Article Hindi

Realism is missing in present-day films, says veteran Vyjayanthimala

Over the years, realism in Indian cinema has been lost, lamented the octogenarian celluloid heroine of yesteryear.


Acclaimed Bharatanatyam dancer, Carnatic singer and actress Vyjayanthimala has seen it all — from the glitzy world of cinema to the harsh reality of life, including politics.

Over the years, realism in Indian cinema has been lost, lamented the octogenarian celluloid heroine of yesteryear. "There was so much realism in our films in the olden days. That is missing in the present-day films," she told IANS news agency in an exclusive interview in Mumbai. "There was none of this make-believe, gimmicks and camera playing tricks as in the present times."

The energetic and still active iconic star was in the city to inaugurate a textile expo, Vastrabharana 25, organised by the Crafts Council of Karnataka.

Though the trend of making films is changing in the country as the world over, Vyjayanthimala asserted their quality should be maintained and not be allowed to decline.

"When the quality of everything else in the country is improving, why not of films," she wondered.

With blockbusters like Naya Daur (1957) and Jewel Thief (1967) and acclaimed movies such as Devdas (1955), Sadhna (1958), Madhumati (1958) and Sangam (1964) to her credit, Vyjayanthimala was a heart-throb of the Hindi film world for over two decades during the 1950s and 1960s.

After a brief stint in Tamil and Telugu films in Madras (now Chennai), Vyjayanthimala moved to Bombay (now Mumbai) during the early 1950s to act in Hindi films like Bahar (1951) and Ladki (1953). The success of Nagin (1954), in which she played the lead role, established her as a star and got her an offer to appear in Devdas as Chandramukhi, with the great Dilip Kumar as the hero.

A recipient of Filmfare and National awards including the Padma Shri and the Sangeet Natak Akademi award, Vyjayanthimala acted in about 70 films, the majority in Hindi, and mostly as the heroine with such legends as Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Raaj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor and Dharmendra.

"I had just finished matriculation in Madras when I was told to work in a Tamil film Vazhkai (1949), which was a huge success," recalled the actress with a gleam in her kohl-lined eyes. "My grandmother was the guiding force and helped me choose empowering roles."

Fondly called 'papakutty' (little child) by her maternal grandmother Yadugiri Devi, Vyjayanthimala acknowledged that her granny was her strength in life and turned her into an ambitious person.

"We were from a conservative family and nobody went to school those days, especially girls," she said. "Grandma, however, insisted that I join a convent (school) to study. She also used to tell all, 'See my child goes to a convent'."

Though the film industry has always been a "man's world", Vyjayanthimala claimed she had her way in choosing characters or roles in which she could fully express herself. She was picked for acting by a director while watching her perform Bharatanatyam, the classical dance from South India.

After marrying Chamanlal Bali, a medical doctor, in 1968, the star gradually bid farewell to films, though she continued her association with dance.

"I'm a purist with respect to dance," Vyjayanthimala asserted. "I am a stickler for the traditional form of Bharatanatyam and won't let any 'creativity' or 'innovation' into my dance."

Even at 81, the veteran stages two-hour-long shows each day in Chennai during the Marghazi season, a dance and music festival held in December-January every year.

She currently resides in Chennai with her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.

"I'm doing research on rare types of dance forms performed by dancers at the Brihadeeswara temple at Tanjore in Tamil Nadu," she said. "I'm tracing these kinds of dance forms."

Observing that art in India was unlike in other countries, she averred that her dance was a form of worship. "In India, art is not mere entertainment but transcends it, unlike in other countries. Dance should touch or move people's hearts," she said.