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HAMSA WADKAR (1923–1972)

Hamsa Wadkar, an early film actor in Marathi cinema, had to go into the entertainment industry at an early age to support herself, and her family managed successfully to live off her earnings.

Entering films at the age of 11, Hamsa supported her alcoholic father with her work in Marathi films and put her brother through school. Her first film was Vijayachi Lagne (Vijaya’s Marriage) in 1936, and it was an instant hit. She was married at 14 to the neighbour’s son, Jagannath Bandarkar, who had pursued her relentlessly; she gave in more from weariness than affection. Her life with him proved to be no different from that with her family; he exploited her just as they had. As she recounts in her autobiography, Sangatya Aika (I’m Telling You, Listen) in 1970 she ran away from him several times, once living in practical purdah for three years in the home of a rich landlord before she was compelled to send for Bandarkar. Her autobiography was a frank account of her experiences as a woman working in Marathi cinema, and caused quite a stir because of the influential men who had been linked with her, though their names were not mentioned. Shyam Benegal’s film Bhumika, starring Smita Patil (q.v.), was based on her life.
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