indian cinema heritage foundation

Priya Tendulkar

  • Born: 19 October 1954 (..)
  • Died: 19 September 2002
  • Spouse: Karan Razdan (separated)

Noted television, film and stage actress, the vibrant Priya Tendulkar had shot into the limelight with her portrayal of the fiery character Rajani in the popular Basu Chatterjee-directed serial of the same name. Daughter of renowned playwright Vijay Tendulkar, she had begun her career in Marathi theatre, acting in plays like Gidhade, Tee Phulrani and Ek Hatti Mulgi. Her film career began with Shyam Benegal's Ankur in 1974. She also acted in a few Hindi films including D K Adarsh's Nasoor (1985), Besahara (19870, Insaaf Ki Jung (1998), and Marathi films like Gondhalat Gondhal (1981), Mai Baap (1982), and Maza Saubhagya (1994). However, it was with television that her fame grew. She featured in serials such as the Priya Tendulkar Show, Jimmedar Kaun, which took up social causes, Kisse Miya Biwi Ke, Hum Panch and the Marathi serial Damini. However, it was as Rajani that Priya became a household name across the country, being the face of the hit serial that focussed on corruption in society. As Rajani, she became a messiah of middle-class women, frustrated by the indifferent attitude of essential and public services. The Doordarshan serial inspired homemakers and professionals to rise in protest against being short-changed.

Born on 19 October 1954 to Nirmala and theatre thespian Vijay Tendulkar, she had two sisters – noted actor Sushma Tendulkar and Tanuja (Mohite) and a brother - cinematographer Raju Tendulkar. Owing to the literary and socially aware atmosphere that prevailed at home, she made her first stage appearance as a doll in director Satyadev Dubey’s play Hayavadana (1969). However, acting was not her only choice; she also enjoyed stints as a receptionist in a luxury hotel, an air hostess, a model and a news reader. Eventually, she veered towards films, making her first appearance onscreen in Shyam Benegal’s Ankur (1974), which belongs to the genre of Indian art films, or parallel cinema. She essayed the role of Anant Nag’s wife, in the film that explored varied issues including casteism, class differences, sexual drive, and religious divides. 

Besides featuring in Hindi and Marathi films, she also acted in the Kannada film Minchina Ota (1981), as well as the Gujarati film Pooja Na Phool (1983), in which she played a pivotal role. 

Like her father, she also had the literary flair, penning books such as First Person and Kadachit Ek Vyakti Chi Pratima Asu Shakte. Her compilation of short stories, Jyacha Tyacha Prashna won the Damani Puraskar. Janmalela Pratyekala and Panchatarankit are among the other works she penned. She also wrote a newspaper column titled Asahi, which won the Sahitya Parishad Puraskar

Her image and that of the whistle-blower character Rajani, whom she played in Basu Chatterjee’s Rajani (1985), became fused in the audience’s mind; so realistic was her act as the housewife, who crusades against social injustice and consumer woes. The serial captured the issues of middle-class life, from gas cylinder shortages to cheating electricians, and more. She also left her mark in the Ekta Kapoor serial Hum Paanch (1995), playing the protagonist’s dead wife, who shares her pointed views on her husband’s behaviour from her garlanded frame on the wall. The Priya Tendulkar Show became a pioneer of its kind, wherein she discussed social taboos and prejudice. Her image as an activist grew with the serial Zimmedar Kaun, directed by Vijay Tendulkar, which discussed and debated secularism, and other topics. She also featured in Gulzar’s feminist serial SwayamSiddh. Along with Karan Razdan, she hosted the marriage counselling show Kisse Miyan Biwi Ke, resolving conflicts among couples facing marital issues.

In the personal sphere, in 1988, she married actor-director Karan Razdan, who had played her subdued husband in Rajani, and was also the scriptwriter of the series. She also acted in the serial ‘Hakke Bakke’, which was written by Razdan. They parted ways in 1995. In an interview, she would later speak her opinion about marriage, describing it as an institution that was on the verge of crumbling. Stating that she had no regrets, she also maintained that she would never marry again as she didn’t want to repeat the same mistake. However, she was disturbed by her separation. Towards the end of the 1990s, she was reportedly diagnosed with breast cancer. She shunned attention and kept her treatment private. Using wigs, she continued to shoot. Four years after she was diagnosed with cancer, she passed away following a heart attack on 19 September 2002 at her Prabhadevi residence. While her heart-broken father was unable to attend her funeral, her ex-husband Karan Razdan, who was present, revealed that she was a most “trustworthy wife … the highs and even the lows, were beautiful… We had some differences and parted. We never spoke against each other nor did we ever meet again.” His directorial Roshni (2002) apparently had references to their marriage. Filmmaker Aruna Raje, who was a close friend, shared that she was very private and preferred to mask her difficulties and put up a brave front. 


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  • Filmography (3)