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The role that defined Ranjeeta — Birthday special

In celebration of Ranjeeta’s 60th birthday (September 22), we take a look back at her splendid performance in the 1978 Rajshri film, Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se.

Sonal Pandya

Ranjeeta Kaur made her debut opposite Rishi Kapoor in Laila Majnu (1976) directed by HS Rawail. The film was a superhit, aided by the passionate music co-composed by Madan Mohan and Jaidev (Mohan passed away during the making of the film). As the beautiful but tragic figure of Laila, Ranjeeta made mark in the Hindi film industry and followed it up with a banner year in 1978 with a standout performance in Rajshri’s Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se.

Directed by Hiren Nag, the film was an adaptation of Erich Segal’s classic novel Love Story with Sachin Pilgaonkar and Ranjeeta filling in the parts of Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw from the 1970 film version. Ranjeeta played Lily Fernandes, the forward-thinking, intelligent young undergraduate who becomes an instant rival to fellow student Arun Mathur (Pilgaonkar). Their initial mutual animosity fades to away to love and then heartbreak when it is discovered that Lily has leukemia.  

Ranjeeta and Sachin in a still from the film

Ranjeeta took on the part of the terminally-ill patient and enacted the role with quiet poignancy and courage. As the two lovers say goodbye, Lily takes a promise from Arun that he will not give up on life. Like Love Story (1970), Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se struck a chord with the public. The film’s title song was especially popular after the film’s release and was composed by Ravindra Jain.

Following two strong performances, Ranjeeta was up for the Filmfare Award for Best Actress for Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se and Best Supporting Actress for Pati Patni Aur Woh. She lost out to Nutan in the lead category for her work in Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki and to Reena Roy in the supporting category for Apnapan. In 1982, she received a nomination for her role in Teri Kasam co-starring Kumar Gaurav and Poonam Dhillon.

Sachin and Ranjeeta in Jaana Pehchana

33 years later, Rajshri brought together Pilgaonkar and Ranjeeta once again for a sequel to Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se. This time, Sachin stepped behind the scenes to direct Jaana Pehchana (2011) as well. The story traced the present-day Arun who is still mourning the death of his beloved Lily. He has started a hospital in her name and happens to meet a novelist, Asha (also Ranjeeta), who will write his biography. Predictably, the two get together. Unfortunately the film recycled plenty of material from the first film and did not focus more on the next phase of Arun’s life. It focused too much on former memories.

Ranjeeta came out of retirement to make the movie; she had earlier reunited with Mithun Chakraborty in 2008 to make Zindagi Tere Naam (2012) which released after Jaana Pehchana. The film was supposed to be a comeback of sorts for her, but failed to reconnect with audiences. Ranjeeta returned to the US where she currently lives with her husband, Raj Masand, who successfully manages a chain of convenience stores.