Ratna Pathak is a prominent Indian theatre and film personality born on March 18, 1957 in Mumbai (then Bombay), India. An alumnus of the J.B. Vaccha High School in Dadar, Ms. Pathak’s young life was deeply coloured by the cacophony of urban bustle, the throngs of busy shopgoers and haggling shopkeepers near the stations, the deep whop of a bat stroke meeting an evasive ball perfectly in Shivaji Park, and the everlasting roar of the deep blue sea as it swallowed each day the embers of a dying sun.
As a child Ratna Pathak was an avid reader of Indian story writers like Ruskin Bond. This habit sparked a growing interest in theatre, drama and the fine arts. Little did young Ratna know or realise that she was following the footsteps of her own family—her mother, Dina Pathak, was a well known actress and her sister was venturing into cinema. Armed with the best Indian authors in her head and her own vividly striking personality in her gait, she soon took the theatre scene by storm. It was then that she came across her future husband, Naseeruddin Shah, himself an amateur theatre personality at the time.
However, theatre soon paved the way to TV—then considered a natural progression for budding artistes. Although she had previously acted in movies like Mandi and Heat and Dust, her talent began getting noticed after her spot-on depiction of Sunita (the 80s Indian version of an airheaded well-meaning next-door girl) in the 1985 cult classic Idhar Udhar. Both sisters Ratna and Supriya were protagonists in this Doordarshan show revolving around two female tenants in cosmopolitan Bombay, and their characters were very well received by the Indian audience.
TV gave way to further film projects, as screenplay writers in India soon began identifying her as a unique character prototype. Ms. Pathak soon became an actress in her own right, through successes like The Perfect Murder (1988), Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na (2008), and more recently, Khoobsurat (2014). Her latest release, Lipstick under my Burkha won the Spirit of Asia Prize and the Oxfam Award for Best Film on Gender Equality, although it remains unscreened in India. Her style has been described as ‘light-hearted’ to ‘challenging the status quo’, but in general Ms. Pathak seems to prefer roles that echo well with the audience and their daily lives. She injects a bit of the wit she developed reading the best Indian authors into her scripts, infusing them with an optimistic tone even when the subject matter in serious.
A mother of two sons, Ratna Pathak has kept abreast with the times and constantly reinvented herself as a young India leapt forward into the 21st Century. Although veterans might remember her as the slightly slow airhostess from Idhar Udhar, newer and younger generations growing up on a steady diet of Youtube rather than Doordarshan more readily recognise her as Maya Sarabhai from the hit series Sarabhai vs. Sarabhai. Slated for a sequel-show later this year, we wish her greater success in the near future.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anand Sivakumaran is a renowned author, screenwriter, show runner, content creator, a motivational writer & speaker.