Actress. The multilingual star of several Indian films of the 1960s, she was once named by “Vogue” magazine as one of the world’s ten most beautiful women. The child of a distinguished nuclear physicist Indian father and a French journalist mother, her good looks were apparent early and won her the title of Miss India, 1954. Following a brief 1956 marriage to hotel heir Tikki Oberoi, Leela’s silver screen debut came with the 1960 “Anuradha” which won a National Film Award; after roles in the 1962 “Ummeed” and as a rebellious bride in 1963’s “The Householder”, she landed her best-known part, Neena, in the controversial 1963 film “Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke”, a dramatization of the famous Nanavati court case which was to make her a women’s liberation icon throughout India. She left the screen after appearing in 1969’s “The Guru” to devote time to her marriage to poet Dom Moraes, but returned to film work with the 1985 “Trikaal” and made a final bow in “Electric Moon” (1993). She died after an extended bout of influenza; her story was told in 2009’s “Leela: A Portrait”, an autobiography co-authored with Jerry Pinto. A number of her films are preserved on DVD.
- January, 01, 1940
- July, 28, 2009