An All-India cycling champion and inter-collegiate swimming title holder, Shubha Khote’s foray into films was completely by chance. A Marathi film she worked on while studying at St Wilson’s College, Mumbai was responsible for her Hindi film debut. A still from that film with her on a cycle caught the eye of Amiya Chakraborty. He offered her the role of Putli in his film Seema (1955), starringBalraj Sahni and Nutan in the lead roles. Her cycling skills came of use in the climax of the film, which included a bicycle chase.
While this role may have landed in her lap by chance, she was no stranger to the world of entertainment. Shubha Khote was born into a Marathi family which had already made a mark in the field of entertainment—her father was Nandu Khote, a stage actor who had worked in silent movies, and her aunt was the legendary actress Durga Khote. It was only a given, therefore, that Shubha first ventured into stage acting when she was only four years old.
The success of Seema ensured that Shubha soon had offers lining up, even though most of these were roles of a key side character. Never keen on playing the romantic heroine, Shubha’s stint in these films was successful enough that she became a known face in Hindi cinema, whether playing a vamp in Paying Guest (1957), a tragic side role in Champakali (1957) or Nutan’s help in Anari (1959). With Heera Moti (1959), she played the romantic heroine, and continued opposite Sunil Dutt in Didi (1959).
These roles were not for her however, and for the next few decades she found her niche in comedy. In the same year, she was paired with Mehmood in Chhoti Bahen (1959), establishing the duo as the lead comic pairing for years to come.
Shubha Khote was active in Hindi films until the mid 70s, when she accompanied her husband to London. When she returned to India, she made her comeback as Rati Agnihotri’s strict mother in Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981). Life had come full circle for her, onscreen at least: from playing Dhumal’s daughter who met her onscreen lover stealthily, she was not the forbidding mother who disapproved of her daughter’s romantic escapades. Since then, Shubha Khote has continued to be seen sporadically on television, the stage, as well as the silver screen.