SARITA DEVI – I

Shri Ram Katha, Ramayan has many a heartwarming events which showcase the divine relation between Bhakt (Devotee) and Bhagwaan (God). One such event is where Shri Ram meets Mata Shabari. The greatness of service, devotion and faith of a tribal woman and the grace of Guru and the Almighty to her are excellent features of this episode. The actress who played the part of Mata Shabari in Ramanand Sagar ji’s Ramayan (1987) made a permanent mark in our memory with her heart-warming performance. We have seen many artists play the part in various adaptations of Ramayan be it TV Series or Films but no one made the kind of impression she did. For years we knew nothing about her, not even her name. To our joy recently we got to know that she is veteran actress, Sarita Devi (सरिता देवी).

Jeewan Jyoti (1953)

SELECTED FILMOGRAPHY

  • Jeewan Jyoti (1953)
  • Parineeta (1953)
  • Do Bigha Zamin (1953)
  • Biraj Bahu (1954)
  • Taxi Driver (1954)
  • Devdas (1955)
  • House No. 44 (1955)
  • New Delhi (1956)
  • Sone Ki Chidiya (1958)
  • Kanhaiya (1959)
  • Love Marriage (1959)
  • Parakh (1960)
  • Usne Kaha Tha (1960)
  • Passport (1961)
  • Prem Patra (1962)
  • Aaye Din Bahar Ke (1966)
  • Gaban (1966)
  • Paisa Ya Pyar (1969)
  • Aap Aye Bahaar Ayee (1971)
  • Piya Ka Ghar (1972)
  • Pakeezah (1972)
  • Har Har Mahadev (1974)
  • Aanchal (1980)
  • Hum Se Hai Zamana (1983)
  • Pyar Jhukta Nahin (1985)
  • Ramayan (1987), TV Series
  • Shri Krishna (1993), TV Series
  • Sarita ji is a very senior artist and going by her filmography she has been part of the entertainment industry for more than four decades. Cinema lovers of the 50s would not take much time to recognize her. Remember Lalita’s Maami in Parineeta (1953), Mangal’s Bhabhi in Taxi Driver (1954), Paro’s Daadi in Devdas (1955) or Geeta’s Chachi in Love Marriage (1959). She was one of the regular character artists to be seen on the silver-screen then, playing the Bhabhi / Chachi / Maami / Daadi, etc to the leads of the film.

    She has been part of many classics like – Do Bigha Zamin (1953), Biraj Bahu (1954), Devdas (1955), Pakeezah (1972), among many others. She appeared in many Bimal Roy Productions. While she has mostly portrayed affectionate characters onscreen, she is amusingly different in Sone Ki Chidiya (1958) as the bickering daughter-in-law. She was credited as Sarita / Sarita Devi in her films. Due to similar names, most internet listings have combined works of Sarita ji and another actress Sarita Dhillon (can be seen singing “Jogi Hum To Lut Gaye Tere Pyar Mein” in Shaheed (1965)). We have verified the adjacent Filmography. We are sure the list is much longer, we will keep adding names as and when we come across more films. Apart from films we have seen her in Sagar TV‘s Ramayan (1987) and Shri Krishna (1993).

    We first saw her as Mata Shabari in Ramayan (1987) and then as a poor fruit-seller in Shri Krishna (1993) but in movies very recently. Last year when we saw Jeewan Jyoti (1953), we instantly recognised our Mata Shabari playing Kashi, who works at the leading lady Chand Usmani‘s house in the film. Though understandably she was about 35 years younger in this film than when she played the role in Ramayan, one could recognise her in no time as soon as she smiled. Her smile has always been the same. She comes across as a very warm, loving & caring person and has an inherent affectionate body language. Unfortunately we could not find much information about her; this post is a photo and video blog to take a look at Sarita ji’s work. We hope this blog will reach people who know her and will be willing to tell us more.

    Ramayan (1987)

    Mata Shabari (our impressions)

    Mata Shabari, a tribal woman was the disciple of Maharishi Matang. When her Guru was about to leave his mortal form, he blessed her saying that one day reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, Shri Ram would visit her in their ashram. Keeping full faith in her Guru’s words, she was waiting for Shri Ram since years. She would prepare and be ready for his arrival every day. She would clean the ashram, decorate it with flowers, pluck fresh berries, taste them, select the sweetest ones and discard the rest. This was her routine until Shri Ram arrived with his brother Lakshman.

    She greeted them and offered the berries she had carefully selected. Defiled Berries (जूठे बेर), which would be considered unfit to offer any guest and more so when the guest is Almighty himself; but in her deep love, great reverence and intense devotion, wanting to offer only the best to Shri Ram, she did not realise that she was feeding him tasted, and therefore defiled berries. Shri Ram too, recognizing her devotion and pure heart ate them with great relish.

    Upon Mata Shabari’s request, Shri Ram enumerated the Navadha Bhakti. She then suggested that Shri Ram go to the Pampa Lake and seek help from Sugriv in finding the whereabouts of Sita ji. Thereafter Mata Shabari, left her mortal form and attained salvation in the presence of Shri Ram. In Raghuveer Gadyam (रघुवीर गद्यं), Shri Vedanta Deshika (वेदान्त देशिक) address’s Shri Ram as Shabari Mokshasakshibhut (शबरी मोक्षसाक्षिभूत), which means ‘the one who witnessed Shabari attaining Salvation‘. In other words Deshika ji says that Shri Ram did not grant her salvation, she had already qualified for that status; he was simply a witness to the same, such was the blessedness of Mata Shabari.

    As Mata Shabari
    She appears for just about 20 minutes in Ramayan but her perfomance can’t be missed. I still remember that my mother was all praises for her after the episode was over. We feel she was perfectly cast to play Mata Shabari. Unlike as seen in most adaptations, here was an actress who was not pretending to play an old character, her body language and dialog delivery were natural. There was no fake makeup to add age. She looked totally convincing as a woman who has aged waiting every moment of her life for the Almighty’s arrival. Her expression when Shri Ram introduces himself still gives me goosebumps. Within a moment she is able to convincingly establish the genuine relationship of deep love, affection and devotion onscreen with Arun Govil ji who played Shri Ram. Its the beauty of their performance that even after so many years this scene is still as heartwarming as it felt in its first viewing.

    Video Gallery
    Here are some film scenes featuring Sarita ji. Please note that the original scenes have been edited to keep the length short and highlight Sarita ji’s performance.

    Taxi Driver (1954)

    Sarita ji plays Dev Anand’s sweet innocent Bhabhi in this film. Its the scene where she has come with a marriage proposal for her Devar but he and his friends fool her to avoid it.

    New Delhi (1956)

    In this film Sarita ji plays a God fearing lady. Here she is being convinced by her brother to enact as Vaijayanti Mala’s mother in front of Kishore Kumar’s parents to get their consent for the alliance.

    Love Marriage (1959)

    In this film Sarita ji plays Mala Sinha’s adorable talkative Chachi. Its the scene where the leads of the film are wondering how to take her consent for their alliance but she catches them red-handed.

    Picture Gallery
    Here are some screenshots featuring Sarita ji.

    Taxi Driver (1954)

    House No. 44 (1955)

    Do Bigha Zamin (1953), Sone Ki Chidiya (1958), Prem Patra (1962)

    Paisa Ya Pyar (1969), Pakeezah (1972), Shri Krishna (1993), Pyar Jhukta Nahin (1985), Piya Ka Ghar (1972)

    In our effort to trace artists who made Ramanand Sagar ji‘s Ramayan (1987) one of our most cherished memories, finding about Sarita ji’s work gives us great joy. In the past week we saw some old classics in which she was part of the cast. No matter how big or small part artists play, when they do it with conviction it is bound to stay in the memory of its viewers. This blog is to tell Sarita ji wherever she is that she is very fondly remembered by admirers of Ramayan.

    - Maitri Manthan

    * We would like to thank Mool Narain Sardana, Arunkumar Deshmukh, India-Forums members lola610 and Radhikerani for providing information and video links for this blog.

    * If anyone has more information about Sarita ji or has seen her in any film not listed here, please let us know.

    * The information provided in this blog is to the best of our knowledge, if any discrepancies are found please let us know. Thank you.

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    7 responses to “SARITA DEVI – I

    1. It is So Wonderful to know that you all are working about these True Talents of our time!!! Great post! Loved to go through it! Really Really Loved Sarita ji’s acting in both ‘Ramayan’ and ‘Shri Krishna’. And didn’t know any details about her before reading this article! You have compiled So Many details about her!! Thank you!! Carry on the wonderful work!!

    2. Sarita Devi was a wonderful actress and portrayed the role of Shabari Ma and the fruit seller in Shri Krishna so well. I actually liked her best as the fruit seller because her interaction with natkhat shri krishna was really adorable and inspirational.

    3. Thanks for the above post on Sarita ji.
      You are doing a great service to the history of Indian Cinema, by collecting info about these “Bikhare Moti”.
      Please ‘lage raho…….’

      -Arunkumar Deshmukh

    4. I do visit your blog often but am always shot of time and unable to post a comment but after reading this post I knew I had to post a comment, it is indeed commendable the research you have put in, in this way you are keeping the memory of such actors life. Real good work.

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