How Amrita Singh made bad look good in her films — Birthday special

Despite shining as a heroine in several hits early in her career, the talented actress revived herself as an antagonist in films and TV. On her 59th birthday today (9 February), we take a look at Singh's career.

Mayur Lookhar

Helen, who played the quintessential vamp with a golden heart often, once said that in her time heroines only wept in front of the camera, while the bad girls had all the fun.

Now, Amrita Singh, who turns 59 today (9 February), is no Helen. But she is no Nutan or Madhubala either, who mostly played positive characters. Singh's charm lies in her reincarnation as the baddie in films and on television.

Very few actors can boast of seven hits in the first four years of their career. Singh made her debut with Sunny Deol in Betaab (1983) and followed this up with hits like Sunny (1984), Mard and Saaheb (1985), and Chameli Ki Shaadi and Naam (1986). A year later, she starred in yet another hit, Khudgarz.

Most of these films were largely centred around the hero, but Singh stood out for her goofy, yet innocent portrayal of a teenaged girl Chameli in Basu Chatterjee's Chameli Ki Shaadi. Similarly, Singh held her own in the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Mard.

In 1991, she married the prince of Pataudi, Saif Ali Khan, 12 years her junior. And that slowed down her career dramatically.

There were some spillover films after the wedding. She had continued to bag lead roles, but her films did not really work — Rupaye Dus Karod (1991) and Paap Ki Aandhi (1991) were among those. After playing the cliched romantic heroine, Singh needed career-defining roles. So, one year later she did the 1992 reincarnation thriller Suryavanshi.

Singh played the ghost of the lovelorn princess, Suryalekha, a wandering soul who would rest only if someone brought back her ancient lover, Suryavanshi (Salman Khan). Without scary make-up, Singh managed to send chills down the spine of viewers.
In the same year, she played another lovelorn grey character in Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman. She played the boss' daughter Sapna Chhabria, who falls in love with employee Raj Mathur (Khan) and tries breaking his relationship with Renu (Juhi Chawla). Singh brought forth her intimidating attitude to play Sapna convincingly.

In 1993, Singh was out to hurt Chawla's character again in Yash Chopra's Aaina, playing the obsessed lover Roma Mathur, who fears losing her boyfriend Ravi Saxena (Jackie Shroff) to her own sister Reema (Chawla). Singh took her insecurities to a disturbing level in Aaina. She won the Filmfare Award for best supporting actress for her vamp act in Aaina. 

Singh then took a long break from films and did not return until 2002. In that year, she played mother to Bobby Deol's Bhagat Singh in 23rd March 1931: Shaheed. Her next film would be Mohit Suri’s Kalyug in which she played the main antagonist who runs a pornography business.

Bad was proving to be good for Singh, so she carried this avatar to television, playing the dreaded saas (mother-in-law) in Kkavyanjali. A couple of TV awards (Indian Telly Award, Star Parivaar Award) were promptly won with her new-found finesse for delivering negative roles.

Singh could be an inspiration to actresses who mourn about a shelf-life restricted by their youth. Versatility and reinvention might just be the stuff real actors are made of. The actress was last seen playing mother to Tiger Shroff in A Flying Jatt (2016).