Vyjayanthimala Bali is very well known worldwide by just her first name Vyjayanthimala. She is an Indian film actress who was born on August 13, 1936. Besides settling her career in the industry, she has also been a great Bharatanatyam dancer, a Carnatic singer, and a choreographer. She also belongs to the category of the Member of Parliament. She started her career as a Tamil actress and later became popular worldwide because of her magnificent work in Bollywood. Vyjayanthimala was born in Thiruvallikeni, one of the oldest neighborhoods of Chennai, near Parthasarathy Temple, in a Tamil family. She was the daughter of M.D. Raman and
Vasundhara Devi. Vasundhara Devi was a Tamil actress who had been flooding all over Tamil cinemas in the 1940s and who made a blockbuster debut in the Tamil industry in a movie named Mangamma Sabatham. Out of all these, the interesting fact is that Vyjayanthimala called her mother by her first name since she mothered her at a very young age of sixteen. On the contrary, she called her father “
Anna”- the Hindi meaning being “elder brother” since he was the eldest living member and that she heard everyone calling him Anna, so she picked up to call his father Anna. Primarily Vyjayanthimala got nourished in her childhood under the shades of her maternal grandmother Yadugiri Devi and Anna. Vyjayanthimala’s first on-stage performance was at Vatican City where her mother was an audience, and she was chosen to perform Indian Classical dance for Pope Pius XII, at the age of five. Vyjayanthimala completed her schooling from Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School, Presentation Convent, Church Park, Chennai. She learnt her Bharatanatyam, classical form of dance, under the training of Guru Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai and Manakkal Sivaraja Iyer taught her Carnatic music. Vyjayanthimala has had a roller-coaster ride in her career where she started with Tamil movies and then cracked the screens in Bollywood, which gained her a lot of success and fame. Even though Vyjayanthimala’s grandmother offended her getting into the film career for her fears that her education and dance would get hampered, Vyjayanthimala made her debut in Vazhkai (1949) under the direction of M.V Raman, who wanted to cast a new face for this particular script and proposed Vyjayanthimala’s face.
This Tamil movie gathered a lot of appreciation which even boosted up Vyjayanthimla to continue as an actor. She even dubbed her character in Jeevitham, Telugu remake of her movie, and in Bahar, the Hindi version, a year later, with the help of his father who guided her with Telegu words and she learnt Hindi at the Hindi Prachar Sabha. This was the time when she started off with her career as an actress and accepted proposals of directors and producers, made guest appearances in movies like Vijayakumari (1950), danced on item numbers like “laalu..laalu..laalu” choreographed by
Vedantam Raghavaiah, which gave a turn to western style of dancing and also to her career. The Hindi remake of his debut Bahar got her a lot of exceptional reviews and compliments and the ended up being the sixth highest grossing film of the year 1951, this inspired her to continue with her multilingual journey, and she shared the screen with legends like
Kishore Kumar in the Hindi version of Penn, Ladki in 1953. Both the Tamil and Telugu version of the movie struck magnificently across South India, on the other hand, Ladki became the second highest-grossing film of the year. Later in 1954 Vyjayanthimala starred Nagin along with
Pradeep Kumar, which was declared a “Blockbuster” with “the highest-grossing movie of the year 1954” tag. The role of Nagin was a turning point in Vyjayanthimala’s career; the character got her reviews from The Filmfare Magazine and many such critics too. Her dance and effortless acting aided her to get the “leading actress of the era” tag. Later he also made her debut in a Kannada film named Asha Nirasha, which had legends like
Asha Bhosle, and Md. Rafi as playback singers. In spite of consecutive criticism, Vyjayanthimala played the role of Chandramukhi in Devdas and proved herself apt for the character which had earlier been criticized badly. She even got the Filmfare Award for the category of “Best Supporting Actress” which she denied taking stating that she played the lead role in the film and didn’t belong to any Supporting Actress category.
As she progressed in her career, she shared the screen with many more legendary actors like
Dilip Kumar, Kishore Kumar,
Dev Anand, and
Shammi Kapoor. She went on with her successful career entertaining the nation with her marvelous talent which even alarmed worldwide. Madhumati got launched at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival at Czechoslovakia. She was a very hardworking and dedicated actress where injuries couldn’t keep her away from her shootings. With the time passing by, she kept delivering blockbuster films. She never looked down upon any role and didn’t even hesitated to play the role of a prostitute in B.R. Chopra’s Sadhna opposite
Sunil Dutt, which was earlier refused by actress Nimmi. Vyjayanthimala won her first Filmfare Award in the category of “Best Actress” for Sadhna. In 1959, Vyjayanthimala shared the screen with her real-life mother Vasundhara, who played the role of her mother in Paigham. Later in 1960 Vyjayanthimala gave her comeback short in Tamil films to maintain the link with the industry and delivered a marvelous S.S. Vasan’s
Irumbu Thirai, the Tamil version of Paigham. This film was awarded the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil at the 8th
National Film Awards. Meanwhile, she also starred College Girl with Shammi Kapoor. Later she signed Dilip Kumar’s home production Gunga Jumna, which proved to be a tremendous hit on screen. In 1963, her career experienced a downfall when a historic fiction film Chittoor Rani Padmini turned out to be a failure at the box office.
This failure of hers ended her career in Tamil films. Vyjayanthimala regained her lifeline in the fields of Bollywood, by signing the first technicolor movie of
Raj Kapoor Production named Sangam, which was the longest film of about 238 minutes, with two intervals, and shot beyond India in the stretches of Asia. For the role of Radha in the film, Vyjayanthimala was awarded the Best Actress Filmfare Award. In 1967, Vyjayanthimala lost interest in starring films after the release of the greatest failure of her career, Amrapali. She even had personal issues with Dilip Kumar, which distorted her career and her interest. However, they starred The
Jewel Thief, which declared the two as a hit pair, after which she refused to work opposite Dilip Kumar for the sequel of Jewel Thief, after about three years. Later her item numbers like “Hothon Pe Aisi Baat...” became a popular hit for her dance style. She also starred Uttam Kumar’s Chhoti Si Baat, produced by the Bengali actor, which failed to gather appreciation and had been reviewed disastrously. She made her Bengali debut with Tapan Sinha’s Hatey Bazarey, which was well reviewed and obtained the Best Feature Film Award at the 15th National Film Awards. Even though while for a big budget film she didn’t have any conversation or exchange of words with Dilip Kumar because of her past rivalry. After her retirement, she was offered many roles which she denied. Once she had been signed against Raj Kapoor for Sapno Ka Saudagar, which she refused to take up and had also been signed for Aandhi opposite
Sanjeev Kapoor, but she was reluctant to make a comeback and hence refused many such proposals. Like all other Bollywood affairs, Vyjayanthimala too was believed to have affairs with her co-stars, and mostly she was linked with Dilip Kumar. She was considered to be Kumar’s third love, the first being
Kamini Kaushal followed by Madhubala. Vyjayanthimala had to face many controversies related to these affairs. Reportedly, Dilip Kumar also chose the colour of the saree which Vyjayanthimala would wear when they were starring his home production Gunga Jumna.
During the four yearlong shoots of Sangam, Vyjayanthimala is believed to fall in love with Raj Kapoor, who was the leading male actor in the film. It is also said that they almost got married, which became the cause of disturbance for Raj Kapoor’s wife Krishna, and so she moved out to Hotel Natraj, in Mumbai, with her children. Post retirement Vyjayanthimala married Chamanlal Bali, and they gave birth to a son who was named,
Suchindra Bali. Vyjayanthimala is a vegetarian and a Vaishnava. She is also a devotee of Aandaal, an Alvar saint in South India. In 1984, Vyjayanthimala stood for elections in the 1984 Tamil Nadu General Elections for the South Chennai Constituency, representing Indian National Congress. She won the elections and made her debut in the Lok Sabha with
Amitabh Bachchan, in 1985. In 1989, she again won the elections competing against Aladi Aruna with a margin of 12584 votes. Later in 1993, this was succeeded by her debut in Rajya Sabha, where she had been elected for six years. Years later in 1999, she resigned from the party for its “avowed principles” after writing her letter of resignation to the National Congress President,
Sonia Gandhi and joined the Bharatiya Janta Party, on September 6, 1999. All in all, Vyjayanthimala has left her footprints in all the film industries which include, Hindi, Tamil, Telegu, Kannada and Bengali films. She has gained a lot of respect from the audience, critics, her co-stars and all those who has worked with her. The outcome of her talents seem effortless and is a treat to eyes of the viewers. Her works are still etched in the memory of the audience.