5 films you didn’t recognise Dulari in

The actress, who acted in over 150 films, was a face you easily recognised even though you couldn’t recall her name. On her fourth death anniversary today (18 January), we highlight some of her significant roles across her five-decade old career.

Sonal Pandya

The actress Dulari, née Ambika Gautam, was a talented character actress who appeared in all kinds of roles from the 1940s to the 1990s. Dulari acted in Hindi and Gujarati films after making her debut in 1943 with Bombay Talkies’s Hamaari Baat. Eventually, she made a name for herself as the understanding maternal figure in several films from Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971) to Dilwaala (1986). After appearing in Guddu Dhanoa’s Ziddi (1996), Dulari retired permanently from films. She was suffering from Alzheimer’s and had been bedridden for over two years when she passed away on 18 January 2013.

1. Sarla in Shehnai (1947)

In one of the biggest blockbusters of 1947, Shehnai (1947) directed by PL Santoshi, Dulari had a popular song picturised on her. Shehnai, which came out in the year of India’s Independence, brought success to everyone involved in the project. ‘Sunday Ke Sunday’ was also written by Santoshi and had music composed by C Ramchandra. The first half of the song was filmed on actor Mumtaz Ali (father of Mehmood) and Dulari, while Rehana (who plays Dulari’s friend in the film) shows up towards the end. Ramchandra sang the male portion (as Chitalkar Ramchandra), while Amirbai Karnataki sang for Dulari and Shamshad Begum for Rehana.

2. Chameli in Papi (1953)

In Chandulal Shah’s Papi, Dulari had a small but important role opposite Raj Kapoor and Nargis. Raj had a double role as the scamp and thief Raju and the do-gooder Swami Satyananand who wants change society for the better. Dulari played Chameli, a flower seller who also likes Raju. Nargis’s Lachhi believes her to be a rival for Raju’s affections. Raj is almost always seen with a gajra prepared especially for him by Chameli.

3. Jamuna in Jeewan Jyoti (1953)

That same year, Dulari moved from Raj to Shammi appearing as his supportive sister, Jamuna. In the film, Shammi is due to marry Leela (Shashikala) but instead falls for her pretty cousin, Kishori (Chand Usmani in her debut film). Jamuna, who was widowed at a young age, backs her brother and his choice against the family. At their wedding, her sari catches fire in an unfortunate accident and the new bride is blamed for bringing in bad luck to the family. In a 1977 Filmfare interview, Dulari herself called her role in Jeewan Jyoti a memorable one in her career. Incidentally, Jeewan Jyoti was also the film debut of Shammi.

4. Street Singer in Devdas (1955)

For Bimal Roy’s classic remake Devdas, starring Dilip Kumar, Suchitra Sen and Vyjayanthimala, Dulari had a pivotal part as a nameless devotional street singer along with co-star Nana Palsikar. They appear at two distinct moments of Parvati’s (Suchitra Sen) life — as a young girl and later as a woman when she thinks of Devdas (Dilip Kumar). It is fortunate that Dulari was a part of two meaningful songs of the soundtrack composed by SD Burman, with lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi.

5. Bhola’s aunt in Padosan (1968)

In the latter half of her career, Dulari was consigned to the maternal character roles in films like Deewaar (1975) and Bhagwaan Dada (1986). In the cult comedy Padosan, Dulari plays Bhola’s (Sunil Dutt) aunt who lives in the city and is estranged from her husband (Om Prakash). Bhola, who has recently renounced bachelorhood and decided to marry, can’t help but notice the pretty neighbour, Bindu (Saira Banu), who lives right opposite his aunt’s house. Once again, Dulari is cast as the helpful, encouraging family member.