Leela Naidu was listed as one of the five most beautiful women in the world by Vogue magazine. But she was much more than that. She was the fine-boned; haunting face in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anuradha; in Merchant-Ivory’s The Householder and in ...
Shyam Benegal’s Trikaal. She was the woman who refused to sign Raj Kapoor’s films four times; and the actor who asked for a script long before the phrase ‘bound script’ became Bollywood cliché. Jean Renoir taught her acting and Salvador Dali used her as a model for a Madonna.
Leela was married; the mother of twins and divorced before she was twenty. Later; she was Dom Moraes’s muse; his unpaid secretary; his best friend and; when he was interviewing Indira Gandhi; his translator (interpreting ‘his mumbling questions’). Through this time she also edited magazines and dubbed Hong Kong action movies; was Kumar Shahani’s first producer; and when JRD Tata wanted a film on how to use the washroom on a plane; she made it for him.
A Patchwork Life is a memoir that is charming; idiosyncratic and a window to a world of Chopin; red elephants; lampshades made of human skin; moss gardens and much more: a world where a naked Russian count turns up in a French garden; plush hotels offer porcupine quills as toothpicks and an assistant director sends his female lead an inflatable rubber bra.
Leela’s life was about ‘staying in the moment’. Everyone who met her has a Leela Naidu story. This is her version.