Article Hindi

Vidya Sinha (1947-2019): The woman next door no more

Actress Vidya Sinha, 71, died in a Juhu hospital in Mumbai on Thursday following a prolonged illness.

Our Correspondent

The death of Vidya Sinha, at the age of 71, on Thursday comes as a shock to those who held fond memories of Hindi cinema in the 1970s.  Having found fame with films like Rajnigandha (1974), Chhoti Si Baat (1975) and Pati Patni Aur Woh (1978), the actress moved away from the limelight at the peak of her career. She returned to television recently, with some success.

Vidya Sinha was the daughter of Rana Pratap Singh, producer of films like Vidya (1948) and Jeet (1948). While she was no stranger to the industry, she never chose a simple route to it. A studious girl, she won the Miss Bombay title in 1968. By the age of 21, she was already in her first marriage with Venkateshwaran Iyer, who was her neighbour. (The marriage lasted till Iyer's death in 1996.)

That did not stop Basu Chatterjee from deciding to cast her in Rajnigandha (1974). As she recalled in a 2015 interview with the website, "He [Chatterjee] explained the scenes very well and I was good at picking up. All the scenes in Rajnigandha were sweet and simple and there was no drama, no elaborate scenes. I did exactly what Basu-da told me to do. Even today I feel I am a director’s actor. I feel very comfortable if my director guides me and tells me what to do."

In an age of glamour queens like Rekha, Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi, Vidya Sinha brought a sense of normalcy to the screen. In Rajnigandha, she played an independent woman working her way through the city of Bombay. It is for her attention that an insecure Amol Palekar fights. In Chhoti Si Baat, again, it was her ordinariness that set her apart. 

In an age when women were often portrayed as the vamp or the subdued heroine, Vidya Sinha's characters were regular working women with minds of their own, thoughts and dreams. But the run did not last. Despite performances that caught the attention of critics and fans alike, and the success of her films, the actress never pursued the limelight like her peers. 

In 1982, she walked away from it all, doing just the odd role here and there. Anyway, the kind of movies and roles she liked to do had begun to disappear. But she eventually came back. When she returned, it was to do television. It proved quiet a successful match. Series like Ishq Ka Rang Safed, Bhabhi, and Kavya Anjali saw the actress blend in with a new generation. It was a culmination for an actress who had brought women-next-door characters to life on the big screen.