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SHOBHNA SAMARTH (1915-2000)


Shobhna Samarth was a film actor. She was born Saroj Shilotri. Her father P.S. Shilotri was a prominent banker, and her mother Rattan Bai was an actress. Her father died when she was still quite young and her uncle took over the headship of the family. He was vehemently opposed to acting and his disapproval forced Saroj to act in secret, although his daughter, Nalini Jaywant, later went into films. Her uncle was worried that he wouldn’t be able to get her married off if she was seen on stage, so her mother brought a proposal from a distant relative, Kumarsen Samarth, who had just returned from studying cinematography Germany. Saroj at first refused to have anything to do with him, but when she met him, she was smitten by his good looks and charming manner, and agreed. Kumarsen gave her her screen name of Shobhna Samarth.

Shobhna began with the Marathi film Vilasi Ishwar in 1934, and produced her first Hindi film in 1935, titled Nigahen Nafrat. She knew no Urdu, and she memorized her Urdu dialogue phonetically, much to the amusement of the crew. The following year her daughter Nutan (q.v.) was born. She made an average of two films a year for the next few years, playing Sita in Ram Rajya (1943). Her last film was Vastuhara in 1991.

Two of her daughters, Nutan Behl and Tanuja Samarth, also became actresses, and Shobhna produced their debut films, although subsequently she became estranged from Nutan over money matters, only becoming reconciled a few years before Nutan’s death of cancer in 1991. After that Shobhna made no more films and retired to her cottage in Lonavla. Her third daughter, Chatura, is an artist. Shobhna and Kumarsen had some differences, and some years later their marriage ended amicably and Shobhna continued her tempestuous relationship with the actor Moti Lal. In 2000 she died from cancer.
 
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