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SHAKUNTALA PARANJPYE (1906-2000)


Shakuntala Paranjpye was an actor, writer and social worker. She was the daughter of the educationist and diplomat Sir R.P. Paranjpye, the first Indian to qualify as a Senior Wrangler in mathematics from Cambridge and India’s High Commissioner to Australia from 1944 to 1947. Shakuntala initially followed in her father’s footsteps, taking her tripos (degree in mathematics) from Cambridge in 1929. The following year she took a diploma in education from London University. In the 1930s she divided her time between her film career in Mumbai and her work in Geneva with the International Labour Organisation. She travelled the villages of Maharashtra spreading the message of birth control in 1933.

Her first film was Sairandhri in 1933, and her most noted role was in V. Shantaram’s Duniya Na Mane in 1937. She was married briefly to the Russian painter Youra Sleptzoff and had a daughter, Sai, by him in 1938, but the marriage did not last. Sai Paranjpye later went on to become a noted film director in Mumbai. She continued to act till 1955. As her acting career tapered off in the 1940s she turned her attention to writing and politics. She published a memoir, Three Years in Australia, in 1951, and a book titled Sense and Nonsense with Orient Longman in 1970. In her later years she wrote in Marathi. She was a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council between 1958 and 1964, and was a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from 1964 to 1970. In 1991, the Government of India awarded her the Padma Bhushan in recognition of her pioneering work.
 
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