Vaijayanthimala – The Great Dancing actress of Indian Cinema
Vaijayanthimala can be considered as one of the greatest dancers of bollywood,Tamil and Telugu films who had glorified the films she has acted with her serene performance and notable creative art of choreography. Among all the South Indian actresses, she was probably the path-breaker, who blended her acting capabilities with the South Indian style of Bharatanatyam and other forms of eastern classical dances and inspired the bollywood directors to make films based on those subjects. Vaijayanthimala acted with all the leading stars of that age including Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Dev Anand, Dharmendra, Uttam Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar,Sunil Dutt, Shammi Kapoor, N.T Rama Rao, Akkineni Nageswara Rao Shivaji Ganeshan, MGR and Gemini Ganeshan etc. She had ruled bollywood and Tamil films during the 50s and 60s, during an age when Muslim actresses like Nargis, Madhubala, Meena Kumari and Nimmi rocked the silver screen in Bollywood. She was the first South Indian actress to create a sensation in bollywood films and paved the way for other South Indian actresses to follow like Hema Malini, Rekha, Sridevi , Jaya Prada, Meenakshi Sheshadri, and others.
Vaijayanthimala was born on August 13, 1936 in an orthodox Tamil Brahmin family. Her father was M.D Raman and Mother was Vasundhara Devi, who was also a leading actress in Tamil Films. During her childhood, she was raised primarily by her maternal grandmother, Yadugiri Devi, and her father, M.D. Raman. At age 5, Vaijayanthimala was chosen to perform a classical Indian dance for Pope Pius X11while her mother shared the honor as an audience in 1940 at Vatican city . Vaijayanthi did her schooling at Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School, Presentation Convent, Church Park, Chennai. She learnt Bharatanatyam from Guru Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai and Carnatic Music from Manakkal Sivaraja Iyer. She had her Arangetram at the age of 13 and started performing all over Tamilnadu later.
She was introduced to the silver screen by South Indian film pioneer A.V. M Chettiar with the block buster Tamil film Vazhaki (1949). The movie was simultaneously released in Telugu as Jeevitham( Life) and they remade it in Hindi as Bahar (1951), which was also a success. She learnt Hindi at the Hindi Prachar Sabha in order to dub her own voice for her character in the film . Later she acted in several Tamil and Hindi films simultaneously. She kept her mark in the film Nagin in 1955, opposite Pradeep Kumar, her performance in the song “Man dole” sung by Lata is worth mentioning. She played the role of Chandramukhi in Bimal Roy’s epic film Devdas (1955) opposite Dilip Kumar, in 1955. Her character tried her best to reform Devdas by preventing him from taking recourse to alcohol for forgetting Parvathi whom he loved and was married to another person. The same role was played by another established dancer Madhuri Dixit when Sanjay Leela Bhansali remade Devdas in recent years. Vaijayantimala received the film fare award for the best supporting actress in” Devdas” and she refused it saying that her role was even more important than that of Parvathi. In fact Parvathi had led to the death of Devdas, on the other hand, Chandramukhi tried to give him a new life, although she could not succeed in her pursuit.
In Bimal Roy’s” Madhumati”, made in 1958, Vaijayantimala exhibited her class of dancing abilities opposite Dilip Kumar and showed her innocence in a role related to women of hilly region of India. Her performance in songs like “Aaja re pardesi”, “dil tarap tarap ke keh raha hai a bhi ja”, composed by Salil Chowdhury had impressed the film lovers and they lamented her death shown in the film. She also displayed her choreographic skills in the film Katputli, where songs like “bol re katputli” composed by Shankar Jaikishan became big hits. Her Tamil film Gemini Vasan’s magnum Opus Vanji Kottai Valiban along with Gemini Ganeshan and Padmini was a huge success in those days. The film was still remembered for the dance of the Vaijayanthimala and Padmini in the Kannum Kannum Kalanthu song, which was choreographed by famous choreographer Hiralal which was well received by critics and audience alike where the popularity of the song surpasses the popularity garnered by the film. Perhaps the song is still remembered as one of the best dancing sequence in Indian cinema. Later Gemini Vasan remade this movie in Hindi with the same caste as Raj Tilak(1958).
In the early 60s she displayed the role of village girl in the film Ganga Jumna. She adapted herself to the bhojpuri accent used in the film. If the other films had marked her dancing capabilities ,”Sangam” marked her acting potentiality. Her character had a love affair with the role played by Rajendra Kumar, yet Raj Kapoor’s character married her not knowing her liking, and at the fag end of the film, when Raj Kapoor wanted to sacrifice his love, she questioned his authority to take decision about her, because from the time she married him she fulfilled all the responsibilities of a Hindu wife. Rajendra Kumar sacrificed his life by killing himself. Vaijayantimala received the film fare award for the best actress for performing in the film Sangam. At the same time she had acted in female oriented roles like Amrapali, where she depicted the role of a devdasi who performed her art in Indian temples.
Her online chemistry with Tragedy King Dilip Kumar created history in bollywood. Most of their films including Devdas, Naya Daur, Madhumati, Paigham, Ganga Jumna, Leader, Sunghursh ended up being blockbusters. Her films opposite Rajendra Kumar including Zindagi, Aas ka Panchi, Ganwar, Suraj, Saathi, etc., were very successful. She played a very significant part in Vijay Anand’s crime thriller Jewel Thief in 1967. Her brother was kidnapped by the Jewel Thief played by Ashok Kumar and throughout the film she cultivated an image of a character Amar who never existed. Her lips in the song “Rulake gaya sapna mera” are worth mentioning. In the 60s, Vaijayantimala was matchless. Her name was enough to make any film hit
She also performed well in the film Choti Si Mulakat( Remake of Bengal movie Agni Pareeksha) opposite to Uttam Kumar which was based on child marriage. The hero and heroine were married together when they were infants but some of the family members did not accept the marriage. Later when they met each other not knowingly to be spouses, they entered into affair and the child marriage stood in their way. Then their identity was disclosed. Vaijayantimala almost acted with all the leading actors of the golden age of Indian cinema. She married Dr. Bali and left films in early 70s. Her success had paved way for other notable South Indian actresses like Hema Malini, Rekha, Jaya Prada and Sridevi etc., who made significant contribution to Indian Films. She continues to give Bharatanatyam dance performances after her retirement from films all over the world.
Vyjayanthimala and Padmini’s Dance-off in Vanjikottai Valiban and Raj Tilak
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