Bollywood's Behind-the-Scene Stories
Sitara Devi – returns to her first love, Kathak!
Sitara Devi is an eminent Indian dancer of the classical Kathak style of dancing. When she was in her teens, Rabindranath Tagore, after watching a performance by her described her as Nritya Samragini, meaning, the empress of dance. The epithet continues, and she is still described as the Kathak queen. She has given performances in several parts of India, and in several other countries, including at the Royal Albert Hall, London; and the Carnegie Hall, New York. But quite a contradictory chapter in her life came to light that recorded her ravenous sexual exploits with her leading men in Bollywood. She came to marry one of her heroes Al Nazir and for a few years, their sizzling bedtime chemistry kept the relationship steady. And guess who was secretly privy to some of these vigorous love sessions–none other than Nazir's nephew, K Asif, recognized for his masterpiece Mughal-e-Azam. He not only went on to marry Sitara Devi but also used her dancing skills in some of his films. However, her married life with Asif was not smooth, and she walked out of the wedlock and married Pratap Barot. Even this marriage failed and left her to live with her first love, Kathak. Interestingly, she refused to accept the Padma Bhushan award, declaring, "it is an insult, not an honor. Is this government not aware of my contribution to Kathak? I will not accept any award less than Bharat Ratna."
Suraiya – enough of snake bite!
Why Suraiya, the most popular singing star of 40s and early 50s, refused to work with Dilip Kumar, the all-time biggest star of Bollywood? Was it because of Dev Anand, like Nargis too walked out of some films starring Dilip Kumar because of Raj Kapoor? Or was it because Dilip Kumar was known for his rude behavior? He said to Nadira that she was the most despicable creature he ever met on the sets of Aan, and was she afraid he might not make a similar comment about her? No, none of these was the reason. Actually, her refusal was entirely for a different reason and very valid too. It happened when Suraiya was passing through a bad phase of her career facing back to back failures. When any producer went to Suraiya's house even on a social visit, her granny would beg him to give Suraiya too a 'Silver Jubilee'. During those days Dilip Kumar and K. Asif were famous for their friendship. Dilip Kumar had already worked with K. Asif in Hulchul. Dilip asked Asif to consider casting Suraiya with him next time. Accordingly, Asif announced his next film titled Janwar with Dilip Kumar and Suraiya in the lead. The shooting started with a scene in which a snake bites on Suraiya's leg and Dilip Kumar tries to suck the venom with his mouth. The scene kept on being rehearsed for four days and still Asif, the director, did not OK it. Suraiya then suspected something fishy going on in Dilip licking her leg for all these days in the garb of shooting that scene. She mentioned this to her granny who was infamous for being overprotective of Suraiya. What followed was the obvious. Next day when the same scene was being rehearsed, Suraiya pulled away her leg and walked out of the film. K. Asif not only cancelled the shooting but shelved the film too. Dilip Kumar and Suraiya, the two big stars of the era, never appeared together in any film thereafter.
Shobhana Samarth – plane load of 'love you' notes for the screen goddess!
legendary beauty, actress of yesteryear, mother of Nutan and Tanuja, grandmother of Kajol and Mohnish Behl, she was at the head of a family that produced filmstars for three generations. In her heyday, Shobhana was often referred to as a beauty par excellence. When she starred as Sita in Vijay Bhatt's famous classic, Ram Rajya (1943), along with Prem Adip as Ram, 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 to worship and pray. Undoubtedly, they would have been flooded with offers to work together in many more movies, especially mythological, 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. It was one of the most tempestuous relationships ever. Although a thorough gentleman, he enjoyed gambling, races and alcohol, which resulted in financial strains and frequent fights between the couple. Quoting Samrath: “We were forever fighting -- out of 365 days, we would fight 360 days. He reacted by drinking -- he had to drink because we had had a fight and he had to drink because we were happy. When I decided to quit Bombay and live in Lonavala, he objected. I went anyway. He had a flying license and he hired a plane and flew over my cottage, throwing stones with letters tied to them saying 'I love you.”
Sadhona Bose – the Court Dancer seen dancing on streets of Kolkatta!
Sadhona Bose, apart from being the legendary dancer, an ace choreographer and superb actress, was also an accomplished singer. Sadhona married Madhu Bose, film maker working in Bengal, at a young age, and joined the Calcutta Art Players, a theatrical company owned by husband Modhu Bose and took part as heroine in the plays produced by the unit, apart from acting in his films. Madhu and Sadhona was the golden pair of the Bengali Film Industry. However, her married life was not happy and she moved to Mumbai, the mecca of Hindi movies. Here she starred in major films like Raj Nartaki (Court Dancer – English version), Shankar Parvati, Vishkanya, Paigham and others and firmly established herself as a heroine in her own right without the backing of husband Modhu Bose. In fact they had fallen quite apart in the forties when she was instantly attracted towards Surendra, the tall, handsome, highly accomplished super singing star of the era and her co-star in Paigam and Vishkanya. They continuously worked together for nearly two years as lovers in back to back shooting schedule of the two movies. Their on screen chemistry was highly applauded, apart from the duets sung by them for both the films becoming quite popular. This made them the perfect and the most popular movie pair of the period. It was, therefore, not surprising that they became close friends and continued to see each other even after the movies were completed and released. Sadhona started to feel deeply in love with Surendra, the most eligible bachelor then, and was ready to spend the rest of her life with him. But unfortunately for her, he was not ready for this union. In the course of his exclusive interview, the star confided to a film critic that although he admired many of his co-stars, as far as marriage was concerned, he had made up his mind to marry a woman who must be from outside of the glamor world of films, and who as an outright traditional housewife, should be able to totally devote herself to their home and the children, when the time came. True to his word, he had an arranged marriage with a girl from the non-glamor world of Lahore in 1945. The news of his marriage was too shocking for Sadhona and she started living much too abandoned a life, heavily engaged in drinks. She passed into oblivion slowly. Even in retired life she could not part with the bottle and without any income worth the name she found herself in the most difficult conditions financially. She lost her husband in 1969 and had no money to sustain herself and thereafter came the greatest tragic period of her life when she had to resort to begging in the streets, in and around Park Street of Calcutta. Just before her death she got appointed as dance trainer in Calcutta's prestigious Star Theatre, and once again her name featured in the newspapers. However, the end had come very near and she passed away in September,1973. A very tragic and unfortunate way indeed for an all India star who at a time had captured the heart and imagination of millions.
Meena Kumari - the poetess par excellence!
Meena Kumari can be considered as the greatest actress of Bollywood during the golden age. There was something mystical about the legendary Meena Kumari. It's probably those eloquent eyes and oomphy body language. But ultimately, the fact is that she was extremely attractive and seemed to bring grace to whatever films she did. She had portrayed images and characters showing complexity of the mind of the Indian women and the social ostentations that they had faced during different periods of time. Not only she was the Queen of Tragedy in reel life but was so also in real life. The dominant strain in Meena Kumari’s life was love, or rather the impossibility of finding love. And it would be true to say that she looked and searched, wept and cried in its pursuit. "In fact,” she said,” love is my biggest weakness-and greatest strength too. I am in love with love. I am craving for love. I have been craving for it since my childhood.” We all know she was unsuccessful. Though not amongst the famous poets, she was the poetess par excellence, who translated her life into verse. Her verses were entirely in character with her life:
“aagaaz to hotaa hai anjaam nahiin hotaa
jab merii kahaanii men vo naam nahiin hotaa
jab zulf kii kaalik men ghul jaaye koii rahii
badanaam sahii lekin gumanaam nahiin hotaa
hans hans ke javaan dil ke ham kyon na chune tukare
har shakhs kii qismat men inaam nahiin hotaa
din duube hai yaa duubii baaraat liye kishtii
saahil pe magar koii koharaam nahiin hotaa “
Sensitive and cheerful Meena Kumari fell in love after she met Kamal Amrohi on the sets of a film and she was head over heels for him as she herself has written about Kamal Amrohi-
“Dil saa jab saathi paya
Bechaini bhi woh saath le aaya.”
Her marriage with Kamal Amrohi had turned sour and resulted into separation and divorce in 1964. This event shaped her personal life also. The once very happy Meena Kumari turned into the epitome of tragedy in a short time when she took refuge in alcohol (and poetry). She herself has expressed her sorrows and miseries in many places and most importantly in her poetry which is the best reflection of her feelings. The same person who wrote beautiful poetry about Kamal Amrohi said-
“Tum kya karoge sunkar mujhse meri kahani,
Belutf zindagi ke kisse hain pheeke pheeke!”
And at the time of divorce she had said-
“Talaak to de rahe ho
Nazre Kahar ke saath
Jawani bhi meri lauta do
Mehar ke saath”
Life was never the same again and she was probably the saddest person as she could not stabilize later on in her life. It is known that Meena Kumari liked tragedy and wanted to lose herself into it, which she did so often. She could cry at any moment without any aids. We never know but probably she enjoyed it and wanted to be just tragic, enjoying every moment of it and finally turned her own life into a tragic story!
It seems like celebrity news is everywhere these days, from tabloids to mainstream media to reality news shows, but it exists because we love to hear about what they do and why they do it. Sometimes the things they did were very quirky, amusing and downright shocking.The internet is full of stories about Bollywood stars; you may find these in leading websites such as, Wikipedia, internet movie database,...These stories about our acting "nobility" are quite down to earth. Some (actually many) are extremely funny, others rather whimsical and a few sort of down right sad. Being a great fan of Bollywood films and filmstars, I am often enthralled with all the accounts of some of the celebrities we have come to know and love as legends, but most importantly, what we come to realize is that they were just people trying to live their lives as only they could. Depending on readers' response, I would love to share some more anecdotes in Bollywood's behind-the-scene stories.