Celebrating Legendary Dancer Actor Vyjayantimala, Conferred The 2024 Padma Vibhushan Award

Vyjayantimala, the first Hindi film industry 'superstar' to come from the South has been awarded the Padma Vibhushan.

One of the exciting news of 2024 is that legendary actress and dancer Vyjayantimala who emerged as one of the most spectacular actresses of her era primarily the 50s, 60s, and 70s has been awarded with the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian honour by the government of India. Despite being away from the world of glamour and glitz most commonly associated with the vibrant film Industry, she still remains a major source of inspiration for her successors such as the legendary Hema Malini who recently met her at her residence in Chennai alongside Saira Banu who lovingly calls her “Akka” which means “Elder Sister” in the South Indian dialect.

The first Hindi film industry ‘superstar’ from the South

In addition, she is known to be the first “superstar” originating from South India, inspiring many gorgeous actresses from South India to rule the film industry.

The nonagenarian has been well-known for her exceptional acting prowess, her classical training in Bharatanatyam which further propelled her to achieve enormous acclaim as a dancer, and the way she continues to age gracefully. A fun fact is that she performed in front of the Pope of the Vatican at the age of 6. Still actively dancing today, she recently performed a classical Bharatanatyam performance titled “Sri Andal’s Sanga Tamizh Malai” with a few young dancers this past December. This further solidifies the fact that a dancer always remains a dancer throughout her lifetime, which adds magnified credence to how her craft still lives in the hearts of millions.

Being a huge cinephile at heart, I rejoice in capturing the essence of classics because they have truly introduced me to a new mode of thinking which is apparently lacking in our cosmopolitan society today.

Vyjayantimala classics that are unforgettable

The first film I have ever watched of Vyjayantimala is the 1964 Raj Kapoor directed film Sangam shot in Eastman Color.

The overall picturesque landscapes and dramatic scenes combined with a flair of comedy, romance, and tragedy makes this an evergreen film that you can watch at any day or time. The mercurial song “Bol Radha Bol Sangam Hoga Ki Nahin” remains an eternal favorite since it captures the naughtiness of youthful love which will make you smile no matter what.

Her histrionics displayed in her elegant dance and expression in the iconic song “Mein Ka Karu Raam Mujhe Budha Mil Gaya” is a must-watch since it is truly an impeccable work of art which strategically captures her finesse as a full-fledged performer. Her stunning chemistry with the original Showman Raj Kapoor was beguiling to the eyes and hilarious too!

However, one of my most favorite songs picturized on her remains “Hothon Mein Aisi Baat” from the 1967 classic Jewel Thief starring the legendary Dev Anand. The way she showcases the fusion of many distinct dance styles magnified by her ebullient facial expressions adds wonders to this eclectic song which is still popular to this day!

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As a matter of fact, she was given the nickname “Twinkle Toes” due to the meticulous way she carried out her dance steps while glowing rhythmically. With her cherubic face, she was able to exude mysticism and a mesmerizing aura during her myriad dance performances on-screen and even off-screen.

In addition, she shared excellent chemistry with her co-stars such as the legendary “Kohinoor” of the Indian Film Industry Dilip Kumar in cinematic blockbusters such as Devdas (1955), Naya Daur (1957), Madhumati (1958), and Ganga Jamuna (1961). She also shared a beautiful organic chemistry with legendary Rajendra Kumar in Sangam (1964), Suraj (1966), Saathi (1968), and many more.

She has played every hue of the Indian woman

As a leading actress in many of her impactful films, Vyjayantimala epitomizes a woman who can be loving, feisty, resilient during times of distress, benevolent, and still steal the show with her amazing dialogue delivery and emotions.

For instance, in Sangam (1964) which translates to “Union”, she portrays the role of Radha who falls in love with Gopal (Rajendra Kumar) but must strangle her emotions due to Gopal’s endearing friendship with Sundar (Raj Kapoor) who also loves her since childhood. Unbeknownst to Sundar, Radha has only considered him as a playful and mischievous friend who she can never expect to have a serious relationship with. However, during the course of events, she ends up falling in love with Sundar who becomes her husband. Again, the idyllic depiction of a “Pati-Pratha” (devoted to husband) Indian women.

On the other hand, she portrays a brilliant nurse Shanti in Saathi (1968) who catches the eye of Dr. Ravi (Rajendra Kumar), and both fall in love with each other. Tragically, she becomes stricken with a deadly disease while supporting her husband on Cancer research. Aware of how her husband has been neglecting his duties as a Physician-Scientist due to his undying love and devotion towards her care, she flees as she begins to view herself as a nuisance distracting her husband from his valuable research.

Days later, her husband finds out from the news that her train met with an accident leaving him grief-stricken. But this sounds impossible in a film where Vyjantimala is the main heroine. Surprisingly, she is alive but must pretend that she is not his wife when she finds out that her husband has married Rajni, (Simi Garewal) the daughter of the man who raised him and made it possible for him to study abroad in the USA. In fact, the two melodious and heart-warming songs  “Mein Toh Pyar Se” and “Mera Pyar Bhi Tu Hai” are prime examples of beautiful romantic music that effectively captures the organic chemistry between the lead pair.

Nevertheless, a writer will ultimately run out of words while describing Vyjayantimala as an accomplished actress, dancer, former Parliamentarian, and women of substance. Indeed, there is a tremendous level of grace, harmony, and elegance surrounding her that makes analyzing her career trajectory and milestones such a refined learning experience for young women like me.

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Erikka Chowdhury

A scientist who has an immense appreciation for the arts and enjoys creating innovative content designed to engage the audience from all spectrums of life. read more...

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