Reema Lagoo (1958-2017) has routinely been described as “Bollywood’s favourite mom” in the tributes that flowed after the news of her death on May 18. She was 59, and died after a cardiac arrest in Mumbai. She is survived by her daughter, Mrunmayee Lagoo.
Lagoo was a consummate actress whose career spanned theatre, television and cinema and different genres, but she will be best known for playing the matriarch of numerous stars over the decades.
Born Nayan Bhadbhade in Pune in 1958, she began acting on the stage while in school. Apart from appearing in plays, she began acting in Marathi and Hindi arthouse films in the 1970s, such as Jabbar Patel’s Sinhasan (1979), in which she plays the ambitious daughter-in-law of a state minister (Shriram Lagoo, no relation).
Her noteworthy films in the 1980s include Govind Nihalani’s Aakrosh and Shyam Benegal’s Kalyug. She was also part of the cast of the first Indian television soap, Khandaan. In 1988, she played two different kinds of mothers: sexually assertive in Rihaee, and convention bound in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak.
The mother tag that was stuck on Lagoo yielded her nationwide fame in Sooraj Barjatya’s blockbuster Maine Pyar Kiya in 1989. She repeated the feat in Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994).
Among Lagoo’s most popular TV shows were Shriman Shrimati (1994) and Tu Tu Main Main (1994), both of which showcased her talent for comedy.
Lagoo kept playing the matriarch, and some roles were better remembered than others, such as in Ram Gopal Varma’s Rangeela. Lagoo is “Mili ki maa”, the mother of the back-up dancer (Urmila Matondkar) who dreams of becoming a film star.
On the screen, Lagoo could be as stern as she was loving. In Qaid Mein Hai Bulbul (1992), she plays the heroine’s obdurate mother, who refuses to let her marry her sweetheart.
Also among her best-known films is Mahesh Manjrekar’s crime drama Vaastav (1999), in which she plays the mother of Sanjay Dutt’s criminal. She was paired with Shivaji Satam in that movie, and she reunited with him for Manjrekar’s Jis Desh Mein Ganga Rehta Hai (2000) and Tera Mera Saath Rahen (2001). She plays Jijabai in Manjrekar’s Marathi-language Me Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy (2009).
Lagoo continued to appear in Marathi films alongside Hindi productions. In Gajendra Ahire’s Sail (2006), she is the Home Minister of Maharashtra who meets her estranged husband (Mohan Joshi) after years.
In a hilarious episode from the YouTube comedy series Casting Couch with Nipun & Aney, Lagoo cleared the air on being “Salman Khan’s mother”.
Several film celebrities paid tribute to Lagoo on Twitter. They lauded her off-screen charm as well her on-screen talent.