Actor-dancer Vyajayantimala turns 84 on Thursday. She may have bid films goodbye a long time back but her legacy lives on through cinema and her dance performances that have charmed three generations since the late 1940s.
With over three decades in films, she has iconic roles like Chandramukhi (Bimal Roy’s Devdas) to her credit and also worked as choreographer and producer for a few films. In 2007, the actor came up with her biography, titled Bonding A Memoir, and revealed some interesting and intriguing facts about her personal and professional life.
Here’s a look at five of the interesting parts of her life so far:
1. A bitter encounter with Nargis
Vyajayantimala had a rather bitter encounter with Nargis when she once visited Delhi for an event. In her biography, Vyajayantimala wrote, “All these top stars, like Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Suraiya and others were there. For the first time, I was among the film fraternity and interacted with them. Oh my God, being noticed amidst such great stars was unbelievable. I felt delirious. I also learned some bitter truths. After this round, we had to pose for a group photograph, and a lot of people came running asking me for an autograph. I heard Nargis telling Raj Kapoor to come and tell me not to sign. He dutifully responded to her and immediately came up to me to convey what he had been told. I just nodded, but I was more surprised than piqued. It was my first encounter with Raj and Nargis in person. I had a lot of regard for them. And this kind of curt attitude put me off. Not that I was keen to sign autographs, but the way it was conveyed to me was rather offensive. It was not in good taste. Even in school, I would see all the films of Nargis. I felt so let down, more so, disillusioned. I thought she was wonderful. I was nowhere in the films when she was a leading actor. And right before that group picture was to be taken, again she sounded so abrasive, as she commented, “Vyjayanti is so tall, she looks like a tree.” I bent my knees for that picture and tears readily welled up again.”
Denying link-ups with Raj Kapoor, Vyjayanthimala also wrote that her link-up with the original showman of Bollywood was just a publicity stunt. Raj Kapoor did it to promote Sangam, which he directed and also acted in.
2. Why Lata Mangeshkar became the reasons she never took up singing as a profession
Talking of Lata Mangeshkar, she had visited my house in Madras along with director MV Raman after the release of Bahar. I sang for her and she complimented. “You’re very melodious”. And in one particular film, there was an instance when dance director was not very pleased with a certain bol sung by Lata for a Bharatanatyam piece. When I mentioned this to music director, he said he would ask Lata if she could redo only that bit. It did not happen, as Jaikishen told me later that she declined. She had told him, “Your heroine knows how to sing — let her sing.” But how could I sing when Lata had already sung so beautifully? And that’s one of the reasons why never wanted to be a singing star. I took a stand, “When Lata has most of my songs, why do I need to get into that role of a singer?’
3. Rumours of royal lineage
A lot has been said about alleged royal lineage of the actor. She addressed the rumours in her book as well. “I must put to rest all that loose talk about my royal lineage. This is grossly untrue. Since both of my parents belonged to Mysore family, it was a parampara, a tradition to have highly respected scholars and priests in the family. My ancestors followed that parampara and Maharaja of Mysore would stand up and welcome them given their learning and intelligence. It was but natural that they were well known to the royalty of Mysore. Coming from that lineage of great astronomers and astrologers, which most priests were, they came to be known as the Mysore family. That certainly didn’t mean we had an improper connection with the royalty It was totally fabricated and distorted with absolutely no truth in it. I am my father’s daughter — this myth must be busted,” she wrote.
4. When she refused a Filmfare award
With her par excellence dancing skills and emoting prowess, Vyajayantimala was awarded Filmfare award for Supporting actor for Bimal Roy’s Devdas but she famously refused it. Critic Khalid Mohhamad wrote, “Not the sort to suffer arbitrariness gladly, Vyjayanthimala was the first awardee to refuse the Filmfare trophy . Her contention: she was as much of a heroine in the role of Chandramukhi as Suchitra Sen was as Paro in Bimal Roy’s Devdas. A Supporting Actress statuette, no thank you! Not the sort to be cussed either, she did accept the Filmfare Best Actress Awards for Sadhna, Gunga Jumna and Sangam.”
5. Shammi and his musical mind
Vyajayantimala worked with Shammi Kapoor in 1969 film, Prince. She observed how he had a musical mind, but did not quite know about realism of cinema. Elaborating about a chase sequence where she was supposed to look dishevelled, she wrote, “And they sprinkled some water on my face to show sweat, and what do l find, Shammi looking fresh as daisy with not a scratch, and with every strand of hair in place. Director Lekh Tandon asked me to tone down on my look, “Zara zayada hi lag raha hai. Thoda kam karieye.” I don’t know whether Shammi had made him tell me so. Anyway, I immediately wiped off the sweat and marks, settled my hair and stood for lighting for the shot with Shammi. He kept mumbling sarcastically but loud enough for me to hear, “It is not as if we are making a realistic film. Some people seem to think so.
“He thought I had overdone it and I thought it should look real. I didn’t react to his remark and kept quiet. If he had said that today, I would have told him that he couldn’t have worked in a realistic film even in his wildest dreams. But one thing for sure, Shammi was very musical-minded, given his sense of rhythm and timing. He too was a natural, and could accomplish anything, though all his shakes and jerks were rather stretched out.”
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