Sumitra Bhave, who wrote and directed award-winning Marathi movies with Sumil Sukhtankar for 25 years, died on Monday from a pulmonary disease in Pune. She was 78.

Bhave turned to cinema after working as a newsreader, social worker and teacher. Her films with Sukhtankar revealed a deep interest in the social and economic dilemmas faced by ordinary people. The duo were also noted for exploring mental health though their films.

The partnership began in 1995 with Doghi, about the divergent paths taken by two sisters. It continued through such acclaimed films as Vastupurush, an adaptation of the Mahesh Elkunchwar play, Devrai, a rare authentic portrayal of schizophrenia, Dahavi Fa, about students rebelling against academic pressure, Astu, about the impact of dementia on a family, and Kaasav, in which a project to save Olive Ridley turtles also rescues a suicidal man.

Kaasav (2016).

“In a career of more than 30 years we rarely had serious issues,” Bhave told in 2018 about her collaboration with Sukhtankar. “It was not much of a problem.”

Bhave’s solo credits includes a series of shorts, television shows and films, including Dithee, about death and grief, in 2019. Among her final projects was Chaitanya Tamhane’s Hindustani classical music-themed The Disciple, in which she voiced an unseen singer.

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