Veteran Marathi actor Uma shot to fame when her maiden Hindi venture “Dosti” hit big time in 1964. Uma did not have a great role in the movie though she was featured opposite the then upcoming Sanjay (Abbas) Khan. Uma had also done a Hindi movie as Raj Kapoor’s sister. The movie had Waheeda Rehman playing the main female lead.
“Dosti” achieved stupendous success mainly due to the fantabulous music by Laxmikant Pyarelal. Unfortunately, none of the actors were able to capitalise on “Dosti’s” success. Uma said that she could not adjust to Bollywood’s party culture and sought solace in Marathi cinema once again. She eventually married fellow actor Prakash Bhende and settled in Sion. Sanjay Khan did not benefit from the success of “Dosti”. Two actors played the main leads. Sudhir Kumar and Sushil Kumar – both of whom vanished from the limelight soon after. One of them was a Maharashtrian actor who died early. The other actor was a Sindhi gentleman who joined Air India. But Rajshri Production made big money with the success of “Dosti”.
L Vijayalakshmi was born in a middle class Tamil Brahmin family in Pune. The family shifted to Chennai so that Vijaya could learn dance. Soon movie offers started pouring in. Vijayalakshmi became a successful actor in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam movies. She was working round the clock when Mahmood the ace Bollywood comedian offered her the main lead in “Shabnam”. The movie tanked and Vijayalakshmi’s Bollywood aspirations bit the dust.
In 1969, Vijayalakshmi’s parents found her an erudite Bengali bridegroom and she quit films to settle down in Manila. Later she migrated to US along with her husband and son. Today she is a faculty in a business school in US after completing her PhD. This can be considered as one of the rarest of rare cases when a popular actress completes her studies after bidding goodbye to films. South Indian film industry is known for avaricious parents who push their children to the brink to earn money. It is seldom that cantankerous parents want to lose the golden goose. Even otherwise the divorce rates of South Indian actresses are at an all-time high.
There are very few Indian actresses like L Vijayalakshmi who resist the lure of Bollywood and regional cinema to settle down to matrimonial bliss. Credit has to be given to Vijayalakshmi’s parents. Vijayalaskhmi’s immortal dance with MGR in the movie “Kudiyirundha Kovil” is still remembered by fans of Tamil cinema. The dance moves were based on the Punjabi “Bhangra” format. MGR was so scared of dancing with Vijayalakshmi that he rehearsed for five days before the dance was canned.
Geetanjali who acted with Mahipal in the super-duper hit “Parasmani” is another Telugu actress who couldn’t make it in Bollywood. Old timers will recall the super hit songs of “Parasmani” like “ Hasta Hua Noorani Chehra” and “ Woh Jab Yad Aye”.
The immensely talented Konkani actress Shalini Murdolkar reprised her role in the Konkani movie “Nirmon” (1966) in its Hindi remake called “Taqdeer” (1967). Farida Jalal’s performance in Taqdeer was most riveting in this tear jerker of a movie that had songs like “Jab Jab Bahar Ayee” and “Papa Jaldi Aajana”. Shalini’s talent was well-known in Goan tiatr (a form of theatre) but Bollywood never acknowledged it. After a few supporting roles here and there, Shalini vanished from the scene. Yet none can dispute her monumental talent. “Taqdeer” was made by Rajshris and it was Bharat Bhushan’s last outing in Bollywood as the leading man. The movie did average business. The story of an impoverished widow forced to marry a man whom she does not like moved hearts. Later the husband (Bharat Bhushan) returns and matters get complicated.
South Indian actresses Radha, B Sarojadevi, Jayalalitha, K R Vijaya and Jamuna also did the odd Hindi film but chose to return to their roots. When Sridevi started acting pricey with her mentors Padmalaya Productions, the production house projected Radha as the new sensation. Radha debuted with Jeetendra and Shabana Azmi in “Kamyab” but the movie flopped. Radha’s ambition to make it big in Bollywood hit the dust. Trust me - Radha was a beautiful actor – more beautiful than Sridevi. She became a legend in Tamil and Telugu movies. Ironically a few years later, Radha returned to Mumbai – but this time as a bride married to a Malayali hotelier and settled in Malabar Hill.
MGR’s influence on her was so strong that B Sarojadevi (remember the classic “Teri Pyari Pyari Surat Ko” in Sasural) chose to focus on Tamil cinema. She appeared in the odd Hindi film but clearly Tamil cinema was where she belonged. Jamuna who acted in movies like “Humrahi” (1963) and “Milan” (1967) returned to act with Jeetendra in Kinara (1977) but she was more successful in Telugu cinema. Jayanthi, the voluptuous and bold actress was K Balachander’s protégé from 1967 to 1973 and did some great movies in Tamil cinema. She appeared in “Lal Bangla” (1966) and featured in the classic song – “Chand Ko Kya Maloom” but that appearance was destined to be a stray foray into Bollywood. She later appeared in “Teen Bahuraniyan” along with Sowcar Janaki and Kanchana. All these actors could not resist the temptation of getting featured in Hindi movies but their attempts were largely unsuccessful.
Award winning actor Sharada did some path breaking movies like “Samaj Ko Badal Dhalo” but success eluded her. She later played a cameo in “Mehandi Rang Layegi” but that was about it. Srividya did “Jaise Ko Taisa Mila” and “Arjun Pandit” but a failed love affair with Kamal Haasan and a disastrous marriage resulted in Srividya switching to character roles early in her career. The daughter of legendary Carnatic vocalist ML Vasanthakumari led a colourful life that was characterised by moments of heartburn, frustration and despondency.
J Jayalalitha and KR Vijaya did the odd Hindi movie (Izzat and Oonche Log) respectively but Bollywood was not meant for them. Punjabi actors Bhavana Bhatt and Rajini Sharma had dream debuts but they could not achieve any major breakthrough in Bollywood. Gujarati actress Neeta Mehta was introduced by none other than Raj Khosla in “Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki”. She also did “Ponga Pandit” with Randhir Kapoor. Later on, she was reduced to playing “Bhabhi” type roles in “Kaamchor” and “Hero”. Finally, as it happens with actresses whose market value has dipped, she married and settled in Canada.
For every one Sridevi who attains superstardom, there are hundreds of others who taste failure in Bollywood despite having talent. But when has Bollywood ever respected talent?