The Indian theatre, film and television world on Thursday morning woke up to the news of the untimely demise of veteran actress Reema Lagoo, one of Bollywood’s favourite on-screen mothers. The industry’s love for her talent and her warm-hearted nature was evident in the outpouring of tributes over social media and during her last rites.
Reema died following a cardiac arrest early on Thursday morning, a family source said. She was 59 and breathed her last at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, in Andheri west, where she was rushed shortly after midnight.
Divorced from her husband and actor Vivek Lagoo, she is survived by her daughter, Mrunmayee Lagoo, 35, who is a film and stage actress and theatre director.
Her family members and colleagues from Hindi and Marathi film, stage and television industries turned up to bid a tearful adieu to Reema at her funeral in Oshiwara.
Daughter Mrunmayee accompanied by her husband Vinay Vayakul lit the funeral pyre amidst chanting of Vedic hymns. Many prominent film personalities like Rishi Kapoor, Kajol, Tanvi Azmi, Shreyas Talpade, Rakesh Bedi, Raza Murad, Anang Desai, Sulabha Arya, Sachin Pilgaonkar, Mahesh Kothare, Sonali Kulkarni, Vijay Gokhale, Mahesh Manjrekar, Sunil Barve, Ramesh Bhatkar and Ashoke Pandit, looked on in grief.
Before the last rites, actor Aamir Khan and his wife Kiran Rao, besides filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, visited Reema’s house.
Aamir said on an emotional note: “We are all in shock. She had no problems that we knew of. It happened suddenly and is saddening. My first film was with Reema ji — ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’. She was a fabulous actor and her heart was so clean. She was also very socially conscious. We only pray that she rests in peace.”
Reema was in action till Wednesday night on the set of TV show “Naamkaran”, in which she played antagonist Dayawanti.
“Reema ji wanted to leave early from the set yesterday due to a throat infection. She used to come in to the set at 9 a.m. everyday, but she had said she would come in a little late today (Thursday) around 11 a.m. because she wanted to get herself checked,” a source from the show’s unit told IANS.
Too sudden, too soon — that’s how her colleagues, juniors and associates received the news of Reema’s death.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, among other politicians, paid tribute to her. Modi described her as a versatile actor who left a big impact in the film and TV world, while Sonia Gandhi called her a “household name who portrayed an array of heart-warming characters on screen”.
Celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit Nene, Mahesh Bhatt, Akshay Kumar, Karan Johar, Renuka Shahane, Ashutosh Gowariker, Rishi Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt and Dia Mirza penned heartfelt social media posts in remembrance of the warm, radiant and versatile actress.
Noted for her roles in Hindi movies like “Rangeela”, “Maine Pyar Kiya”, “Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!”, “Aashiqui”, “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai”, “Hum Saath Saath Hain”, “Vastaav”, “Saajan”, “Kal Ho Na Ho”, Reema became synonymous as Bollywood’s quintessional ‘Maa’ — a middle-aged, modern, but understanding mother. She played on-screen mother to actors like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Kajol and more.
Starting her career as Baby Nayan Bhadbhade, a charming schoolgirl in Pune, Reema soon graduated to larger roles on Marathi stage and films, then television and Hindi-Marathi films, besides doing a 10-year long stint with the Union Bank of India banks from 1979.
Recalled former colleague Vishwas Utagi: “She worked in the Fort branch of Union Bank of India for nearly a decade and simultaneously pursued her passion for acting.”
“She was a prominent representative of the UBI in various inter-bank cultural events and bagged many individual and group prizes,” Utagi told IANS.
At that time, she competed with other bankers like Amol Palekar (of Bank of India) and Ashok Saraf (of State Bank of India), among many others, who later went on to become legendary actors, he added.
After working in about 10 Marathi films as a child star, Baby Nayan — who became Reema Lagoo after marriage — later graduated to plum, bigger roles, and after getting a strong foothold in the film industry, she and husband left their banking jobs.
On television, the actress was seen in prominent roles in “Khandaan”, “Shrimaan Shrimati”, “Tu Tu, Main Main,” “Do Aur Do Paanch”, and the ongoing serial “Naamkaran”. In Marathi, she gave notable stage performances in “Ghar Tighanche Have”, “Chal Aatap Lavkar”, “Jhale Mokle Aakash”, “To Ek Kshann”, “Purush Buland” and “Vitho Rakhumai”.
For Marathi showbiz, Reema was ‘Reema tai’. Actress Usha Jadhav said she will be missed, while Renuka Shahane, who famously played her daughter in Hindi movie “Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!”, wrote a long and emotional Facebook post on Reema’s inner and outer beauty.
Besides acting, Reema took keen interest in public activities, took part in several banking agitations, sat on a dharna in 2013 to successfully stop demolition of the 80-year-old Bharatmata Cinema hall in Parel, and joined a procession for the welfare of the dishoused millworkers of Mumbai a few years ago.