The Hyderabad connection
A still from ‘Lawrence of Arabia’
British film-maker David Lean was drawn by the Indianness of his fourth wife, Leila Matkar
Back in time
On Sunday, a group of Hyderabadis, bound by their common interest in cinema, came together to observe celebrated editor/film-maker David Lean’s 100th birth anniversary by screening his films. At the Prasad Preview Labs, Banjara Hills, what came
as a surprise to the audience of film club Moving Images that gathered to watch Brief Encounter and Lawrence of Arabia was the fact that David Lean had an Indian wife, and that too from Hyderabad.
Lean, like most film personalities, was known for a string of marriages and affairs. Hyderabad-born Leila Matkar was his fourth wife. The film club member Ali Bilgrami recollected memories of Leila, who studied at the Mehboobia Girls High School with his mother Asghari Bilgrami. “She was my mother’s classmate for many years. Leila married Sardar Matkar in the 1930s, but even before that, she had many admirers as a young, beautiful woman. Mir Osman Ali Khan’s brother and a contender to the throne, and Salar Jung were drawn to her and nearly proposed to her,” he recalls.
Leila travelled to the US and Europe on a few occasions accompanying Maharaja Holker and his American wife, who were friends of Betty Hutton of the Woolworth Stores. Through them, Leila happened to meet actors Cary Grant and Marlon Brando and director David Lean. While Brando and Grant were her good friends, David Lean took a liking to her and married her in 1960.
Their marriage lasted a little more than Lean’s former marriages, but ended after 18 years in 1978. “In the later years, it wasn’t a happy marriage. Initially, Lean was drawn to her oriental charm and mannerisms. For instance, once Leila was at home, she would walk barefoot. She braided her hair, wore ringlets and preferred to sit on the chair with her legs folded up like most Indians.”
A few years after parting ways with Lean, Leila returned to Hyderabad, much bitter by then, when the sale of her mother’s house came up in Hyderabad. She passed away in the mid ‘80s in London.
SANGEETHA DEVI DUNDOO
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