On the actress’s 40th death anniversary, a look at the tragic rise and fall of Vimi, who was first seen on screen in Hamraaz (1967).
Remembering Vimi, the one-hit wonder
Mumbai - 22 Aug 2017 10:00 IST
Updated : 25 May 2020 20:38 IST
When Vimi made her big-screen debut in BR Chopra’s love triangle Hamraaz (1967), she was already married to businessman Shiv Agarwal and had two young children. She was spotted by Chopra at a party hosted by music composer Ravi. The filmmaker was looking for a new face for his upcoming project and at once thought of Vimi, dressed impeccably.
Afterwards, Ravi told Vimi that BR Chopra wanted to cast her in his film. She thought it over. In a profile piece reproduced online, journalist Roshmila Mukherjee quoted an interview in which the actress said, “When Ravi left, I asked myself the question, ‘Why not?’ During the next three weeks, I must have repeated the question to myself over a thousand times. I didn’t have one good reason to say no. But I still needed some moral support to say yes. And that support wasn’t forthcoming from my family.”
A successful screen test later, Vimi was signed on for Hamraaz (1967) with Sunil Dutt and Raaj Kumar. But it caused a split within her family. Her parents disowned her and her in-laws, too, distanced themselves from the couple.
Prior to her life as a housewife, Vimi had got a degree in psychology from Bombay's Sophia college and worked at All India Radio. But she had no acting experience and it showed during filming. Chopra had to ask veteran actor Manmohan Krishna to coach her and get her to rehearse for her shots.
The shooting for Hamraaz grew more troubled when Vimi and her husband did not go for the last outdoor shoot in Darjeeling until she was released from her exclusive contract with BR Films which stated that she could not sign any other film till Hamraaz was completed.
Chopra released her from the contract so that he could finish his film.
Thankfully for Chopra, Hamraaz went on to become a superhit. Vimi raised her price as new offers poured in and actors like Shashi Kapoor were keen to work with her. But she was never known for her acting, only her glamorous looks (she wore a new outfit in every scene of 1974’s Vachan).
Eventually, the offers dried up. Actor Ajit said Vimi’s husband interfered too much in her career and signed her on for anything. Further, allegations that her husband abused her and encouraged liaisons with producers persisted. After a while, Vimi left Shiv Agarwal for another man, Mr Jolly, who wanted to cast her in a film.
But Vimi’s days were numbered at a rather young age. With the promise of stardom fading away fast, she had taken to alcohol and began to lose the looks she was famous for. She died on 22 August 1977, still only in her early thirties, at Mumbai's Nanavati hospital. Only nine people are said to have attended her funeral.