin and many TV shows, remembered her as affable and lively yet a thorough professional. “We were frequent co-stars during the golden years of Indian television, our first interaction during a press preview of Phoolan in which she played the lead,” he reminisced.

One of Reeta’s more recent colleagues, Juhi Parmar of the 2012 TV show Kumkum — Ek Pyara Sa Bandhan, has fond memories of her Reeta maa. “She was such a zindadil, strong woman who brought food for me to take home for months when I didn’t have a cook. Spending time with her at her Lonavla home was one of my best New Year’s Eve memories for me,” she stated.

Reeta’s daughter from the show Sunday Ke Sunday, Sadiya Siddiqui, recalls her as a voracious reader. “Her niece and I learnt kathak from the same guru, so I’m close to her family and was very possessive of her,” Sadiya smiled, while Kabir Sadanand, who’d first met Reeta while auditioning for the show Thoda Hai Thode Ki Zarurat Hai, described their first meeting as his best day in the industry. “Despite years of theatre experience, I was scared. I reported at work at 7 am with an empty-stomach. She cooked eggs and offered them to me. When I politely refused, she said she was nervous on her first day too and I should toughen up,” he flashbacked.

Sanjay Kapoor shared screen space with Reeta in his debut film, Raja, and swore by her screen presence. “The scene where her character has an outburst and she yells at her husband, ‘Kaat Mahindra Pratap kaat’… still gives me goosebumps,” he asserted while Indra Kumar, who directed her in Beta and Raja, remembered her as a “remarkable actor and a great human being”. Her Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa co-star Suchitra Krishnamoorthy described her “as a fine actor and a kind soul”.

Deven Bhojani, who directed her in the hit show Sarabhai v/s Sarabhai, was all praise for her portrayal of Ila bua. “She was fluent in various languages, disciplined and a zerotantrum actress.” Aatish Kapadia, the show’s writer and co-director, informed that she’d played the lead in the first serial he wrote, the 1987 Gujarati show Aagan Tuk. “When we offered her Sarabhai v/s Sarabhai, she came on board without enquiring about the role,” he marvelled while JD Majethia admitted that her character didn’t become as popular as the others but for her work was important. “She was the superstar of several Gujarati hits yet one of the easiest people to work with and a top choices in her age group for all production houses,” he stated. Aatish and Reeta reunited for another show. “She’d hang around after packup to chat with me,” he smiled at the memory.

Rubina Dilaik was heart-broken she couldn’t meet the lady who’d feed the Chhoti Bahu unit dhoklas every month one last time. “We were planning to but couldn’t due to our schedule,”she rued.

Gulshan Grover, who studied alongside Anil Kapoor at Roshan Taneja’s acting school, recounted a lesser known facet from his senior. “She touched my heart with one of her improvisations in class, playing a Gujarati girl who would stop at a Malabari shop every day for bread and eggs. Salim Ghouse played the Malabari man and their romace was beautiful and tendeer, so unlike the usual hero-heroine love story,” he sighed.

Zama Habib, producer of Reeta’s last show, Nimki Mukhiya, informed that she had not been shooting since the last 20 days due to the health issues. “She requested that we replace her but I refused to comply. I didn’t know she would never come back,” the maker signed off emotionally.

Reeta Bhaduri’s alma mater FTII paid tribute with a screening of the student film Safar, in which she featured with Tom Alter. “Students, staff and teachers stood in silence in her memory… It was the last film for both. Reeta Bhaduri acted in over 70 films and around 30 TV serials,” it shared on Twitter; Actress in TV show Nimki Mukhiya (inset)