Shyam, Shabana and Smita

Check out this rare photograph of the filmmaker and his lead actors

Sonal Pandya

Generally considered as two of the greatest female actors of Indian cinema, Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil only worked in four films together – Nishant (1975), Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Ata Hai (1980), Arth (1982) and Mandi (1983). Two of these, Nishant and Mandi, were under filmmaker Shyam Benegal who led both actors to some of their finest performances of their careers.

In this old file photo, the venerable director is seen abroad with his two leading ladies from Nishant (1975). The film won the National Award for Best Film in Hindi in 1977 and was India's submission to the Academy Awards that year. It also vied for the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1976. Nishant travelled to film festivals in London, Melbourne and Chicago, thus confirming its status as a landmark feature from the alternate branch of Hindi cinema.

Nishant was only Benegal's third feature film as director. His previous film Ankur (1974) had starred Shabana Azmi while his second film Charandas Chor (1975) starred Smita Patil. He brought them together for the first time with Nishant. Based on a play by noted playwright Vijay Tendulkar and dialogues by Satyadev Dubey, Nishant was a sobering and brutal peek at the lawlessness that resides in the villages of India.