Marathi actress Ashalata Wabgaonkar passes away at 79 after contracting Covid on sets of TV serial
Prominent Marathi film and theatre actor Ashalata Wabgaonkar, 79, passed away at Satara hospital on Tuesday. Her crew members claim that she died of Covid after contracting the virus during the shooting of Marathi television show “Aai Mazi Kalubai”.
Her death has raised questions within film and theatre fraternity over whether to allow senior citizens to shoot for films, web series and television.
According to Alka Kubal Athalye, an actress and producer of “Aai Mazi Kalubai”, around 22 crew members, including Wabgaonkar, had tested positive for Covid. Initially, the Satara village where the shoot was taking place, did not allow the production crew though after promise of to all the precautions, they were allowed.
“Around 22 crew members, including Ashalata, had tested positive for Covid in Satara on September 16. Ashalata was admitted to Pratibha hospital in Satara and was put on ventilator support as her oxygen levels were low. The other crew members are stable and later underwent tests at Sassoon General Hospital in Pune,” Athalye said.
As per a press statement, her last rites will be performed at Satara. She is survived by her son. A PTI report quoted a senior doctor from the hospital as saying, “Her condition worsened on Monday evening and she was put on ventilator support. She breathed her last today morning.”
Dr Sanjay Sathe, intensive care unit head of Prathibha hospital, said, “ She was admitted for five days and was on ventilator. She was in the Covid special section, ICU on ventilator, but she did not respond as she was severely affected by coronavirus. She passed away around 4.30 am on Tuesday.”
“For the past one month, Ashalata was shooting for a serial in which she was playing the lead role. She had undergone Covid test in Mumbai prior to joining us here (Satara) for the shoot.”
Meghraj Rajebhosale, president, Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Chitrapat Mahamandal, said, “It is very sad and tragic that we lost a senior actor while on an outdoor shoot. I feel that senior actors should avoid being part of shoots during this pandemic.”
According to Rajebhosale, members of Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association (IMPPA) had approached the court, which allowed senior citizens to participate in shooting.
Sushma Shiromanee, general secretary, Film Makers Combined, and ex-president IMPPA said, “Even as shooting during this pandemic poses virus risk, senior actors also need financial stability when others are allowed to work. As long as everyone is following the rules laid by the court and the government, there should not be any problem in working.”
Athalye said that a doctor always accompanied the crew at the shooting set in Satara. “Apart from a doctor and Covid inspector at the set, we santitised the set three times a day. Ashatai’s health took turn for the worst four days ago and I have always been by her side. Her oxygen levels dropped because of her advanced age. She was like a mother to me and we have been working together for 35 years. This disease is very unpredictable,” said Athalye.
Ashalata was popular in theatre for Konkani and Marathi plays and has acted in more than 100 plays. She began her career with Sangeet Natak (musical) Matsyagandha, while her debut in Hindi film was with Basu Chatterjee’s Apne Paraye (1980), for which she was nominated for a Filmfare Best Supporting Actress. “Umbartha, Sutradhar, Navari Mile Navryala, Vahinichi Maya” were some of her hit Marathi films. She has also written a book on music called “Gard Sabhovati”. She had trained in singing under Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki.
With Agency inputs