Bollywood's magical movie pairs
Ashok Kumar-Devika Rani: They, perhaps, made the earliest most popular pair of Hindi cinema. Jeevan Nayya (1936) was their first film together but it was Achhut Kanya (1936), which capitulated the two into big time fame. This was followed by Janmabhoomi (1936), Izzat (1937), Savitri (1937) and Anjaan (1941). There is an amusing story to their starring together for their first film. As a young assistant to Bengali filmmaker Himanshu Rai, Ashok Kumar got his start in acting by accident when he volunteered to substitute for the lead actor of Jeevan Nayya, who fell ill before production was to start. He was terrified to act in the first place opposite lead actress Devika Rani ( also her boss as founder of Bombay Talkies), known as the dragon lady for her smoking, drinking, cursing and hot temper. However, on release of the film they were declared pair of the decade and continued to work in more films, all hits of the time. Ashok Kumar continued to achieve great heights in his career, while Devika Rani, with her outstanding portrayals, classic outlook and distinct style of acting, was declared the First Lady of Indian cinema. Ashok Kumar, the 'ever green hero' as he was called, had great innings in the 40s, pairing with Leela Chitnis in Bombay Talkies films (Kangan, Azaad, Bandhan, Jhoola etc.) and in the 50s with Nirupa Roy in over 30 movies (Aabroo, Aanchal, Aap Beeti, Anurodh, Bhai Bhai, Chand Aur Sooraj, Dharamputra, Grihasti, Gumrah etc.).
Prem Adib- Shobhana Samarth: Starred as Ram and Sita in Vijay Bhatt's famous classic, Ram Rajya (1943), the pair's performance was so evocative that they became the eternal Ram and Sita in the audience's minds. In fact, people felt they were no actors enacting the Ramayana characters, but real Ram and Sita had incarnated to act in the movie. They were literally worshipped wherever they went together to promote the film, which was a huge hit. People even had their posters and pictures installed in their homes. Undoubtedly, they would have been flooded with offers to work together in many more movies, especially mythologicals, but it did not happen. Shobhana Samarth, the most unconventional actress of her time, was not available as she got deeply involved in relationship with her co-star of many films and the famous actor, Motilal. Incidentally, Shobhana Samarth was the mother of Bollywood's leading ladies, Nutan and Tanuja, and grand mother of Kajol, Tanisha and Mahnish Behl.
K. L. Saigal - Khurshid: He was the Tansen and she was his Tani, together they created wonders with their magic of melodies. He made the audiences give him standing ovation for 'Diya jalao' and she drenched them with the ultra delight of 'Barso re'. With their most powerful portrayal of India's greatest musician and his beloved, Saigal and Khurshid immortalized the romance of Tansen and Tani in the palace of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, and in turn made a name for themselves as the greatest singing duo of Hindi cinema. Earlier too, they had proved as the 'made for each other' pair in Bhakt Surdas, the big musical hit on the life of the blind poet. Saigal's soul-stirring rendering of the poet's 'Madhukar Shyam Hamare Chor' could have been matched only in the melodious voice of Khurshid 'Panchi Bawra Chand Se Preet Lagaye'. It is a pity that the best singing pair ever could not be repeated, with Saigal passing away in 1947 and Khurshid migrating to Pakistan the same year.
Surendra - Noorjehan: It was the era of singing stars. Surendra, brought by Mehboob in the Thirtees as Bombay's counter- strategy to Calcutta's reigning singer Saigal, was already the most sought after singing star of Bollywood. Noorjehan, the queen of melody, had cast a spell in the country with her melodious voice and hit songs. What more was needed to make a big musical hit than to bring the two together. The ace director Mehboob Khan and the mastreo Naushad Ali did exactly the same to produce one of the greatest musicals of all times, Anmol Ghadi (1946), with Surendra and Noorjehan as the lead pair. The two singing stars had already given a huge hit, Lal Haveli (1944), and though not a great musical, the film proved their potential as a popular pair. Anmol Ghadi put them on the pedestal of great acheivers, the most popular singing pair. The film was unique for the fact that the lovers did not come face to face till towards the end, and yet were able to express their deep emotions of love throughout with their melodious voice, especially, singing from long distance the all time greatest duet, 'Awaz De Kahan Hei'. Like Saigal and Khurshid, the singing combo of Surendra and Noorjehan also could not continue, with Noorjehan opting for Pakistan.
Trilok Kapoor - Nirupa Roy: The pair became famous playing Shiv and Parvati in mythologicals. The super hit Har Har Mahadev (1950) made them immensely popular. So over powering was their pious screen image of Shiv Parvati that people would fall on their feet and pray for their blessings. After the astounding success of the film, mythologicals became the formula for movies with Trilok Kapoor playing Shiv to Nirupa Roy's Parvati in most of the movies. They made the most famous pair of mythologicals of early 50s, working together in 18 films, some of them great hits. The onscreen Shiv Parvati pair was broken when Nirupa Roy moved on to social movies after her highly acclaimed performance in Bimal Roy's classic Do Bigha Zamin.
Raj Kapoor - Nargis: He was the greatest showman known to Indian films, she was the greatest of all times, together they made a pair that had chemistry hitherto unseen on Indian screen. Whenever they came together on screen, sparks flew. Their chemistry was electrifying. The passion that each had for the other poured out on the screen as they performed in several films, many of them super hits (Aag, Andaz, Barsaat, Awaara, Anhonee Shree 420, Chori Chori etc). The raw passion between them in Barsaat drove audiences wild. The song 'Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua' from Shree 420 (1955) with Nargis and Raj Kapoor under the umbrella in heavy rain was romance at its heights. The most popular romantic team in history of Bollywood played it cool for nearly eight years before they split up - Nargis leaving him to marry Sunil Dutt. Chori Chori (1956), a breezy entertainer, being their last film together, although she appeared for old time's sake in the last scene of Raj Kapoor's classic Jagte Raho.
Dev Anand - Suraiya: The pair became famous for their off-screen romance rather than on-screen. Suraiya met Dev Anand during the shooting of Vidya. She was then an established singing star and he, a raw new comer, but she found him 'cultured and handsome'. It was during the shooting of a song their boat capsized and Dev Anand saved Suraiya from drowning. Suraiya fell in love with her reel and real life hero. Their films together may not have been great hits except Vidya (1948), Jeet (1949) and Afsar (1949), but they had no regrets as their love flourished and their love story was the talk of the nation. The lore has it that Dev Anad proposed to her at the Taj Mahal, putting a diamond ring to her finger. But hell broke loose at her home as her grandmother discovered the ring and threw it into the sea. Her grandmother and uncle threatened to get Dev Anand arrested or killed, and brainwashed Suraiya to believe that if she married Dev Anand, Hindu Muslim riots would breakout. Fearing for Dev's safety, she took the decision to drop out from the relationship. The episode sealed their fate to work together again.
Dilip Kumar - Madhubala: She was the icon of Hindi films and he the king of tragedies. When the two starred together for the first time in Tarana (1951), their pairing on and off screen went on to become the most legendary love affair of Indian cinema. It was an affair of melodramatic proportions, worthy of the best of Bollywood scripts. Their stormy relationship lasted about eight years, though the pair continued to pine for each other even after their tragic break-up in 1957, involving a courtroom drama in which Dilip Kumar, standing in the witness box, declared, "I love this woman and shall love her till my dying day." K. Asif's epic, Moghal-E-Azam (1960), their last movie together, took incredible 10 years to complete from the year 1950 to 1960. By the end of the filming, the pair had already gone through their break-up, as if their real life romance was imitating their reel life tragedy. The only difference being the reversal of role of the father - in real life drama it was Madhubala's father, who ruled her every move with an iron hand, that did not let the lovers unite at the end. Inspite of all the emotional upheavel in the pair's lives, their acting excellence made Mughal-E-Azam an all time unsurpassed epic of love story.
Guru Dutt - Wahida Rehman: He was sensitive, poetic, magical and above all a genius. She was the embodiment of classic beauty with a truly transcedental appeal. Guru Dutt had discovered Waheeda Rehman and had made her his muse as they starred in a string of movies - Pyaasa (1957), Kagaz Ke Phool (1959), Kala Bazar (1960), Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960) and Sahib Biwi Ghulam (1962). The onscreen lovers were involved in one of Bollywood's great real life love tragedies. Dutt was married and the affair faltered, ending with Waheeda Rehman moving on to establish her own identity outside his world. This hurt Dutt and he lamented, as in Pyaasa, the inability of a prosecuting world to understand the purity of soul. In the Sahir Ludhianvi gem, 'Yeh dunia agar mil bhi jaye to kya hei', Dutt felt as if at a crucification. An air of loss and mystery continues to shroud Guru Dutt's premature death in 1964 from an overdose of sleeping pills.
Dharmendra - Hema Malini: He is known as 'Garam Dharam' and she as 'Dream Girl', together they were the most sought after pair of Hindi films in the 70s, teamed in 40 films, at least half of them hits. Working as the hit pair of Shole (1975), the biggest Bollywood blockbuster ever, they became close friends, then lovers and eventually married couple in 1980. During their days of romance, onscreen and off-sets, the gossip columns of film magazines were full of juicy stories how Dharmendra did not let any other hero come near Hema outside the studio walls and he even agressively prevented Hema's other two admirers, Jeetendra and Sanjeev Kumar, from proposing to her. All these rumours were laid to rest recently by Hema herself when she admitted on Karan Johar's popular TV show, 'Coffee with Karan', that it was she who was determined to marry Dharmendra and not the vis-a-versa:
"When did you first feel that Dharamji is the man you would want to spend your life with?" shots Karan as he probes Hema Malini to spill the beans about her love story with Dharmendra.
Hema admits that she fell for Dharmendra's looks when she first set her eyes on him, "He was the most handsome man I had ever seen. Thats when I said to myself that I would want to be with a man like him", said an embarraced Hema.
Amitabh Bachchan - Jaya Bachchan (Bhaduri): He is the super star of the millennium (BBC onlines poll) and icon of the Indian cinema, and she is the 'woman' behind the successful 'man'. He was still a struggling insecure newcomer in Bollywood carrying the burden of many flops, and she an instant hit as the filmstar-crazy teen tornado of Guddi (1971). On the sets of Ek Nazar (1972) the couple realized that they were in love with each other. Their real life situation was very much similar to their roles in Hrishikesh Mukherji's Abhiman (1973). Jaya had drawn rave reviews for her performance as the talented singer-wife of an insecure crooner and won the Filmfare award. The same year saw the release of Zanjeer, whose immense success changed their lives forever. Playing the angry young man of Zanjeer transformed Amitabh into a mega star. There was no 'Abhiman' (false pride) between them now, both scaling the heights of stardom together. They thought they could now afford to get married and on June 2, 1973, Amitabh, son of the famous Hindi poet Harivansh Bachchan brought home as bride, Jaya, daughter of the noted author-journalist Taroon Kumar. They became the most revered and admired Bollywood couple.
On other occasions stars have fallen in love with each other while working together - Rishi Kapoor/Neetu Singh, Ajay Devgun/Kajol, John Abraham/Bipash Basu, but this did not make them popular pairs at the the box-office. Producers, rushing to cast real-life lovers in their movies, had to pay a heavy price. As part of the pre-release promotion of Kyun! Ho Gaya Na and Fida, both the movies focussed on the fact that two celebrity couples, Vivek Oberoi - Aishwarya Rai and Shahid Kapoor - Kareena Kapoor would be seen together for the first time, but the films failed, as the stars could not translate their real life love on screen chemistry. On the ther hand there are stars who showed great onscreen chemistry like Rishi Kapoor- Dimple Kapadia in Bobby, Rajesh Khanna-Sharmila Kapoor in Aradhna and many other movies, Shahrukh Khan-Kajol in all their films, but still they are not considered as great couples who can draw audiences just being together in a movie. In this era of multi-star movies, pairs like Ashok Kumar-Devika Rani. Raj Kapoor-Nargis, Dilip Kumar-Madhubala, who created magic on screen, are history, at least till a pair of their stature emerges from the new breed of Bollywood stars.