The clock just ticked onto midnight here in Kansas City, as I start to type away. 15th of August. It had all begun at a midnight when India finally gained her independence from years of colonial oppression. As I look back, I ma reminded of my school days and the flag hoisting ceremonies. Memories rush by. My Mother, who is a teacher in India, is busy in her school now , in Kolkata(India) with the Independence Day celebrations with her students.

And I type away.

Before I go any further , let me clarify that in writing about a Hindu mythological film, on 15th August, is in no way a Right Wing Move. Its merely a grand daughter, penning down some lines in memory of her departed grand mother. And I am using Images from Google, as all our copies of her stills from the film are with my parents in India.

I had been planning to write a commemorative note for the 15th of August, which I would have duly shared with the necessary hashtags on social media. I would have probably written about some special Indian food. Till I came across something which made me change my mind. days before yesterday, one of my teachers from college had shared an note in a Film Appreciation group on Facebook. Professor Madhuja Mukherjee had written about 40 YEARS OF JAI SANTOSHI MAA. My heart skipped a beat when i saw the post, while I was having my lunch and I wasted no time in clicking on Like on all the pictures of the post.

A few minutes later, the following conversation ensued on private message.

Prof. M.M: Are you related to her? I remember a student was her grandchild

Me: Yes Ma'm

Prof. M. M: Then you should write a note on her. 

This was the conversation which made me base my 15th August Special on a super hit Bollywood film: Jai Santoshi Maa. I have always been a hard core film buff. Also been a student of Cinema. So it made sense in all ways. Not to forget the Superhit Goddess was my Grandmother.

Now here comes the interesting bit or the disclaimer bit. She was not my Mother's Biological Mom. Anita Guha and her husband Manik Dutt were childless. So they adopted  Manik Dutt's niece from Kolkata and brought her up as their own, in Mumbai. There are things which poorly written Wikipedia articles do not know of,and some of my readers might get confused. So I had two sets of grandmoms and my mom had two Moms .

ANITA GUHA. The quintessential Mythological Queen of Bollywood. In her entire career in films, she has played so many mythological characters,successfully , that we often lose track. She was known for her portrayal of Sita(Ramayana) in many Bollywood and Tollywood film. She also starred in many romantic dramas with many well known actors including Kishore Kumar(in both Hindi and Bengali language films) and Uttam Kumar(In Bengali). She started her career when she won the Kardaar Kolynos Beauty Contest at the age of 16 and then signed her first film 'Bansher Kella', opposite Uttam Kumar.  The first Hindi film she sings was"Duniya Gol Haii." The rest as they say is history

Jai Santoshi Maa was a low budget film which released in 1975. Yes, the same year as Sholay, the biggest of Bollywood biggies. While Sholay was the undoubtedly the top grosser of the year, Jai Santoshi Maa was the second biggest hit of the year, leaving behind films like Deewar, Chupke Chupke, Millie, Rafoo Chakkar and Warrant and others . Jai Santoshi Maa is the story of a poor woman Satyavati and how her faith in a particular goddess stands strong despite the odds.Dont believe me?Check out this IMDB listing with the Box Office Collections from the year 1975. 

As Philip A Lutgendorf mentions in one of his essays on Jai Santoshi Maa, that the film gave birth to a Superhit Goddess and whole set of rituals . That's so true. I have seen that over the years.

My mother still remembers going for the Jai Santoshi Maa premiere and what ensued after that. Mayhem broke lose when the film ended as  the entire audience and probably the whole town of Nashik wanted to touch the feet of Maa Santoshi in real life. So convincing was her portrayal of the Goddess, that people could not differentiate between reel and real. Well that was 40 years ago.

And you might think, things mellow down and people change.

I remember two different incidents.

Mumbai: My grandmother's car had broken down midway and she had to get somewhere in a rush. This was in the late 1990s. So she left her car and hailed an auto rickshaw along with her trusty assistant. She reached her destination and went ahead to pay .But the auto driver would not have anything . He touched her feet in devotion and mentioned how lucky he was that Maa Santoshi had paid him a visit. How did you recognize me? She said. She looked very different. The long hair had given way to a crop, and was now burgundy in color. And so many years had passed. The Man mentioned, he could not miss the eyes.

Yes, the eyes. The eyes which had magic in them. The yes which were scary enough to scare you in finishing off your veggies and loving and trusting enough, to make you spill out and confide in all your teenage secrets(read: Boyfriend drama of a teenage grand daughter)

Kolkata: We had all driven to a temple a few kilometers away from Kolkata  to offer our Pujas. It was a pretty popular temple and there are literally a few thousand people there every day. My Grandmother's Arthritis and rheumatism were raging bitter battles with her everyday. As I was helping her get off the car and to walk towards the temple, the all familiar whisperings started . Before we knew it, we were surrounded by a huge crowd, who started to offer their pranam to her rather than making their way to the temple. For them , they had witnessed Maa Santoshi. It was unbelievable for us, as grandchildren.

You might say that's the power of cinema, but I would say, that's the power of successfully playing a character. She had learnt to live with it. She had spent years where People would regard her a the Goddess. How elderly people would also try and touch her feet or people would bring their children ti be blessed by her. Was she fazed by all this? She took its ll in her stride with her customary calmness. And no she wasn't a worshipper of Goddess Santoshi in real life. She was an ardent follower of Goddess Kali. And trips to Dakshineshwar Kali Temple was a must during very visits to Kolkata.

Its this weekend which marks the release of this blockbuster Jai Santoshi Maa. 40 years ago magic had been created onsreen, which left behind films starring the biggest heart throbs of those days. And mind you, this was a film, which she did quite late in her career . But a film by which everyone remembers her even today. In  a career spanning over 40years, she had starred in more than 100 films in various languages, Twice nominated for Filmfare Awards, but awards didn't come her way. She breathed her last in July 2007 at her newly acquired residence in Vile Parle. But for me(not only as a grand daughter but also as a fan), we shall always remember the spacious apartment of hers in Mirabelle in Linking Road, Bandra, as her most famous home.

To quote Philip A Lutgendorf , Anita Guha was surely the SUPER HIT GODDESS.

Miss you Dida. Wish you were here.

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