Leela Samson is an Indian classical dancer, author, actor, and a choreographer. She was born on May 6, 1951 at Coonoor taluk in Tamil Nadu.She is the daughter of Laila Samson and Vice-Admiral (Retd.) Benjamin Abraham Samson.
Leela's father was a Pune native and belonged to the community of Jewish Bene-Israelite while her mother's hometown was Ahmedabad. In 1939, Royal Indian Navy inducted Benjamin as the unit's lieutenant. Within twenty years, they promoted him to the post of the National Defence Academy's commandant.
Benjamin's sister Annie served as the Anjum-e-Islam Muslim school's principal for more than thirty years. When Leela turned nine, Benjamin admitted her to Rukmini Devi Arundale's traditional dance institution named Kalakshetra.
She pursued her graduate degree from Sophia College for Women, Mumbai. While studying there, Leela resolved to take up Bharatnatyam as a career. After getting the required training from Kalakshetra, Leela embarked on her professional journey.
She tutored several students in Delhi's Gandharva Mahavidyalaya and Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra. Soon, she became the most sought-after dancer and started performing to packed houses in different African and European countries.
In 1995, Leela formed a group labeled Spanda, which would review the Bharatanatyam's vocabulary. Her work has inspired some filmmakers who have created The Flowering Tree and Sanchari as an ode to her. Leela's disciple list included Justin McCarthy and Joyce Paul Poursabahian.
Both of them are Sri Ram Bhartiya Kala Kendra's tutors. She is the writer of Rukmini Devi: A Life, Rukmini Devi Arundale's biography. Leela is the recipient of Padma Shri, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Kalaimamani. In 2015, Leela acted in
directorial OK Kanmani, a Tamil motion picture.
Her acting won her a nomination in 63rd
Filmfare Awards South
in the category of Tamil's Best Supporting Actress. She has been surrounded by many controversies. Some people have accused her of favoring the Indian National Congress party because of her relations with Priyanka Vadra.
Leela was one of the key members of United Progressive Alliance. In 2011, UPA government appointed her as the chairperson of the Indian film industry's Censor Board. The fact that she wasn't an ardent film viewer and had no connection with the movies added fuel to the fire.
However, she handed over her resignation to its authorities when the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal invalidated her demand to stop the release of MSG: The Messenger of God. Leela also headed the Sangeet Natak Akademi, south zone cultural center.