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Durga Khote (14 January 1905 − 22 September 1991) was an Indian actress, beginning as one of the foremost leading ladies of her times, she remained active in Hindi and Marathi cinema, as well as theatre, for over 50 years, starring in around 200 films and numerous theatre productions.

Durga Khote
Durga Khote.jpg
Durga Khote
Vita Lad

(1905-01-14)14 January 1905
Bombay, Bombay Presidency, British India
Died22 September 1991(1991-09-22) (aged 86)
Mumbai, Maharashtra. India
Occupationactor, film producer
Years active1931–1983

In 2000, in a millennium issue, India Today named her among "100 People Who Shaped India", noting: "Durga Khote marks the pioneering phase for women in Indian Cinema"[1] as she was one of the first women from respectable families to enter the film industry, thus breaking a social taboo.[2]

She also ranks among the top ten actresses in mother roles in Hindi cinema,[3] most notable among them were as Jodhabai in K. Asif's Mughal-e-Azam (1960); as Kaikeyi in Vijay Bhatt's classic Bharat Milap (1942); her other memorable roles as mother were in Charnon Ki Dasi (1941); Mirza Ghalib; Bobby (1973) and Bidaai (1974). She has received the highest award in Indian cinema, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award (1983), for lifetime contribution to Indian cinema.


Early lifeEdit

Khote was born as Vita Lad, to a family which hailed from Goa and spoke Konkani at home.[4] Her father's name was Pandurang Shamrao Lad and her mother's name was Manjulabai.[4] She grew up in a large joint family in Kandewadi. She was educated at Cathedral High School and St. Xavier's College where she studied for B.A. While still a college-going teenager, she married into the Khote family and settled down with her husband.[5]

By the age of 26, Durga Khote was a widowed mother with two young sons; Bakul and Harin. She had to seek work in film to support her children. In doing so, she became a pioneer of sorts: She hailed from a traditional family and the film industry was regarded as the preserve of the base and the bawdy. Also, most of the female characters were played by men at the time.

Early careerEdit

Khote as Taramati in Ayodhyecha Raja.

Durga Khote debuted in a minor role in the obscure 1931 silent film Farebi Jaal, by the Prabhat Film Company, followed by Maya Machindra (1932). She was soon promoted to play heroine in the 1932 double version (Hindi and Marathi) Ayodhyecha Raja, another Prabhat film, which was the first ever Marathi talkie, and proved to be a runaway hit, where she played the role of Rani Taramati.[6] Indeed, she ventured yet another pioneering trend: Despite working closely with the Prabhat Film Company, she broke away from the "studio system" (exclusive contract with a studio to work in its films on a monthly salary) then in vogue and became one of the first "freelance" artistes of that era by working occasionally with the New Theatres, East India Film Co. (both at Calcutta), and Prakash Pictures.

In 1936, she played Saudamini in Amar Jyoti, which is one of her most memorable roles.[7][8]

In 1937, she produced and directed a film titled Saathi, making her one of the first women to step into this role in Indian cinema.[9] The 40s opened for her in a big way, with award-winning performances in Aachary Atre's Payachi Dasi (Marathi) and Charnon Ki Dasi (Hindi) (1941) and Vijay Bhatt's classic Bharat Milap (1942), both of which got her the BFJA Best Actress Award for two consecutive years.

Durga Khote remained active in the theatre circuit for many years, especially the Marathi theatre in Mumbai. She was actively associated with the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) and worked in several plays for the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh. In 1954, she famously performed the role of Lady Macbeth in V.V. Shirwadkar's Marathi adaptations of Macbeth, as Rajmukut, The Royal Crown, along with Nanasaheb Phatak.[10]

Later careerEdit

Khote on a 2013 stamp of India

Durga Khote played a wide variety of roles over a career that was not only long, but also untouched by scandal. She was the inspiration for several generations of Indian actresses, including veterans such as the late Shobhna Samarth, who frequently spoke of how she had been inspired by Khote's example.

During later years, she played several important character roles, such as the mother of the protagonist. Her portrayal of Jodhabai, the queen of Akbar torn between duty towards her husband and love towards her son in Mughal-e-Azam (1960) was well received. In 1963, she acted in Merchant Ivory's debut film The Householder (1963).[11][12]

She went on to play other widely appreciated character roles in later movies, such as the role of the grandmother of the heroine in Bobby (1973), the hero's aunt in Abhimaan (1973), and the very memorable Bidaai (1974), where she played a mother, a very sensitive role that can make one cry and received the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award.

Her final memorable role was in Subhash Ghai's Karz (1980), where she played the role of the mother of Raj Kiran and later, mother to Rishi Kapoor, who played the role of Raj Kiran's reincarnation after the screen death of Raj Kiran in the movie.

She acted in over 200 films in her career. By the 1980s she successfully diversified into production of short films, ad films and documentaries by setting up Fact Films and later, Durga Khote Productions, which produced the Doordarshan TV series Wagle Ki Duniya.

Personal lifeEdit

Durga Khote was married when she was a teenager to Vishwanath Khote, a gentleman of her own caste and similar social background, in a match arranged by their parents in the usual Indian manner. It was a traditional marriage into an orthodox family, the couple lived a harmonious and happy life, and the marriage was blessed with two sons. Vishwanath was a mechanical engineer who had graduated from Banaras Hindu University. His family was upper middle class and professional, with modern English education and high social standing; his ancestors had been prominent bankers.

Unfortunately, Vishwanath Khote died young, when Durga was barely into her 20s. She and her sons continued to reside with her in-laws, as is traditional in India, but she was not comfortable with her dependent position, especially because her father-in-law was no more, and they were dependent on other family members for their expenses. Shs thus felt impelled to make a living any which way she could, and the opening in films happened entirely by chance. The fact that she came from a modern and English-educated family meant that, even as a widow, she was able to act in films, which was derided as a disreputable profession in those days.

Durgaji, thus raised her two sons, Bakul and Harin, single-handedly. Both of them went on to become well-settled in life. But she suffered the loss of her son Harin, who predeceased her and died in his 40s. Harin was married to Vijaya Jaywant, and they were the parents of two sons.[13] After Harin's early death, his widow married a Parsi man named Farrokh Mehta and became famous as the film-maker Vijaya Mehta.

Durga Khote's grandchildren (children of Bakul and Harin) include her grandson Ravi, a filmmaker; granddaughter Anjali Khote, an actress; and grandson Deven Khote, a successful producer who is one of the co-founders of UTV, and who has also directed a film.[14][15] Deven Khote is noted for producing films such as Jodhaa Akbar and Life in a Metro.[16]

Durga Khote's brother-in-law, Nandu Khote (brother of Vishwanath), was a noted stage and silent movie actor. Two of Nandu's children are also active in the film industry. His son Viju Khote is an actor perhaps best known for his role of "Kalia" in Sholay (1975). Nandu's daughter is the actress Shubha Khote, who debuted in Seema (1955) and worked as a heroine in several films before moving to character roles. Still later, she moved to directing and producing Marathi films and also entered television in the 90s. Shubha's daughter, Bhavana Balsavar, is also an award-winning TV actress who appeared in sitcoms like Dekh Bhai Dekh and Zabaan Sambhalke before deciding to settle down and raise a family.[17][18] Thus, the acting profession which was pioneered by Durga Khote in her family has been fully embraced by her late husband's family.

Durga Khote also had some rather improbable, distinguished relatives with no connection to films. The socialite and politician Sharda Mukherjee (nee Sharada Pandit), who herself served as governor of the states of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, and who was the wife of Subroto Mukherjee, India's first Chief of the Air Staff, was Durga Khote's first cousin (her mother's sister's daughter). Sharda Mukherjee's paternal uncle, Ranjit Sitaram Pandit, was the husband of Jawaharlal Nehru's sister Vijayalakshmi Pandit. In other words, Durga Khote's mausi (mother's sister) was the Devrani of Vijayalakshmi Pandit; their husbands were the Pandit brothers.

Later in life, Durga Khote wrote an autobiography in Marathi, entitled Mee, Durga Khote, which was translated into English as I, Durga Khote,[19] and moved to Alibaug, near Mumbai. Durga Khote died on 22 September 1991.


Khote in Amar Jyoti (1936)
Year Film Character/Role Notes
1931 Farebi Jaal
1932 Ayodhyecha Raja Taramati Hindi/Marathi film
1932 Maya Machhindra Queen Hindi/Marathi film
1933 Patit Pawan
1933 Rajrani Meera Meera
1934 Seeta Seeta
1935 Inquilab Miss Renee
1935 Jeevan Natak Miss Queen
1936 Amar Jyoti Saudamini
1937 Pratibha Pratibha
1938 Nandakumar
1938 Saathi
1939 Adhuri Kahani Harbala
1940 Yamla Jat
1940 Geeta Durga Hindi/Marathi film
1940 Narsi Bhagat Manekbai Gujarati/Hindi film
1941 Charnon Ki Dasi / Payachi Dasi Vidya's mother-in-law Hindi / Marathi film
1942 Bharat Milap Maharani Kaikeyi Hindi/Marathi film
1942 Vijay
1943 Kurbani
1943 Mahasati Ansuya
1943 Mahatma Vidur
1943 Prithvi Vallabh Mrinalvati
1943 Tasveer Vidya Devi
1943 Zameen
1944 Maharathi Karna Kunti
1945 Lakharani Bichwa
1945 Pannadai
1945 Phool
1945 Veer Kunal
1946 Maharani Minaldevi
1946 Rukmini Swayamvar
1948 Anjuman
1948 Seeta Sawayamwar
1949 Singaar
1949 Jeet Ratan's mother
1949 Maya Bazaar
1950 Alakh Niranjan
1950 Beqasoor
1950 Har Har Mahadev
1950 Magroor
1950 Nishana
1950 Hamara Ghar
1951 Aaram Sita
1951 Hamari Shaan
1951 Humlog Mother
1951 Nai Zindagi
1951 Sazaa
1952 Aandhiyan
1952 Lal Kunwar
1952 Mordhwaj
1952 Narveer Tanaji
1952 Sandesh
1953 Chacha Chowdhury
1953 Mashooka
1953 Naag Panchami
1953 Naulakha Haar Devla
1953 Shikast
1954 Lakeeren
1954 Mirza Ghalib Amma, Chaudvin's mother
1954 Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
1955 Adil-E-Jahangir
1956 Justice
1956 Parivar
1956 Patrani Raj Mata
1956 Rajdhani
1957 Bade Sarkar
1957 Bhabhi Ratan's aunt
1957 Mera Salaam
1957 Musafir Mrs. Nilambar Sharma
1958 Raj Tilak
1959 Ardhangini Prakash's mother
1959 Ghar Ghar Ki Baat
1959 Maine Jeena Seekh Liya
1960 Mughal-E-Azam Maharani Jodha Bai
1960 Parakh Rani Ma, J.C. Roy's mother
1960 Love in Simla Sonia's grandmother
1960 Usne Kaha Tha
1961 Bhabhi Ki Chudiyan Prabha's mother
1961 Kismet Palat Ke Dekh
1961 Senapati
1962 Main Shadi Karne Chala
1962 Man-Mauji Dr. Mohan's mother
1962 Rungoli Subhagi
1962 Son of India Head Nun
1963 The Householder Prem's mother
1963 Mujhe Jeene Do
1964 Benazir
1964 Door Ki Awaaz Prakash's mother
1964 Kaise Kahoon
1964 Main Suhagan Hoon
1964 Shagoon
1965 Do Dil Ranimaa
1965 Kaajal Rani Sahiba
1965 Purnima Sharda R. Lal
1966 Anupama Ashok's mother
1966 Daadi Maa Daadi Maa/Maharani
1966 Devar
1966 Pyar Mohabbat Rajmata Rajeshwari
1966 Sagaai Sheel's mother
1967 Chandan Ka Palna Mrs. Radha Laxmidas
1968 Jhuk Gaya Aasman Mrs. Saxena
1968 Sapno Ka Saudagar Peter's mother
1968 Sunghursh Mrs. Bhawani Prasad
1969 Dharti Kahe Pukarke
1969 Ek Phool Do Mali Leela
1969 Jeene Ki Raah Janki
1969 Pyar Ka Sapna Sudha's mother
1970 Khilona Thakurain Singh
1971 Anand Renu's mother Guest Appearance
1971 Banphool Haria's maternal grandma
1971 Ek Nari Ek Brahmachari Rajlaxmi S. Chaudhary
1972 Bawarchi Seeta Sharma
1972 Mere Bhaiya Avinash's mother
1972 Raja Jani Rajmata
1972 Shararat Harry's mother
1973 Bobby Mrs. Braganza
1973 Namak Haraam Somu's mother
1973 Abhimaan Durga Mausi
1973 Gopi Kunwar's mother
1973 Agni Rekha
1974 Bidaai Parvati Won 1975 Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress
1974 Dil Diwana Vijay's Dadimaa
1974 Insaaniyat Ram's mother
1975 Chaitali Manish's mother
1975 Kala Sona Mrs. Ranjeet Singh
1975 Khushboo Brindaban's mother
1976 Jaaneman Ronnie's mother
1976 Jai Bajrang Bali Devi Maa Anjani
1976 Rangila Ratan
1976 Shaque Mrs. Bannerjee
1977 Chacha Bhatija Mrs. D'Silva
1977 Darling Darling
1977 Do Chehere Daadima
1977 Naami Chor
1977 Paapi Ashok's mother
1977 Paheli Brij Mohan's mother
1977 Saheb Bahadur Meena's grandmother
1979 Chor Sipahee Mrs. Khanna, Raja's mother
1980 Karz Mrs. Shanta Prasad Verma
1983 Daulat Ke Dushman Sunil's mother


Year Nominee / work Award Result
1942 Charnon Ki Dasi[20] BFJA Awards: Best Actress Won
1943 Bharat Milap[21] BFJA Awards: Best Actress Won
1968 Padma Shri, fourth highest civilian award by the Government of India. Awarded
1970 Dhartichi Lekre Maharashtra State Award Won
1974 Bidaai Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award Won
1983 Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the lifetime recognition award for films from Government of India[9] Awarded

Honours and recognitionsEdit

A postage stamp, bearing her face, was released by India Post to honour her on 3 May 2013.


  1. ^ Women of Substance Archived 8 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine, India Today.
  2. ^ Ten most important women stars in Indian films Archived 21 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine Gautam Rajadhyaksha,
  3. ^ Memorable Moms[permanent dead link] The Statesman, 4 October 2008.
  4. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 April 2015. Retrieved 15 January 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Durga Khote Profile on".
  6. ^ "Profile with photographs". Archived from the original on 18 January 2006. Retrieved 22 January 2006. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  7. ^ Ashok Raj (1 November 2009). Hero Vol.1. Hay House, Inc. pp. 45–. ISBN 978-93-81398-02-9. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
  8. ^ Tilak Rishi (2012). Bless You Bollywood!: A Tribute to Hindi Cinema on Completing 100 Years. Trafford Publishing. pp. 155–. ISBN 978-1-4669-3963-9. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
  9. ^ a b Dadasaheb Phalke Award 15th Recipient – 1983 – Durga Khote. Retrieved on 2018-11-09.
  10. ^ Shakespeare in India
  11. ^ Filmography on Allmovie.
  12. ^ Filmography on The New York Times.
  13. ^ Shanta Gokhale (26 November 2012). "Life at play". Pune Mirror. Archived from the original on 17 February 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  14. ^ UTV co-founder turns director
  15. ^ Durga Khote profile Washington State University
  16. ^ Deven Khote The New York Times,
  17. ^ An Interview with Shobha Khote
  18. ^ The Forgotten Bollywood bhai-behan Brigade[permanent dead link] Bollywood Hungama, 9 August 2006.
  19. ^ "Autobiography – details from Oxford University Press website". Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 18 January 2006. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  20. ^ 5th Annual BFJA Awards – Awards For The Year 1941 Archived 8 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine BFJA Awards Official website.
  21. ^ 6th Annual BFJA Awards – Awards For The Year 1942 Archived 8 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine BFJA Awards Official website.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit