Vyjayanthimala: Poise and Spunk amid Glitz and Glam –II
There were rumours that Vyjayanthimala had an affair with Dilip Kumar that came to an abrupt end after she signed Raj Kapoor’s Sangam (1964). Despite the fact that both Dilip and Vyjayanthimala appeared in several successful films together, it is disheartening to note the way their relationship became strained in later years.
 
Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthimala weren’t on talking terms even when they had chance meetings during Bollywood shindigs in Mumbai. Several years later it was Dilip Kumar’s wife Saira Banu who engineered a truce. Yet, the credit has to go to both the actors for delivering a scintillating performance in HS Rawail’s Sangharsh that released in 1968. Even though the film was a damp squib at the box office, it got some mileage because it was Dilip’s last outing with Vyjayanthimala. When the film was being shot, Dilip and Vyjayanthi were not on talking terms with each other but the animosity is conspicuous by its absence in the film. 
 
 
Earlier, Dilip Kumar had used his star power to oust Vyjayanthimala from Ram Aur Shyam. When the actress describes her unceremonious removal from the film in her autobiography, we experience a sense of anguish and a feeling of solidarity with the actress. No wonder, Vyjayanthimala has maintained a stoic distance from Waheeda Rehman, who replaced her in Ram Aur Shyam. 
 
Since she had concentrated on her Bollywood career, she lost career opportunities in Tamil Nadu. Tamil audiences are fickle. They had forgotten all about her. So after her marriage there were no offers for Vyjayanthi from Tamil cinema. Her contemporary Saroja Devi who got married in 1967 – a year earlier to Vyjayanthi’s marriage to Dr Bali- continued to receive plum roles even after her marriage to Harsha.
 
Vyjayanthimala’s tryst with Raj Kapoor’s masculine charm and womanizing ways is now part of Bollywood folklore. Her grandmother had opposed her fraternizing with Raj Kapoor and later with Dr Bali. But unlike Suraiya who sacrificed her love for Dev Anand under stiff resistance from her grandmother Badshah Begum, Vyjayanthimala was defiant and stood her ground. She was naïve enough to believe that Kapoor would marry her.
 
 
Sources even said that Kapoor had drugged her during the shooting of Sangam and had seduced her. Rumors were rife that her grandmother was furious when she learnt about the affair and was even more devastated to know about her granddaughter’s premarital pregnancy. Now – how much of this is fact and how much fiction – no one knows. But when the affair fizzled out, the woman in Vyjayanthi refused to give up on life and rose to power. She married Raj Kapoor’s family physician Dr Bali who knew about her affair with Raj Kapoor.
 
Nazrana was the only other movie in which Raj Kapoor and Vyjayanthi appeared together. The movie was a remake of the Tamil superhit Kalyana Parisu (1959).
 
Despite the fact that Dr Bali was a much married man, reports say that the actress sponsored Dr Bali’s hefty alimony that he had to pay to his first wife Ruby with whom he had three sons. How and why she got attracted to Dr Bali remains a mystery though. Love is obviously blind!
 
 
As the actress has pointed out in her autobiography, Vyjayanthimala who was always dominated by her grandmother Yadugiri Devi, started feeling the absence of a man in her life and Dr Bali apparently filled the void. He was smitten by her right from the day he set his eyes on her. On her part, Vyjayanthi was gullible and meekly accepted Dr Bali’s assertion about her ditsy character. Despite having a curmudgeon of a grandmother, Vyjayanthi was resolute about getting married to her lover.
 
Vyjayanthi’s marriage with Dr Bali lasted a mere 18 years and after his death, she got locked in an acrimonious legal dispute with his sons. There were many properties in Dr Bali’s name in Tamil Nadu (in Ooty) as well as a palatial flat in Bombay. It is strange that Dr Bali’s sons fought the legal battle after knowing fully well that their father couldn’t afford the alimony that their mother had demanded. Vyjayanthimala is emotionally intelligent. This is the reason she was able to overcome all the legal hurdles.
 
Any other actress would have been shattered in the wake of all the controversies that surrounded her. Raj Kapoor’s PR machinery let out a rumour that she was Mysore Maharaja’s illegitimate child and that the Maharaja had a soft corner for her actress mother Vasundhara Devi.  Vasundhara Devi was born in 1917 and died two years after Dr Bali’s untimely death due to cardiac arrest. Vyjayanthimala looks like a carbon copy of her mother. She was paid a pittance for Sangam though the film raked in crores. Though she denies that there was an affair with Raj Kapoor, the latter’s sons went to town proclaiming that Vyjayanthi was lying through her teeth.
 
Vyjayanthi put her heart and soul into Amrapali (1966) a film about the doomed courtesan who turned to Buddhism for spiritual solace. Her dances in the film were spoken about as were the revealing dresses that she wore in the film. But the film bombed at the box office.
 
 
Vyjayanthi expected a national award for her performance in Amrapali but she lost it to Nargis for Raat aur Din. Nargis’ equation with the Gandhis skewed the reward in her favour. Nargis’ grandmother Dilipa Bai was related to Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru’s father.
 
Later when Saroj Khan was choreographing for Pyar Hi Pyar, Vyjayanthimala would get flustered saying, “Would I get an award if I twisted my body the other way?” Her disillusionment with Bollywood paved the path for her premature exit from the industry. She realized that she was getting a little long in the tooth to play the leading lady (she was only 34 years old when she quit!).
 
As offers slowly started drying up, Vyjayanthi realised that she was reaching the end of her rope. But I am still perplexed – both Mala Sinha and Sharmila Tagore got married in the same year as Vyjayanthi (1968) and both of them had long innings in Bollywood many years after their marriage. Then why did Vyjayanthi have to quit so early? Was it because she was disenchanted with everything that was happening around her? May be her experiences had made her believe that continuing to be active in Bollywood would be like attempting to catch a tiger by its tail.
 
For an actress who had such an unceremonious exit from Bollywood, it was dance that seemed to have rejuvenated her and given her a global identity as a world class Bharata Natyam dancer. For the uninitiated it would appear as if Vyjayanthimala’s later success as a dancer was a pyrrhic victory – but the actress doesn’t think so.  Dance has remained the weather glass of her identity as an Indian woman of substance.
 
 
When Uttam Kumar became dour on learning of the dance sequences in Choti Si Mulaqat, it was the dancer in Vyjayanthimala that comforted and reassured him. Uttam Kumar’s lugubrious dance moves weren’t a match for Vyjayanthimala’s spunky dance movements in the film. 
 
She gave the impression of being indolent when she acted with Shammi Kapoor in Prince but when Shammi made snarky comments about her, she demonstrated a rare intrepidness to cold shoulder him.
 
Time and again, the actress has demonstrated her resilience even when she was a victim of pummeling by her co actors. She remained great friends with BR Chopra and Yash Chopra. Until Raj Kapoor’s death in 1988, she maintained a distance from him urging Dr Bali to also do the same. 
 
She pooh-poohed Shatrughan Sinha’s pot-shots at her and remarked, “Who is he?” forcing the loud mouthed Bihari babu to remain “Khamosh”. Later she became a politician; then she quit politics citing ideological differences with the Congress party with whom she was associated.
 
Vyjayanthi became a mother only when she was 38 years old. Her only son Suchindra Bali studied in Bombay before the family shifted base to their palatial mansion in Chennai. Suchindra tried his hand at acting (Aanch, 2003) but quit films when he realised that he wasn’t cut out for it. Today he runs resorts and owns a chain of restaurants in South India.
 
 
Age hasn’t withered Vyjayanthimala passion for dance. She occasionally makes an appearance on stage and doesn’t disappoint her audiences who are awestruck with her nimble dance moves. She believes that there is nothing wrong if an actress looks glamorous even when she grows old.
  
Happy birthday Vyjayanthimala!
 
This is last part of a two part series.
 
Read the first part: 
 
 
(After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)
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    COMMENTS

    Jatinder

    4 months ago

    Read both the parts. Weird article. It is laced up with accusations galore, rumors unfounded, and negativities about celebrities. Joining together a few picures of the great actress, Vyjantimala, and throwing in a few genuine details, which are available all over the Internet, and then adding SPICE in the form of unsavory comments is not a professional writing. Where was the need to publish this, that too in two parts?

    Ramesh Poapt

    4 months ago

    very good one ( with little spicy gossip).
    she paid price for what she did that she should not have).
    but great actor....

    Ramaditya Bhardwaj

    4 months ago

    Vyjyantimala is an all time great actress. Such actress and dancer are born once in centuries.For me she is the undisputed queen of Indian cinema. She is very close to my heart.Happy birthday madam vyjyantimala.

    Sandeep Reddy

    4 months ago

    Why South Indian Brahmin heroines have affinity for much married men.Strange phenomenon.But don't type cast me now.

    Vyjayanthimala: Poise and Spunk amid Glitz and Glam-I
    Renowned multi-lingual actress Vyjayanthimala Bali celebrates her birthday on the 13th August. She shares this birthday with another Bollywood legend Sridevi who was also a multi lingual actress with superior dancing prowess. Both the actresses married Punjabi men who left their first wives. Here is a brief look at Vyjayanthimala, the actress and Vyjayanthimala -- the woman. 
     
    Since I live in Mysore, I have an emotional connect with Vyjayanthimala, veteran actress who too has her ancestral roots in the same city. There is enough dope on the actress available in public domain. She also got her autobiography published in 2007.  So, information about her personal life and professional battles is public knowledge.
     
    Let me begin by talking about her superstardom in Hindi cinema at a time when many of her south Indian counterparts like Padmini, Ragini, Anjali Devi, B Saroja Devi, Savitri and Jamuna failed to weave their magic in Bollywood.
     
    Vyjayanthimala’s first Hindi film Bahar was released when she was 16 years old.
    Despite the fact that she had limited school education, Vyjayanthimala appears knowledgeable and erudite when you read her interviews. Cinema was only a means to demonstrate the passion that she had for dance. She became an actress with a star following pan India only because of her dancing competence.
     
     
    From 1951 to 1960, Vyjayanthimala’s career was full of ups and downs. In the mid 60’s her films started flopping. But by the time she quit films in 1970, some of her movies had done well at the box office and the success of these films established her reckoning as an actress-cum-dancer of substance.
     
    She wasn’t a classical beauty in the league of say Madhubala or Meena Kumari. But Vyjayanthimala had screen presence. She acted with many heroes like Balraj Sahni, Jawahar Kaul, Pradeep Kumar, Bharat Bhushan, Raj Kapoor, Manoj Kumar, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Dharmendra, Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Sunil Dutt and Uttam Kumar. Vyjayanthi has on many occasions expressed her fondness for Hema Malini – like her, Hema is also an Iyengar girl from a conservative background steeped in tradition and culture.
     
     
    Vyjayanthi had the guts to reject a Filmfare award for best supporting actress (Devdas, 1955). Her argument was that the role of Chandramukhi was of equal prominence as the role of Paro. She felt vindicated and chuffed when she received the Filmfare award for the best actress in Ganga Jamna (1961). Her superb dialog delivery in Ganga Jamna (in the Avadhi dialect) was a reflection of her hard work and commitment while preparing for a role.
     
    Her equation with Dev Anand was amiable. Vijay Anand claimed that he had had a tough time making Waheeda Rehman emote in Guide.  As someone who was discerning enough about the dance sequences in his films, Vijay also had another challenge while shooting the song “Hoton Pe Aisi Baat” in the 1967 release Jewel Thief that featured Vyjayanthimala.
     
     
    Insiders reported of a silent/ simmering feud between the danseuse and the director. But whether it was Jewel Thief or Duniya (later in 1968), Vyjayanthimala’s screen chemistry with Dev Anand sparkled. Years later, when a sequel of Jewel Thief was being made, Dev requested Vyjayanthi to be part of the team but Vyjayanthi politely declined. Kudos to the actress for refusing all the offers that came her way and steadfastly adhering to the resolution that she had made when she quit filmdom.
     
    She refused Nirupa Roy’s role in the 1975 release Deewar insisting that she had quit films for good and there was no looking back. She had passed on her mantle to heroines who were younger than her. Not many actresses have the gumption and farsightedness to quit films when the going is good. 
     
     
    Even when Telugu actor-producer Chiranjeevi offered her Rs2 crore for a role as Rajinikanth’s mother in law in Mapillai, Vyjayanthimala declined the offer. She had a brilliant excuse, “I can never bad mouth Rajinikanth – even if it is for a film,” she claimed later. 
     
    Salutations to her ingenuity! 
     
    Vyjayanthimala is also related to Rajinikanth’s wife Latha.
     
    This is first part of a two part series.
     
    (After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)
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    COMMENTS

    Ramesh Poapt

    4 months ago

    ye jawahar kaul... kaun hai, please?!!
    in senior roles like nirupa roy she would have been a failure.!
    only few high profile press exit button at the right time.

    REPLY

    Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam

    In Reply to Ramesh Poapt 4 months ago

    awahar Kaul was born on September 27, 1927 in Srinagar, Kashmir, India. He was an actor, known for Pehli Jhalak (1955), Adalat (1958) and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962). He died on April 15, 2019 in Mumbai, India. He also acted in Katputhli (1957).

    http://beetehuedin.blogspot.com/2012/10/kismet-hamare-saath-nahin-jawahar-kaul.html

    Chalo Ek Baar Phir Se Ajnabi Ban Jayen:  Revisiting Gumraah (1963)
    As adultery and extra marital affairs continue to persist as beaten but popular themes in films and soap operas, here is a review of a film based on the same theme that became a huge draw at the box office. Under the deft direction of BR Chopra and brilliant editing by Pran Mehta, the film manages to engage you throughout.  It is commendable that Chopra handled a delicate subject almost 55 years ago with all the sensitivity that it deserved.
     
    Films such as Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Who 7 Din and Bewafa handled similar themes successfully; yet Gumrah has managed to remain in the public memory mainly for the way the screenplay was handled and for the legendary music by the under-rated Ravi. The film was loosely inspired by the real-life love stories of a famous hero and heroine of the 50s. Their love story had a tragic ending as the actress in question had to marry her brother-in-law after her sister died all of a sudden, leaving young children to tend for. 
     
    Inspiration was also taken from the real-life love story between a renowned lyricist and a playback singer whom he loved and who was the inspiration behind his world-class compositions.  This love story too had a tragic ending as the lyricist drowned himself in alcohol and the singer’s career was nipped in the bud after she got married into a business family. The brilliant compositions of Gumraah have stood the test of time.
     
    Meena (Mala Sinha) and Rajendra (Sunil Dutt) are college sweethearts. Meena has an elder sister, Kamla (Nirupa Roy) who is married to a renowned barrister Ashok (Ashok Kumar) and lives in Mumbai. Meena lives in Nainital with her father (Nana Palshikar, who seems to be a Chopra favourite).  Palshikar has delivered a stunning performance as a father – very unlike Nasir Hussain whose dialog delivery and facial expressions in hundreds of Hindi films have often been mocked at.
     
    Palshikar demonstrates great restraint though there were opportunities for him to get overly dramatic.
     
     
    Kamla comes to visit Meena and her father and she tells Meena that she is in the family way again. Meena chides her sister for adding one more member to the population (mind you, this was in 1963); her sister already has a boy and a girl.
     
    Rajendra meets Meena’s sister and the latter realizes that Meena and Rajendra are in love. She agrees to fix their marriage. Then Kamla has a freak accident from which she never recovers and passes away; Meena’s father requests Meena to get married to Ashok at least for the sake of her sister’s kids. Meena ends up marrying Ashok and relocates to Mumbai. 
     
     
    A year later when she returns to Nainital during the summer vacation, she meets Rajendra again. Since Ashok and Meena seem to be sharing a platonic relationship, the old flame is ignited. Meena starts meeting Rajendra regularly until one day Ashok lands up in Nainital unexpectedly. He gets wind of the clandestine meetings between Meena and Rajendra but maintains a discreet silence. He becomes friends with Rajendra who is known as a painter and a radio singer.
     
    When he visits Rajendra’s home, he sees a portrait of a woman who looks deceptively similar to Meena. He gets the portrait packed to Meena as a gift.
     
     
    After Meena returns to Mumbai, Rajendra follows her. Clandestine meetings continue. “4pm” is a time that Rajendra fixes for his daily meetings with Meena.
     
    Soon enough a woman, who claims to be Rajendra’s wife (Shashikala) blackmails Meena that unless she is paid a ransom, she would spill the beans to Ashok. A petrified Meena keeps paying her the ransom until things reach a point of no return and Meena hands over to the blackmailer the diamond ring that Ashok had gifted her. The woman suddenly vanishes and Meena is under pressure to get the ring back at the earliest.
     
    Finally, when Meena realizes that she is at the risk of getting exposed, she decides to commit suicide but Ashok arrives in the nick of the time and saves her. Then he informs Meena that the woman who was blackmailing her was his secretary and she had been blackmailing Meena at his bidding. He also tells her point blank that it is up to her if she wants to divorce him and get married to her lover. What decision will Meena take now?
     
    There is also a subplot about a constantly bickering couple Suresh and Deepa (Karan Dewan and Shyama respectively). Shyama is loud as usual.
     
     Misunderstandings between the couple reach a state where Deepa expresses her wish to divorce her husband. But soon enough the misunderstandings are sorted out and the couple reconciles. There is also a minor subplot between the Christian nanny in Ashok’s house and her love story with the cook (a young and slim Deven Varma). Varma later married Ashok Kumar’s daughter Roopa much against the Bollywood thespian’s wishes.
     
    Mercifully, the child stars in this film are not precocious. Mala Sinha plays her role with panache. The cigar smoking Ashok Kumar is at his best (as always). Sunil Dutt delivers a brilliant performance as a lover who is unable to forget his ex-flame.
     
    The dialogues are noteworthy. Rajendra tells Meena, “I draw portraits of nature because nature doesn’t cheat you unlike human beings”.
     
    The last scene in the movie leaves a lasting impression.  The songs were a rage in the 60s and continued to be loved by audiences. “Chalo Ek Baar Phir Se Ajnabi”, “In Hawaon Mein In Fizaon Mein Tujhko Mera Pyar Pukare”, “Aa Bhi Jha” and “Aap Aye To Baharein” are melodies that unwind you after a hard day’s work. Mahendra Kapoor and Asha Bhosale are at their best! 
     
    BR Chopra won a certificate of merit for the film. Shashikala won the Filmfare award for the best supporting actress while Kapoor, deservedly, won the Filmfare award for the best male playback singer. Pran Mehta won the Filmfare award for best editing.
     
    The climax scenes were shot near Flora Fountain and one can witness how Bombay looked then! The shots involving Rajabai Tower, Churchgate station, Kamdar furniture remind you of the glorious days of Bombay in the 50s and 60s.
     
    Watch Gumraah to simply walk down memory lane and cherish those wonderful memories.
     
    (After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)
     
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    COMMENTS

    kiran

    4 months ago

    Apart from other marvelous performances, Mahendra kapoor was ay his best in all his songs in the film and one never felt the absence of venerable Rafi. But unfortunately, Kapoor never came back with the same finesse and melody again in any other movie.

    Abhijit Gosavi

    4 months ago

    A brilliant movie. One of those rare Bollywood movies that weren't overly dramatic in terms of acting. Shashikala stole the show. I've seen it only once and that too years ago, but remember much of it. That probably means it was very good.

    PS: Reading Moneylife after a long time :)

    Sandeep P

    4 months ago

    Don't know if this is true, but I heard that 'Chalo Ek Baar' was supposed to be sung by Rafi but went to Mahendra Kapoor.How I wish that would have been the case !

    ashi kumar mohanty

    4 months ago

    Great movie forever.

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