Tuesday, June 22, 2010


As I have just reviewed the OST of Sangam and Jewel Thief, I thought a quick spill on the heroine of these movies would be most apt. I am talking about Vyjayanthimala, of course

Vyjayanthimala was born on 13 August 1936, in Madras (present day Chennai), Tamil Nadu, India. She studied bharatanatyam (one of the oldest form of classical Indian dance originating from Tamil Nadu, India which combines the art of expression, music and rhythm) from a young age and performed in front of the Pope when she was just four. She was ‘discovered’ when she was 15, during her final year at school, by family friend and Tamil film director M.V. Raman, for a role in the Tamil film 'Vazhkai'. This movie was successful at the box office and was re-made in Hindi and released as 'Bahaar' in 1951. She made around 62 movies, in both Hindi and Tamil languages.

Vyjayanthimala got her leading Hindi movie role in Nagin (1954). Her dance routine for the song ‘Man Dole, Mera Tan Dole’, in the movie made it a hit and Vyjayanthimala an overnight success. This lead to director Bimal Roy casting her as the role of Chandramukhi, opposite superstar Dilip Kumar in the critically acclaimed Devdas (1955). She subsequently starred in four successful films opposite him, two of which she received best actress awards: Naya Daur (1957), Madhumati (1958), Ganga Jamuna (1961) and Leader (1964). She received the Filmfare Best Actress Awards for Madhumati and Ganga Jamuna. She also received a Filmfare nomination as Best Actress for her role as a courtesan in Sadhna (1958) which she co-starred with Sunil Dutt.

She caused some controversy with the release of her next hit movie, Sangam (1964), which earned her another Filmfare Best Actress Award. She wore a fire-engine red swimsuit in the song ‘Bol Radha Bol’ and her attire in the song ‘Main Kya Karo Ram’ was considered quite risqué. It was also rumoured that she had an affair with co-star Raj Kapoor, which she dismissed, stating that it was a publicity stunt by Raj Kapoor to boost his waning image.

In 1966, she starred in the historical epic 'Amrapali', based on the life of the legendary Buddhist courtesan Amrapali. The movie was not a commercial success, and the failure disappointed her as she considered her efforts in the movie to be the pinnacle of her acting ability. She did however make many more hit movies such as Suraj (1966) with Rajendra Kumar, Jewel Thief (1967) and Duniya (1968) with Dev Anand and Prince (1969) with Shammi Kapoor, to name a few.

Vyjayanthimala fell in love with Raj Kapoor's personal physician, Dr. Chamanlal Bali, who treated her for pneumonia after she fell into a lake while shooting for a film. He was married at that time. The two grew close and later married after he divorced his first wife. Vyjayanthimala quit acting after her marriage and relocated to Chennai from Mumbai, where she took an active role in Indian politics and became a Member of Parliament. She however quit politics in 1999. The Balis have one son, Suchindra Bali.

Trivia: In 1956, Vyjayanthimala won the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award for her role as Chandramukhi in Devdas but did not accept the award as she felt that her role was not a supporting one - the strong-headed actress felt she was as much the heroine of the film as Suchitra Sen, who played Paro. That was the first time a person had declined to receive a Filmfare Award! You go girrrl!

NB: In time, I will be posting all the original vinyl soundtracks from the above listed movies….except Devdas – the album still eludes me, and Bahaar. At this point in time, the OST from Sangam (1964) and Jewel Thief (1967) are already up.

Watch this space!


Nasir said...

Vyjayanthimala (was that 'h' there before in her name?)is one of my most favourite actresses who acted opposite my most favourite actor, Dilip Kumar, beginning with DEVDAS. As you are aware, Naya Daur came to her after Madhubala had rejected that role, for reasons of going outdoors for the shoot.

In my opinion, she looks her enchanting best in MADHUMATI
(1958) and her most powerful performance was in GUNGA JUMUNA (1961) followed by MADHUMATI.

After that there was a change of camp when she joined RK for SANGAM. Dilip Kumar had refused to do the role of Rajendra Kumar or even RK, despite latter's giving him full liberty to select whatever role he wanted. There was parting of ways between my two super-stars. Of course there was SANGHURSH (1968) and even LEADER (1964). But the charisma was over.

Of course, Vyjayanthimala has denied the SANGAM affairs in her book as you mention, but for the general cinegoers of that era, we know the worst. It appears that Krishna (RK's wife) had shifted log, stock and barrel to a hotel along with the children. And, what is generally hardly known, it was Dilip Kumar who persuaded Krishna to come back home.

It was heartening to see Vy attending the premiere show of the colour version of NAYA DAUR when she met with Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu.

Indeed, the name Dhanno which was the name of Vy's character in GANGA JAMUNA has passed on to the Hall of Fame in Bollywood and it was regularly used not only for the female lead but also mare as in Sholay (1975).

We wish her all the best.

Veen said...

Thank you Nasir saab for the extra info. I have not watched Madhumati yet but after your comments, it is one DVD I must find.

So the scandal was true? Hmmm, interesting. One would have thought that she would have just let that one slide in her book instead of opening up the can of worms....again, after 40 years or so.

And thanks for the trivia on 'Dhano'. Yes I remember the horse in Sholay. You could possibly forget. The motor-mouth character of Hema malini made sure we remembered that alright, LOL.

Maybe next time if I write a short boi of movie stars, I could run it by you? Your insight would be most welcomed by me and by other readers, I am sure.

Once again, thanks for taking the time to comment.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Veen for the comprehensive write up on Vyjayanthimala. Within the short space you made it sound almost like a biography. And now I feel as if I have known her all my life through all the trivia and solid info proivded by you.

Regds / Babu

Nasir said...

The pleasure is mine Veen. Of course, I don't know much about the film-stars since I never consciously read about them. But certain things that happened in the yore gets ingrained in memory.

Madhumati is a very very beautiful movie. You know what? The DVD companies sometimes murder the entire movie by random editing leading to confusion and wrong judgment by the viewers. A case in point is LEADER. It was so excruciating that I stopped watching it midway. To some extent its TEESRI MANZIL, and I'm sure there are lot of other DVDs that have made a mess of beautiful Bollywood movies.

Veen said...

Thanks Babu, I am glad you found the post useful.

Nasir saab, I read your comment on Greta's blog about the butchering of hindi movies to fit DVDs. What morons. I wonder if they realise what injustice they are doing to the art and creativity!

bollywooddeewana said...

Indeed what a diva for turning down the award, i've heard Reena Roy did something similar when she was awarded the best supporting actress award for Apnapan, surely some recognition is better than none at all, well that's what i would think

Veen said...

Yes BD, one would have thought so. Obviously her temper tantrum did not affect her acting career!

vyanthonyraj said...

the indian cinema has a great time and the film goers of vyjayanthimala, i really miss her dances,she is great.if i go to madras i would like to vivist her can you arrange for me to meet her and her son,this is my emailaddress-medigans@hotmail.com.