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Vinod Mehra's accidental entry into Hindi cinema


Here's a look at the late actor's long road to stardom, on his 72nd birth anniversary (13 February). Mehra's daughter Soniya tells us how he had a different path in mind for his life.

Sonal Pandya

Actor Vinod Mehra started out as a child and junior artiste. He first appeared on screen as the younger version of Kishore Kumar in Raagini (1958), in which Kishore Kumar played an aspiring musician. Mehra moved on to playing a junior artiste in films like Bewaqoof (1960) and Angulimal (1960).

Mehra’s daughter Soniya, who acted in the 2007 remake of Victoria No 203 (1972) and Ragini MMS 2 (2014), said her father was first spotted outside his college, St Xavier’s, in Mumbai. Interestingly, Mehra had not thought about continuing acting in films. “It happened by chance for him," she said. "He was studying to be a lawyer. His plan was to be a lawyer. Acting just happened to him and then he went with the flow and, over time, I guess his career did take off.”

Rumour has it that Mehra was rediscovered by filmmaker Roop K Shorey at the famous restaurant, Gaylord, near Churchgate in South Mumbai, not far from his college. Shorey thought Mehra would be perfect for his next project and gave him a break with Ek Thi Reeta (1971).

Co-starring Tanuja, the film was virtually a remake of Shorey's earlier Ek Thi Ladki (1949), featuring his ex-wife Meena Shorey. Ek Thi Ladki is best known for its popular song, 'La-ra-lappa', sung by Lata Mangeshkar, GM Durrani and Mohammed Rafi. The music was scored by composer Vinod.

Ek Thi Ladki established Meena Shorey as a comedienne and she became known as the 'La-ra-lappa' girl. Ek Thi Reeta repeated the comedic crime caper, with a young woman on the run, falsely accused of murder. Along the way, she meets and falls in love with the hero, Ravi. Mehra stepped into actor Motilal's shoes, playing the lead for the first time.

Unfortunately for Mehra and Tanuja, the remake failed. The film was marketed as an English bilingual and was supposed to be released in USA as well.

However, his role in the Filmfare Best Film award-winning Anuraag (1972) came along and changed Mehra's career. Alongside Moushumi Chatterjee, who was making her film debut, the social drama established Mehra as a presence on screen. Mehra played Rajesh, an honourable young man who falls in love with a blind sculptor and shows his intention to marry her.

With director Shakti Samanta at the helm, the film was a hit, especially buoyed by the special appearance made by the reigning superstar Rajesh Khanna.

Ironically, Mehra had lost out to Khanna in the 1965 All India Talent Contest which led to the latter making his big entry into Hindi cinema.

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