Preeti Gangoly (Picture courtesy: Anooradha Minnie Patel, a well known actress and Preeti’s niece)
Preeti Gangoly exuded easy amiability which made me feel that had I known her, I would have known her well. It was as if to know her was to know her well.
Perhaps my sense is misplaced but it has everything to with her performance in the 1981 charmer ‘Khatta Meetha’ directed by Basu Chatterjee. In that movie Preeti played Freni Sethna, the kind of unencumbered fun lover whose core, more serious feelings may get overlooked by many precisely because she is an unencumbered fun lover. I could be wrong but out of the 36 movies that she did (Source: IMDB), Freni was perhaps the easiest role for her.
As a daughter of Ashok Kumar, arguably one of India’s greatest actors and stars, and a niece of Kishore Kumar, arguably one of India’s greatest singer-actor-composers, she belonged to a family of artists for whom acting meant not acting. The Gangoly family did not seem to belabor their performances. Preeti appeared to have much more talent than what her filmography does her justice, but whatever she did she did so with a natural ease like her father and uncle.
I happen to know Bharati, Preeti’s older sister and Anooradha’s mother, reasonably well. As Anooradha pointed out in her Facebook posting it was tragic that Preeti passed away on Bharati’s birthday on December 2 quite like how Kishore Kumar had passed away on his brother Ashok Kumar’s birthday.
Bharati, a voracious reader with a compelling perspective on life, told me once how her younger sister was an even more voracious reader and more compelling. There is something to the Gangoly demeanor that suggests a great deal of bonhomie and laughter, some of which I experienced with Bharati.
As a body of work goes, 30 plus movies is a respectable number for any actor but had Preeti chosen she could have had a way more high profile career than she did. She was frequently used by filmmakers as what it is quaintly known as “comic relief” in Hindi cinema, the kind of character that would lighten up the mood or provide a charming little distraction. But as I said Preeti appeared to have much more in her than what filmmakers tapped.
Mita Gangoly, a dear friend of mine whose “aunt-in-law” Preeti was, had something lovely to say about her. “Preeti and I were very close and fortunately we did not have anything left incomplete,” she told me.
Preeti seems to have left many complete relationships after her death due to a heart attack.
When I heard about her demise, this song came to me instantly.