Fifty Beautiful Faces of Indian Screen


 

 

Madhubala

Arguably the most beautiful artiste to ever grace the Indian screen, Madhubala rose from humble beginnings to become the most captivating star India has ever produced. Madhubala was born Mumtaz Jehan Begum on Valentine’s Day 1933, in a poor, conservative family of Pathan Muslims in Delhi, a part of a prolific brood of sisters.

 Devika Rani

Devika Rani is one of the most delicately glamorous cinema stars we have ever seen. Sunday Pictorial, London

 You will never hear a lovelier voice or diction. Or see a lovelier face. Devika Rani is a singular beauty. The Star, London

Devika-Rani

 Devika Rani is so lovely, she puts the stereotyped charms of Hollywood blondes completely in the shade. Daily Despatch, Manchester. The aristocratic Devika Rani (granddaughter of Rabindranath Tagore’s sister, Sukumari Devi), is the only Indian actress ever to have garnered such rave reviews from the notoriously hard-nosed English press. Smitten to a man, they grovelled at her feet extolling her ‘large, velvety eyes’, upon the London release of her husband, Himanshu Rai’s, Karma, India’s first Hindi-English bilingual.

Nutan

Fiesty, spiritual, and Bhajan-singing Nutan Samarth was born on 4th June 1936 to actress mother, Shobhana (nee Saroj P. Shilotri) and Director Kumarsen Samarth. Her aunt, Nalini Jaywant (Shobhana’s maternal cousin) was a popular actress. Tanuja later married Shomu Mukherjee (brother of Deb and Joy Mukherjee) and sired actresses Kajol and Tanisha. Kajol is the wife of actor Ajay Devgan.

 

 

Mumtaz

On July 31, 1947 Abdul Sameed Askari and Sardar Begum Habib Agha, both of Iranian origin but settled in Bombay, India, were blessed with a daughter, who they decided to name Mumtaz, who would be sister to Malika, and step-sister to Shazhath and Sharook and cousin of villain Roopesh Kumar Mumtaz’ only Filmi connections were through her actress sister.

Asha Parekh

Asha Parekh was born in a middle-class Gujarati household to a Hindu father, Pranlal Parekh, and a Muslim mother Sudha Parekh on October 2, 1942 in India. Since she was an only child, she became the center of her parents’ lives. Her mother enrolled her in classical dance classes at an early age, and Asha excelled at dance to the point that she performed at stage shows at age of 9-12…

Sharmila Tagore

Sharmila Tagore is a Bengali actress, who has now achieved success in Hindi films produced by Bollywood. Sharmila Tagore’s ancestor was the noted Rabindranath Tagore. Sharmila married the famous Indian cricketer Mansoor Ali Khan, and since then her marriage has been intact. Sharmila has one son and two daughters…

 Shakila

At a filmi function, the evergreen Dev Anand politely greeted a lady and then went right back to socializing with others. The lady approached him, smiled warmly and this time introduced herself as Shakila, his leading lady in his famous film, CID. Dev Anand, of course, couldn’t believe his eyes. “You have changed so much!” he said, happy at meeting her after so long, “And where have you been all this while? I thought you must have married a rich Arab and disappeared from India! I am really very happy to see you.” Shakila, of course, was equally happy and touched with the meeting. “Very few of us are as lucky as Dev saab, who is not affected by time at all. All of us have grown old and are ageing accordingly. There’s nothing to feel bad about it! Dev saab didn’t recognize me as we haven’t been in touch. But as we parted, we promised to meet up again soon,” she said.

shakila

This was the same Shakila who made her debut as a child artiste in Suraiya’s starrers Duniya (1949) and Dastaan (1950). After working in some nondescript films in secondary roles including Gumasta (1951), Sindbad the Sailor (1952), Rajrani Damyanti (1952), Aagosh (1953), Shahenshah (1953), Raj Mahal (1953), Armaan (1953) etc, people finally noticed her in Guru Dutt’s Aar Paar (1954). In Aar Paar, she played the other woman in Guru Dutt’s life, the cabaret dancer, who is disdained by society and is a complex and embittered person. Aar Paar was a superhit film and its best songs including Hoon abhi main jawan and Babu ji dheere chalna were picturized on Shakila.

Unfortunately, with the exception of Guru Dutt’s C.I.D. (1956) [even there she was eclipsed by Waheeda Rehman who made her debut in that film], Shakila was reduced to B-grade mythological and fantasy films because of her rudimentary acting skills. Some of these films include Alibaba and Forty Thieves (1954), Lalpari (1954), Veer Rajputani (1955), Roop Kumari (1956), Agra Road (1957), Al-Hilal (1958) etc. She created some stir in 1957, when her film opposite Kishore Kumar – Begunah was banned after 10 days of its release. The film was a carbon copy of Hollywood’s Knock on Wood (1954) starring Danny Kaye and the producers of that film went to court and won the case to stop the further screening of this film. As a consequence, all the negatives of this film were destroyed.

In 1958, she starred opposite Sunil Dutt in suspense/thriller Post Box. 999 where the evergreen duet by Lata and Hemant Kumar Neend na mujhko aaye was picturized on them. In the latter part of her career, China Town (1962) opposite Shammi Kapoor is a film worth mentioning because of its songs which were a rage back then.

Her last film Rishte Naate was released in 1965. After that, she quit the industry and got married. “My priorities changed after I tied the knot and my career assumed secondary importance,” Shakila said in an interview.

One wonders why she never thought of a comeback? “I keep getting film as well as television serial offers. But I don’t like any of them. Moreover, the industry has changed so much. I don’t know whether people will even recognize me!” she smiled. “And after being at the top and seeing all the glory, suddenly to be in a place where the same respect and dignity may not be accorded can be scary. But at the same time, we’ve seen the best of times and today if the limelight is on somebody else, why feel bad about it?” Shakila said. Youth and beauty may have faded, but Shakila is thankful for the wonderful friends who’ve been there for her all these years. “Waheeda, Nanda, Mala Sinha and Sairaji and Dilip saab, Nimmi…. the list is endless. We meet very often. Zindagi ke kuchh hi toh pal hain abhi, sab apni apni raftaar main chale gaye, saath reh gaye toh bas dost,” she said serenely – Ummer Siddique

Zeenat Aman

Zeenat Aman was born to a Hindu mother and a Muslim father Amanullah who was one of the writers for the classic “Mughal-e-Azam”, on November 19th, 1951. Zeenat was an only child and her parents divorced when she was a little girl. A graduate of Saint Xavier’s school in Bombay. Her father passed away when she was 13…

Rakhee Gulzar

Rakhee was born in a Bengali-speaking family in West Bengal, on India’s Independence Day – 15th August, 1947. She has no connections with anyone in the film industry in India. She achieved phenomenal success at her very first movie in Bengali ‘Bandhu Baran’ during the year 1967. She was then noticed by noted Bollywood actor…

Hema Malini

Hema was born in the Tamil-speaking Chakravarthy household on October 16, 1948 in Ammankudi, Tamil Nadu. Her dad’s name is V.S.R. Chakravarthy and her mom, Jaya, was a film producer. She was enrolled in the Chennai-based Andhra Mahila Sabha. After performing as a dancer in a 1961 regional movie, she was rejected by Tamil Director…

Padmini

Actress, Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai

an Indian actress and trained Bharathanatyam dancer who has acted in over 250 Indian films. She has acted in the Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi language films. Padmini along with her elder sister Lalitha and her younger sister Ragini, were called “Travancore sisters”.

Padmini was born and raised in Thiruvananthapuram in what was then the princely state of Travancore (now the Indian state of Kerala). She was the second daughter of Thankappan Pillai and Saraswathi Amma.Her sisters, Lalitha and Ragini, were also well known film actresses. Together, the three were known as the Travancore sisters.

Jayalalitha J

Jayalalitha’s mother persuaded her to work in films when she was still in school, taking assurances from producers that shooting would take place only during summer vacations and that she would not miss her classes. Jayalalithaa acted in an English language film, Epistle, released in 1961. She made her debut as the lead actress in Kannada films .

Jayalalithaa’s debut in Tamil cinema was a role in Vennira Aadai (1965), directed by C. V. Sridhar. The following year, she made her debut in Telugu cinema with the film Manushulu Mamathalu. She was the first heroine to appear in skirts in Tamil films.

Between 1965 and 1972, she acted frequently with M. G. Ramachandran and she also worked with B. Saroja Devi in Arasa Kattalai.

Later career In 1972, Jayalalithaa acted in Pattikada Pattanama opposite Sivaji Ganesan, which went onto win the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil in 1973. The film also fetched her Filmfare Award for Best Actress. Her performance in Suryakanthi and Chandradhoyam were critically acclaimed and the former won her another Filmfare Award for Best Actress in 1973. The same year she acted in the Telugu film Sri Krishna Satya and won her third Filmfare Award for Best Actress.

Her other films with Sivaji Ganesan include Galatta Kalyanam and Deiva Magan. Deiva Magan also holds the distinction of being the first Tamil film to be submitted by India for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.She continued pairing up with younger actors such as Ravichandran and Jaishankar in a number of films such as Vairam, Baghdad Perazhagi

Later Tamil films in which she acted included Kandan Karunai and she also starred in a Bollywood film. Izzat, which saw her paired with Dharmendra

Savitri

 The legendry name of all times in the southern film field is still alive in the heart of her fans though she left the world thirty years ago on December 26,2009.  She was one of the greatest actress ever donning the screen in the entire Indian film industry.

Born near Vijayawada she was brought up at his maternal uncle in Vijayawada. She acted in more than 260 films of Telugu, Tamil and Hindi and left this world in mid forties. Her innocence looks and charming face, still capitivates her fans even after thirty years.

She was the main heroine for the films of NT Ramama Rao and Nagaeswara Rao in Telugu MGR and Sivaji Ganeshan in Tamil. She married another Tamil hero of those days Gemini Ganeshan though she knew that he was married already. Savitri was like a younger step mother to the Hindi actress Rekha, who is the daughter of Pushpavalli, first wife of Gemini Ganesahn.

She was honoured with ‘Nadigayar Tilakam’ (Great Actress) by the Tamil Nadu government and in Telugu she was used to call Maha Nati (great actress) by everybody. It is a very surprising thing as she was not honoured with any Padma award by Union Government.

Her film career started with a superb dance for a song in ‘Patalabhairavi’ which made her talent exposed. Later she acted as second heroine in ‘Pellichecichudu’, after that she did not go back. The character in ‘Devadasu’ as Parvathi brought fame and name. Her roles in “Missamma” and “Gundammakatha” are memorable.

As “Draupadi” her action was superb in “Nartanasala”. She also produced some films and directed the film “Matrudevobhava”. She acted in few Hindi films. Unfortunately she was addicted to drinking liquor because of her personal problems and died in Coma.

Rekha

Bhanurekha was born in the Telugu-speaking Ganesan household on October 10, 1954. Her dad was the popular Tamil actor, Gemini, while her mom was a popular Telugu actress, Pushpavalli. She has seven sisters and one brother. One of her sisters is Dr. Kamala Selvaraj, while another one, Radha, lives in San Francisco with a son named Naveed, who is being readied to act in Bollywood movies.

Vyjayanthimala

Vyjanthimala was born in a Tamil-speaking family in Chennai, India, on August 13, 1936. At the age of 4, she got the rare chance of performing a dance before the Pope. Then at the age of 15, while in her final year at school, she was signed-up by family friend, M.V. Raman, for a role in a Tamil film ‘Vazhkai’.

Meena Kumari

Mahjabeen was born on August 1, 1932 in Dr. Gadre’s Clinic in Bombay, India to a Muslim father, Ali Bux, and a Hindu mother, Iqbal Begum (Nee Prabhavati Tagore). She has two sisters Khurshid and Madhu. Mahjabeen wanted to study in school but was compelled to act in Hindi movies as a child artiste, and ended up becoming the sole bread earner of the family.

Mala Sinha

Nobody could have seemed less destined for stardom than the harum scarum Nepali Christian girl with unruly curly hair who made her debut in the Bengali film, Roshanara (’52). The only child of an ambitious father, Mala shifted with her family to Bombay when she signed Badshah (’54). Mala’s career was in danger of being lost in a maze of mythologicals and secondary roles till she signed Kidar Sharma’s Rangeen Raatein (’56) opposite Shammi Kapoor. Kidar’s friend and Shammi’s wife, Geeta, took Mala under her wing and affected a metamorphosis.

By the following year, Mala Sinha was the epitome of smouldering glamour in Pyaasa (’57) as the mercenary Meena who chooses a rich man (Rehman) over her love (Guru Dutt). Mahesh Bhatt, who saw Pyaasa as a child in a theatre where instead of being issued a ticket, an imprint was stamped on one’s hand, feels that though the stamped imprint got washed away with time the impact Mala left on him was indelible. “Oh my God,” he raves, “the sensuality she exuded!”

Pyaasa turned Mala into a star and soon she was working with her childhood idol, Raj Kapoor. It was however her hankie wringers like Dhool Ka Phool (’59), Hariyali Aur Raasta (’62) and Anpadh (’62), that won her lasting fame. The public loved the way she worked herself into a histrionic frenzy.

In 1963, with two held-in-rein performances as the straying wife in Gumraah and the buffoon’s wife in Bahurani, she made it to the A-list. But thereafter, it was as if she had exiled understatement from her repertoire. Nevertheless, when she was in full cry, the films were hits —Himalaya Ki God Mein (’65), Aasra (’66) and Do Kaliyan (’68).

When the late 60s dictated a rise in the glamour quotient required from heroines, the adaptable Mala revealed a svelte figure in form-fitting gowns and short dresses in films like Aankhen and Maryada. Her greatest achievement lies in holding high, in tumultuous times, the torch of the `women’s picture’.

Nargis

She was born on June 1, 1929 as Fatima Rashid in Rawalpindi, British India, daughter to Jaddanbai and Uttamchand Mohanchand, a Hindu Mohyal Brahmin. Her mother was a well-known dancer, singer, actor, composer, and director. This is what paved the way for Fatima to become a child artiste (Baby Rani) as early as 1935. She is the sister of Bollywood actor, Anwar Hussain and Akhtar Hussain…

Waheeda Rehman

Waheeda was born in a Urdu-speaking family in Chengalpattu-Tamil Nadu, India. Her father was the District Magistrate which led him to be posted in several places. Tragedy visited her in 1948 when her dad passed away. Her mom passed away in 1955. A year after her dad’s death she appeared in a Telegu movie ‘Rojulu Marayi’…

Nimmi

Nimmi benefited from a truly fine list of composers… But give Nimmi credit, too, as she definitely did help to make a pretty picturization. And though some might question her dramatic acting skills (especially in Aan), she certainly did have a compelling screen presence. And Nimmi really did know how to be expressive. Many would say it was because of those adorable eyes…– what a refreshing image, especially in light of most of the stuff we see today!it was a real pleasure to put together a post of ten songs (or, really, nine songs and one pure dance) starring or co-starring Nimmi.

Smita Patil

SmitaPatil  was easily the most intense of our heroines. When she funnelled that dark, feral intensity into Bhumika or Mirch Masala, she was on par with the best in the world. When she tried the balancing act with Namak Halal, she was … tragically commonplace.

In her very first film, Nishaant (’75), Smita was pitted against Shabana Azmi. Ever since then, she was constantly compared to the senior actress. But, besides the fact that both did serious films, the two heroines had antithetical approaches to acting. Where Shabana was head, Srnita was heart. Where Shabana swore by the ‘method’ of ingenuity, Smita was swept by the madness of genius.

Sure enough though, both angled for the same roles. After Nishaant, Shabana’s mentor, Shyam Benegal cast Smita as the harijan woman in Manthan (’76) and as the complexed film actress in Bhumika (’77). Although she won major awards for her searing performances in these films, Smita, then in her early twenties, did not treat her career in a professional manner.

Born of socialist parents who preferred to educate her in a Marathi medium school and enrolled her in the social serving `Seva dal’, Smita always retained a certain idealism. She did not believe in planning, preferring to lead an eclectic life — she was a TV newsreader, she opted out of some films to complete her graduation and went on to do several regional films.

Finally, after she blazed through the highly charged role of a slumdweller in Chakra (’80), with blowtorch intensity (she later regretted the way the bathing-in-the-open sequence was exploited in the posters), Smita found herself being offered the cream of roles from both art and commercial cinema. It was thought the lighter roles Smita had bagged in coveted Amitabh films like Namak Halal (’82) would be a welcome ameliorator. But the transition was not painless. Watching her do the routine grind to a rain song, `Aaj rapat jaaye toh’ was depressing.

She suffered reverses even in the arty Arth. Though she moved Amitabh Bachchan and Kamal Hassan to congratulate her on a fine performance as the neurotic mistress rigid with cold passion, it was generally felt that Shabana, with her sympathetic role had stolen a march over Smita.

But the success of Ardh Satya, Aaj Ki Awaaz and to a lesser degree Aakhir Kyon, ensured that she became one of the three most saleable heroines of ’84 -’85. True, her fans were dismayed when she married the already wed Raj Babbar, but onscreen, all was forgiven when she dissolved into her character like sugar in hot water and ‘became’ the achingly vulnerable refugee of Mirch Masala and the social crusader of Subah. Her personal life may have been in a mess, but Smita’s performances always burned with a pure flame.

Shabana Azmi

One of the leading lights of the now-largely-defunct Indian New Wave, Shabana Azmi (alongside the late Smita Patil) was one of the main female actors who dominated the films of the so-called “Parallel Cinema” in India in the 1970s and 1980s. Born to noted Urdu progressive poet and lyricist Kaifi Azmi and theatre actress Shaukat Azmi

Suraiya

The young Raj Kapoor used to teasingly call her `kallu’ when the two started out by doing children’s radio programmes for AIR. When she entered films with bit roles, Naushad had to make the barely-into-her-teens girl stand on a stool to enable her to reach the mike to playback for the much older Mehtaab, in Sharda.

Few would have predicted that this dark, plain girl, neither a classic beauty nor endowed with training in classical music, would one day become the country’s most enduring female singing superstar — Suraiya.

Indeed, this diamond in the rough of the early 40s shone by the close of the decade. Famous for her personal predilection for glittering diamonds, she had acquired a professional singing repertoire of shimmering gems too. Her honey-rich voice in songs like `Woh paas rahe ya door rahe’, ‘Tere naino ne chori kiya’, `Tu mera chaand main teri chaandni’ and the rare classical number, `Manmor hua matwala’, created hysteria. A famous fan is Dharmendra, who remembers walking miles to see Suraiya’s Dillagi 40 times! This exotic songbird had numerous lesser-known fans too, who thronged the seaface outside her Marine Drive residence every day just to catch a glimpse of her Cadillac.

There was more to Suraiya than just her songs. Gradually she picked up the rudiments of acting too. After all she had had a long apprenticeship, from playing opposite dancer Mumtaaz Ali, in the Devika Rani -Jairaj starrer Hamari Baat, to holding her own as the second lead against Noorjehan (Anmol Ghadi) and Munnawar Sultana (Dard). Yet her reign at the top was brief. In the ’48-’49 phase, with her trio of hits, Pyar Ki Jeet, Badi Behan and Dillagi, she became the highest paid female star who regularly broke hearts and records.

However, most of her 50s films flopped till she made a short-lived comeback with Sohrab Modi’s Mirza Ghalib, in which she made vivid, the role of the married Ghalib’s lover. Along with an emotionally fluid performance where her expressions of love, expectation and hurt just seemed to merge into one another, the queen of cadence also recorded what is still regarded by many as the definitive Ghalib. No less a personality than Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru praised her saying, `Tumne Mirza Ghalib ki rooh ko zinda kar diya,’ (You have brought Mirza Ghalib to life).

After ,Mirza Ghallb, Suraiya retreated into a fantasy world surrounded by her family who still called her ‘baby’ and who led her to believe that the tourist crowds at Marine Drive had in fact come to see her. While at the top, Suraiya had had the power to bestow her favours on a young Gregory Peck look- alike, Dev Anand, and to do seven films with him without a single hit. Their love story was the stuff legends are made of but Suraiya’s strict grandmother put her foot down hard and threw Dev’s ring into the sea. Suraiya too was not ready to give up her position and the wedding bells failed to ring out.

Suraiya lived in her apartment on Marine Drive in Mumbai until her death in 2004 at age 75.

Suchitra Sen

Suchitra Sen may not have become the legend that she is in Bengali cinema, but she brought to Hindi filmdom grace, subtlety, and understatement. Though she had an all-too-brief career in Hindi film industry, the few films that she acted in are all remembered for her outstanding performance.

Born Roma Sen, Suchitra Sen’s first film made in 1952, Shesh Kothai was never released. But Sharey Chuattar, her second film (made in 1953), won her both critics’ praise and audiences’ heart. It also marked the beginning of her on-screen partnership with Uttam Kumar that was to last over 20 years and immortalize the duo as one of the most romantic pairs of Bengali cinema.

Bimal Roy introduced Sen into Hindi cinema. Her melancholic beauty made her the perfect Paro for his 1955 rendition of the tragic love story, Devdas. Sen did several other films, but the success that she enjoyed in her home State eluded her in Bombay. In 1966, however, came Asit Sen’s Mamta, the remake of the Bengali film Uttar Falguni. Suchitra Sen’s portrayal of the twin roles of a courtesan mother and a lawyer daughter won her the Best Actress Award at the Moscow International Film Festival. But it was Gulzar’s Aandhi that became Sen’s biggest hit. She played a vulnerable yet ambitious woman who leaves her home and her husband to become a political leader.

Long retired from acting, Suchitra Sen now lives in Kolkata.

Sadhana

Sadhana was born in 1941 and named after her father’s favorite actress Sadhona Bose Her father and actor Hari Shivdasani were brothers, and Hari’s daughter is actress Babita Kapoor Sadhana was an only child and her parents made her the center of their lives; in fact, her mother home-schooled her until she was 8 years old.

The serendiptuous 60s — the decade of all those popular, remunerative musicals. No heroine defined this decade better than the luminously lovely Sadhana. Not only was she a basic talisman for many of these 60s bits of ephemera but what gave Sadhana the edge over contemporaries like Asha Parekh and Saira Banu, was her gift for understatement and her knack for making transparent her innermost feelings even while playing a typical ‘O Daddy’ heroine in a Kashmir confection.

Immediately after Love In Simla’s runaway success, Sadhana became a youth icon. The Audrey Hepburn inspired `Sadhana fringe’ that feathered her broad forehead, caught on like wildfire and made her the fashion weather wane for her age. As Sadhana scored off more hits — Hum Dono (’61), Mere Mehboob (’63), Rajkumar (’64), Waqt (’65) — her style was increasingly imitated. Films, in those days, were still the rack

from which Fashion picked up its ideas and if Sadhana was pioneering muslim-style tight churidar-kurtas in Waqt, she had enough followers to cause a country-wide sartorial revolution.

For a short, giddy span Sadhana was queen of the box- office (of the 19 releases she had in the 60s, 11 were silver jubilees). Author-backed roles, too, made their way to her corner. With that will-o’-the-wisp quality and that heart- stopping air of breathlessness which she projected, she became increasingly identified with mystery suspense chillers. She was consecutively cast in three films that defined the genre — Woh Kaun Thi (’64), Mera Saaya (’66) and Anita (’67).

In 1966, soon after her family finally consented to her marriage to her Love In Simla director, R K Nayyar, her thyroid problems worsened, her eyes bulged unseemingly and her life started unravelling. She was summarily ejected from major films like Around The World (opposite Raj Kapoor) and Sunghursh (opposite Dilip Kumar).

Sadhana bravely underwent treatment at the Leigh clinic in Boston, came back to do films (some of them successful like Inteqam, Ek Phool Do Mali and Geeta Mera Naam), but somehow it was just not the same and Sadhana became one more casualty of the evanescent nature of stardom.

Geeta Bali

Geeta Bali outclassed the movies she starred in.

Easily one of the five best actresses ever to grace the Hindi screen, she unfortunately never found a vehicle worthy of her prodigious talents. Gifted with effervescent naturalism and a delightfully dead-on sense of comic timing, Geeta, however, frittered away her talents in a multitude of B-grade films. In her 10-year-long career she did around 70 films, once even becoming famous for having three premieres on the same day.

The reasons for Geeta’s profligacy with her talents may lie in her roots in extreme poverty which saw her fighting the demons of financial insecurity. Born into a subsistence-level family, she was the daughter of an itinerant Sikh missionary. Geeta did a few inconsequential, dancing roles in pre-partition Punjab, in films like Badnaami, before moving to Bombay, where Kidar Sharma discovered her living en famille in somebody’s bathroom!

Sharma cast her in his Suhaag Raat (’48) where Geeta’s acting was a revelation! Moving through her scenes like an exquisite paper knife, she cut though convention — in one scene even tossing her unconscious hero, Bharat Bhushan, onto her shoulder. Audiences delighted in her sheer joie de vivre and Geeta grabbed every role that came her way including that of Suraiya’s wayward younger sister in the hit Badi Bahen (’49).

In 1951, she unexpectedly found herself at the zenith of her career. Through sheer force of will, she triumphed with two films despite the dice being loaded against her. In Baazi she was only the gangster’s moll. Yet, hero Dev Anand concedes, “People would come repeatedly to the theatres only to see Geeta dancing to `Tadbeer se bigdi hui taqdeer bana le’”. In Albela, Geeta’s hero was Bhagwan, a comedian whom no other heroine would have been willing to star opposite. Yet, Geeta worked her alchemy and the film is today a cult favorite. The most enduring images are that of the lead couple’s dancing and of Geeta’s face, a pool perpetually rippled by her feelings.

Geeta was not a traditional beauty. None of her features were individually stunning; but her face added up to more than just the sum of its parts, especially when awash with her archetypal vibrancy. Her appeal lay in her personality. Unpretentious even after stardom, Geeta shunned the coy act of the 50s heroines. Stories of her largesse are legend — she did four films with Jaswant because he was her brother-in-law, she sportingly played a small role of a man in Sharma’s Rangeen Raatein and this rebel thought nothing of driving herself to premieres in an open jeep. Her love for life captivated Shammi Kapoor and in 1955, Geeta sidelined her career to marry the as-yet-unsuccessful Shammi in an impromptu midnight wedding.

Their marriage withstood the upheavals wrought by Shammi’s stardom but the creative urge within Geeta cried for expression. She rued the fact that she had never crossed paths with a true classic and decided to produce and act in Rano a cinematic expression of the potent theme of Rajinder Singh Bedi’s classic novel on widow remarriage — Ek Chaddar Maili Si.

However, tragedy struck when on an outdoor shooting in Punjab, Geeta contracted smallpox. Rushed back to Bombay, her temperature soared to 107°F and she had to be put on ice. Pointing to a picture of Geeta, the doctor had asked, ‘Who is she?’ — so completely had the shadow of death triumphed over one so fond of life. Ironically, even after her father had been blinded by small pox, Geeta had refused all vaccinations. In death, as in life, Geeta remained recklessly trusting.

In the winter of 1965, the 36-year-old body of one of our most vivacious actresses, Geeta Bali, was cremated at Banganga, close to the temple where she had married Shammi Kapoor.

Saira Banu

Saira was born into a Urdu-speaking family in India. Her mom’s name is Naseem Banu. She spent much of her childhood in London and was able to debut in 1961 in a Bollywood movie ‘Junglee’ opposite Shammi Kapoor. At the age of 22, she got married to Yusuf Khan, alias Bollywood superstar Dilip Kumar…

Sridevi

Sridevi was born on August 13, 1963 in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, India. She has a sister named Srilatha and a stepbrother named Satish. Her dad passed away during the year 1991, while her mom died during 1997. She started her career at a very early age in 1967 as a child artiste in a Tamil movie ‘Kandhan Karunai’…

Reena Roy

Reena Roy was a famous leading lady of Hindi films from 1972-1985. She came from a broken home, a Muslim father and Hindu mother, who separated after having four children together. Reena is their third child, and she started films in her early teens to support her mother and siblings. Her career in films started off inauspiciously with B.R…

Jayapradha

Jayaprada was born as Lalita Rani in a middle class household to Krishna and Neelavani in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh on April 3, 1962. She was a small town girl with dreams of becoming a doctor. Her mother enrolled her in dance and music classes when she was seven years old, in addition to going to a regular school…

Nalini Jaywant

When Shobhana Samarth joined films in 1934, her uncle was against society girls taking to films as a career. Six years later, he allowed his own teenage daughter to act in films. Nalini Jaywant made her debut in National Studios’ “Radhika” and won laurels for her sensitive portrayal. The film was directed by Virendra Desai who also directed her second film “Nirdosh”, opposite playback singer Mukesh.

She first gained some prominence in Mehboob Khan’s Bahen (1941), when she sang the Wajahat Mirza duet, Nahin khate hain bhaiyya mere paan, with Sheikh Mukhtar, central to the film’s incest theme.

During the wartime boom, Nalini appeared in only one film “Phir Bhi Apna Hai” (1946). Later she acted in her own production “Gunjan” (1948). In Anokha Pyar (1948) she starred with Dilip Kumar and Nargis, a love-triangle  where she outscored Nargis with her sensitive portrayal of village girl who sacrifices her love.

Her next important film was Samadhi (1950) opposite Ashok Kumar. Samadhi (1950) and Gyan Mukherji’s Sangram (1950) established Ashok and Nalini as a popular star pair. They appeared in a number of films together including “Kafila”, “Nau Bahar”, and “Naaz”. She played the role of Carmen in A.R. Kardar musical hit “Jadoo”, a spirited modern girl opposite Premnath in “Naujawan”, Radha in Vasant Joglekar’s “Nand Kishore”, and an emotional role in Devendra Goel’s “Aankhen”. Her finest acting came in Nau Bahar (1952) and Shikast (1953). In “Shikast” (1953) she was cast opposite Dilip Kumar and Dilip considers her as one of the greatest actresses ever he worked with, citing her instinct for grasping the essence of a scene as second to none.

An equally successful hit was “Munim Ji” which marked the debut of Subodh Mukerji as director. She starred opposite Shammi Kapoor in “Hum Sab Chor Hain,” directed by I.S. Johar for Filmistan. It was followed by “Rajkanya”, “Railway Platform” in which Sunil Dutt made his debut, and “Awaaz” opposite Rajendra Kumar. In Navketan’s “Kala Pani”, directed by Raj Khosla, she portrayed a prostitute and won Filmfare’s Best Supporting Actress Award (1958).

In her best-known work she usually functioned as the one who embraces life in counterpoint to the otherwise ‘realistic’ melodrama of R.S. Choudhury, Mehboob Khan and Mahesh Kaul (e.g. Naujawan). Later she developed a curiously autonomous, guilt-free performative style (e.g. the Navketan thriller Kala Pani). Her association with realism was extended by Ramesh Saigal, Bimal Roy and most notably Zia Sarhadi’s Awaaz, while films with Kardar (Jadoo), Mahesh Kaul (Naujawan, esp. the number Thandi hawaien) and Subodh Mukherjee developed the alternate musical persona exemplified by the 50s Filmistan musicals with Dev Anand (e.g. Munimji).

One of her last films was Amar Rahen Yeh Pyar (1961) directed by Prabhu Dayal. The film was never released in Bombay. Nalini Married Prabhu Dayal soon after and retired from films after completing her unfinished assignments.

She tried to make a comeback albeit unsuccessfully in the 80s with Bandish (1980) and playing Amitabh Bachchan’s blind mother in Nastik (1983). Nalini Jaywant passed away on December 20th, 2010 in tragically lonely circumstances at her bungalow in Chembur. Her relatives and those she had once worked with in the film industry were all unaware of the passing of the star who scaled the heights of fame in the 1940s and ’50s but had turned into a complete recluse for the last many years. May her soul rest in peace.

Juhi Chawla

A certain class and benevolence has always separated Juhi Chawla from her ilk. Her upbringing in a family where education, etiquette and propriety were given their due importance, Juhi was bound to imbibe all the sophistication to cultivate herself as a true lady. A mother heading the hospitality of the Taj Group…

Jaya Bhaduri

In April 1948 Jabalpur-based, Bengali-speaking Indira and Tarun Kumar Bhaduri were blessed with a child they named Jaya, and enrolled in the St. Joseph’s Convent School in Bhopal. Her acting career started when she was 15 in a Bengali film Mahanagar. She became an actress in her own right in Bollywood after the release of Guddi…

Tabu

Tabu is an Indian film actress. She has mainly acted in Hindi films, though she has also starred in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi and Bengali language films, as well as one American film. She has won the National Film Award for Best Actress twice, and she holds the record for the most wins of Filmfare’s Critics Award for Best Female Performer…

Madhuri Dixit

Madhuri Dixit started her career with Rajshri productions Abodh. She delivered hits like Tezaab, Ram Lakhna, Prem Pratigya, Dil, Saajan, 100 days, Beta, Khalnayak, Hum Apke Hain Koun, Raja, Dil to Pagal Hai, Pukar, Devdas. She won 11 major awards and 26 nominations. She became the actress of the millennium in 2000…

Vidya Sinha

Actress,Gharonda, choti si baat

Leena Chandavarkar

Born in the Dharwar/Karwar region in the State of Karnataka (formerly known as Mysore), in the Marathi-speaking Chandavarkar family, this beautiful actress, with an oval cherubic face and innocent smile, has acted in many films like ‘Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’, ‘Humjoli’, ‘Rakhwala’, ‘Jane-Anjane’, ‘Manchali’, ‘Bairaag’, ‘Aafat’ just to name a few…

Manisha Koirala

Manisha was born in the Nepali Koirala family on August 16, 1970. Her dad, B.P. Koirala, was Nepal’s Prime Minister before her birth, while two of her paternal grandfather’s brothers, Girja Prasad Koirala, and M.P. Koirala were also Nepali Prime Ministers during the 1990s. Manisha grew up with her paternal grandmother in Varanasi…

Rani Mukherji

Mukerji comes from a film-oriented family of Bengali origin. Her father, Ram Mukherjee is a retired director and one of the founders of “Filmalaya Studios”. Her mother, Krishna Mukherjee was a playback singer. Her brother, Raj Mukherjee is a film producer, now turned director. Her maternal aunt…

Kajol

Born to actress Tanuja and film director Shomu Mukherjee, Kajol made her acting debut with Bekhudi (1992), while still in school. She subsequently quit her studies, and had her first commercial success with Baazigar (1993), opposite Shahrukh Khan. She subsequently featured with Khan in several blockbusters, including Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (2001). Her performances in these films met with wide public recognition and earned her three Filmfare Awards in the Best Actress category. After predominantly featuring in family dramas, Kajol earned critical appreciation for her portrayal of a psychopath killer in Gupt (1997) and an avenger in Dushman (1998)

After shooting for Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… in 2001, Kajol took a sabbatical from full-time acting for five years in order to focus on her marriage. She made a comeback with the romantic thriller, Fanaa (2006), for which she received a fourth Filmfare Award for Best Actress. She continued working infrequently through the rest of the decade, playing leading roles in such films as U Me Aur Hum (2008), We Are Family and My Name Is Khan (both 2010). Her performance in the latter earned her a fifth Best Actress award at Filmfare. Critics opine that she has thus established herself as one of India’s most successful female actors.

In addition to acting in films, Kajol is a social activist and is noted for her work with widows and children, for which she received the Karmaveer Puraskaar in 2008. She has featured as a talent judge for Zee TV’s reality show, Rock-N-Roll Family and holds a managerial position at Devgn Entertainment and Software Ltd. She is known in the Indian media for not subscribing to stereotypes of a Bollywood heroine and has hence been labelled as “unconventional”.

Padmini Kolhapure

As a child, she sang in the chorus for songs in films like Yaadon Ki Baaraat, Kitab and Dushman Dost with her sister Shivangi . Padmini later sang for her own films like Vidhaata (“Saat Saheliyan”), Hum Intezaar Karenge and Sadak Chaap (with Kishore Kumar). She released an album with Bhappi Lahri called Music Lovers. She performed for the Greater London Council at the Royal Albert Hall in London with Baapi Lahiri and his troupe in 1986. Asha Bhosle suggested Padmini’s name to Dev Anand, who then cast her in Ishq Ishq Ishq (1975). This led to other films, such as Dreamgirl (1978), Zingagi, and Saajan Bina Suhagan (1978). She also gave a very commendable performance of a school girl inflicted by black magic in Gehrayee (1980).

Her mother quit her airlines job to be a full-time chaperone as Padmini picked up more roles. Her most famous child role was playing a child in Raj Kapoor’s 1977 film Satyam Shivam Sundaram. Her success led to her most controversial role in Insaaf Ka Tarazu (1980), a remake of Lipstick (1976), where she played the rape victim that was originally played by Mariel Hemingway. She earned the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award for her performance. She graduated to heroine roles at the age of 15 in Nasir Hussain’s Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai opposite Rishi Kapoor. The film flopped, but she reunited with Rishi Kapoor for his father Raj Kapoor’s film Prem Rog in 1982. The film earned her a Filmfare Best Actress Award. She earned a special acting award for Ahista Ahista.

Padmini was known for her professionalism and diligence. She even worked when she had fever on Do Dilon Ki Dastaan. She had more box office hits, such as Vidhaata (1982) and Souten (1983). She had a huge hit with Pyar Jhukta Nahin (1985) with Mithun Chakraborty, and they were paired together in several more films. She agreed to work with Anil Kapoor when he was a newcomer in his first film, Woh Saat Din (1983). The movie was a hit and helped cement his name in the Indian film industry; Anil Kapoor attributes his eventual success in the film industry to her ‘luck factor’. Kolhapure married producer Pradeep Sharma, alias Tutu Sharma

Meenakshi Sheshadri

Meenakshi Sheshadri (born on November 16th 1963) is an Indian (Bollywood) film actress and dancer who acted in more than 20 Bollywood films during her times. She won the Miss India contest in 1981 at age 17, nominated as the youngest woman to be crowned Miss India. Making her debut film into Bollywood…

Vidya Balan

Vidya was born in Palghat, Kerala, India. Her family consists of her dad, P.R. Balan, who is the Vice-President of ETC Channel; mom – a home-maker, and an elder sister, Priya, who is married to Kedar. She also has an aunt by the name of Raji Raju. The Balan family re-located to live at Road No. 11…

Shyama

Way back in the mid-forties, a little girl saw a picture starring Ishwarlal and that matchless singing siren of Indian screen, Khurshid. Khurshid’s sad soulful melodies, captured her heart and brought tears to her eyes. The name of that little girl was also Khurshid. After seeing the film, she asked herself: “Why I too can’t become a star like that Khurshid?” She went home determined to be a celluloid sweetheart and started song rehearsals before the mirror. She imitated songs from her favorite films and put up stage shows at home with friends. After years of yearning for stardom, all that the ambitious girl got was a bit role as an extra as a singer in a qawwali song. Today the film-crazy teen-aged Khurshid is known by a name familiar to thousands of film-goers – Shyama.

Remember that very first all female qawwali in Zeenat (1945) – “Aahen na bharin, Shikway na kiye”led by the melody-queen Noor Jehan? A bevy of comely faces took part in this rip-roaring sequence which brought the house down. Among this line-up of charmers was Shyama who appeared here as Baby Khurshid. Her ambition to become another Khurshid seemed to have been partly fulfilled. But she was a very small fry in that scene. The lime light was stolen all throughout the picture by the one and only Noor Jehan. When Khurshid Akhtar (Shyama’s real name) saw Noor Jehan reigning supreme over the sets like a queen, she felt one day she too must become a big star, a rather audacious dream for a girl in pig-tails who started film career as an “extra”!

Thus Shyama started her career from the bottom of the ladder. Her phenomenal rise to stardom during the next decade almost nullified the time-honored film maxim – “Once an extra always an extra.”. But her journey to the pinnacles of fame had not been without its sighs and sorrows. She had to struggle for eight long years without losing hope.

Born at Lahore, on June 7, 1935, Khurshid Akhtar had to face a domestic storm after her debut in Zeenat. As the role was rather small and insignificant, she had to rehearse only for a fortnight. “I did not feel camera-shy as there were many other newcomers taking part in the Qawwali-scene.” Her father was away from Bombay and did not know about her role. He lost his temper when he came to know that daughter Khurshid had taken to film acting. Her mother and sister somehow managed to pacify him. Baby Khurshid left the school from the fifth form to seriously concentrate on film acting.

She made a resolve to hit the top-mark and took intensive training in dance and music from the well-known dance-teacher Badri Prasad. She specialized in Kathak. She got some more bit-roles in films and appeared as Baby Khurshid. As a teenager, she was mainly cast as the hero’s younger sister.

She got the rare opportunity to act as a young sister of the celebrated Saigal in Parwana. “I can never forget the encouragement that the great Saigal gave me on the sets if Parwana,” she says, recounting a memorable anecdote, “You see, one day I sat on his lap, feeling terribly nervous. Saigal realized my plight as a beginner. He tried to shed my neurosis by humming a song which had words to the effect, ‘ Don’t be afraid, Sister, work hard and success is bound to be yours.’ His words had an electrifying effect on me. But for his inspiring words, I would have fared miserably that day.”

She continued to be cast in similar roles and played the younger sister to the late Shyam in Kaneez and to Motilal in Beete Din. Unfortunately her frail and delicate figure was not considered good enough for major roles by the tin-gods of the film industry, so she had to act in a non-stop series of insignificant roles. She had to discontinue her music lessons for reasons of health and she concentrated on acting with a vengeance. In Tarana she got a slightly bigger role while in Hum Log she acted as Balraj Sahni’s girlfriend.

Meanwhile, Baby Khurshid, had undergone a change in nomenclature. Director Vijay Bhatt felt that at that time there were too many Khurshids in films and he gave a new screen-name to her – Shyama.

Amala

She was one of India’s darling film stars–pretty, vivacious and a stunning dancer. She is a strong promoter of vegetarianism and an Animal Rights Activist who is actively involved with The Blue Cross. Amala was born in Bengal to an Irish Mother and Bengali Father. She has an elder brother and sister…

Aishwarya Rai Bachchn

Born into a traditional south Indian family, Aishwarya started modeling at a young age. This green-blue-eyed beauty appeared in advertisements for many prestigious firms; the ones that brought her into the limelight were the garden sari and the Pepsi ad. Crowned Miss India 1994 runner-up, she was a hot favorite in the run for miss world title…

Kareena Kapoor

Kareena was born to Sindhi-speaking Babita (nee Shivdasani) and Punjabi-speaking Randhir Kapoor in Bombay, India. She has an elder sister, Karisma. She is born in a family that have been actors for generations, including her paternal great-grandfather, Prithviraj Kapoor; her grandfather, Raj Kapoor; her paternal uncles…

Nanda

Nanda was born on January 8, 1939, to a Marathi-speaking family in Bombay. Her dad was actor Master Vinayak, and mom’s name was Meenaxi. She has two brothers and a sister, who married into the Sindhi-speaking Gurbaxani family. She has a niece named Geeta. She is the great-niece of film-maker V. Shantaram, who fathered yesteryear actress Rajshri…

Karisma Kapoor

Born into Bombay filmdom’s legendary Kapoor clan, Karisma Kapoor made her film debut with Prem Qaidi opposite Harish. Her next big hit was Anari and during this time she made news with a fight with her Andaz Apna Apna co-star, actress Raveena Tandon

Helen

Helen was born in Burma to an Anglo Indian army officer and a Burmese nurse. Her father died during the Second World War. Her family migrated to India in 1942 as refugees in order to escape the Japanese invasion of Burma. Helen was introduced to Bollywood in 1953 by the famous dancer Cuckoo. She got her break in 1958 when she performed the song ‘Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo’ in the movie Howrah Bridge…

Neetu Singh

Sonia Singh, now known as Neetu Singh, started her career as a child artiste (Baby Neetu/Sonia) in Bollywood movies (Pavitra Paapi, Waaris &c), and went on to become a full-fledged Bollywood movie actress, with a reputation of having her mom accompany her to almost all shoots. She married her co-star…

Tina Munim

Tina Munim a successful beautiful actress and appeared in many hit films in the late seventies until the mid eighties. Tina began her career in 1978 and quickly shot to fame. Tina Munim was Dev Anand’s discovery and did three super-hits opposite him Des Pardes, Manpasand and Lootmaar.

Preity Zinta

Actress, Kal Ho Naa Ho

Preity Zinta shot to fame as the refreshing, cool, wet model in the Liril commercial. She also modeled for Perk and her dimpled smile won the hearts of millions. Preity never thought she would be an actress. Kapoor saw her in the Liril commercial and liked her so much that he instantly decided that the next film he would announce would have her in the lead…

Poonam Dhillon

Actress, Sohni Mahiwal

Born on April 18, 1956 in Kanpur, India, Cusp-born Poonam Dhillon is one of three children of former Aeronautics Engineer, Amrik Singh, and mom, Gurcharan Kaur. She has a brother, and a sister, Dr. Rishma Pai, who has a medical practice in Bombay. She studied in Carmel Convent High School in Chandigarh.

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