"Gone Too Soon..."
K. L. Saigal (1904 – 1947)
Kundan Lal Saigal, recognized as the greatest singer of the last century, was a musical genius who became a legend in his life time. He brought music to the masses and with his God-gifted voice and unique style gave a totally new dimension to the music of his time. His unforgettable melodies continue to enthrall millions of listeners and have become a part of our heritage.
In 1934, Chandidas earned him fame and stardom. However, the real breakthrough came with the film Devdas, directed by P. C. Barua, in 1935, which created history. Songs of Devdas like 'Baalam Aan Baso More Man Me..' and 'Dukh Ke Din Ab Beetat Nahin..' became very popular. A number of successful movies followed with Saigal in the main lead which were lapped by the audience mainly for Saigal songs.
In 1941 Saigal moved to Bombay to work with Ranjit Movietone, where he did films like Bhakt Surdas and Tansen, both very successful. However, by now Saigal’s dependence on alcohol had started affecting his work and his health. In 1947 Saigal passed away in his hometown when he was just 42. But not before giving us such melodic gems like 'Ae Dil-e-Bekaraar Jhoom..', 'Jab Dil hi Toot Gaya..' from Shah Jahan (1946).
Shyam (1920 – 1951)
Shyam literally ruled the silver screen between 1949 and 1950. He made his acting debut in the Punjabi movie, Gowandhi (1942). The film was a hit. The song Pagri Sambhal Jatta was a rage all over India. He was well appreciated when he appeared in Man ki Jeet (1944), Room No. 9 (1946) and Majboor (1948) and did not have to look back thereafter. Shyam made it big in 1949 with a string of hits including Dillagi (1949), Kaneez (1949) and Patanga (1949). Dillagi, co-starring Suraiya, remains his best known film. The film, a tragic romance, was a huge success at the box office with the song Tu Mera Chand Main Teri Chandni hummed all over the country. As he became a star, Shyam acted in many successful movies including Chandni Raat (1949)), Chhoti Bhabi, Meena Bazaar, Surajmukhi, Nirdosh, Wafa (all 1950)) and Kale Badal (1951). While shooting for the Filmistan swashbuckler, Shabistan co-starring Naseem Banu, Shyam fell off the horse and suffered major head injuries. He succumbed to his wounds in Hospital.
Guru Dutt (1925 – 1964)
Considered to be a man ahead of his time, Guru Dutt was one of the greatest icons of commercial Indian cinema. Although he made less than 50 films during his lifetime, they are believed to be the best to come from Bollywood's Golden Age, known both for their ability to reach out to the common man and for their artistic and lyrical content, and they went on to become trendsetters that have influenced Bollywood ever since. He got his big break when Dev Anand invited him to direct a film in his newly formed company Navketan Films. Dutt made his directorial debut with Baazi (1951), which starred Dev Anand. The film was a success and became a trendsetter for future crime films. On the personal front, Dutt met his wife, playback singer Geeta Roy, during the song-recording sessions of Baazi (1951), and they married 26th May 1953.
Dutt's next releases were Jaal (1952) and Baaz (1953). Dutt made his acting debut in the latter film, which he also directed. But while they were average successes, he finally tasted success with Aar-Paar (1954), another crime thriller, but with a far more polished story and look. Then came Mr. & Mrs. '55 (1955), a frothy romantic comedy focusing on women's' rights; and C.I.D. (1956), yet another crime thriller in which Waheeda Rehman made her debut. His next films, Pyaasa (1957) and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), are regarded as his best work. Pyaasa (1957) was his masterpiece, about a poet trying to achieve success in a hypocritical, uncaring world. It was a box-office hit and is ranked as his greatest film ever.
Although he had sworn off directing after miserable failure of his classic Kagaz Ke Phool, Dutt continued to produce and act in films, notably the period dramas Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1961) and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962). On 10 October 1964, Dutt was found dead in his bed. The cause of death was deemed a combination of alcohol and sleeping pills, although a debate still lingers over whether his death was by accident or a successful suicide attempt.
Geeta Bali (1930 - 1965)
There has rarely been an actress as full of life as Geeta Bali. Geeta Bali's dancing eyes and her animated, expressive face which mirrored her soul were her most outstanding features. Geeta's reputation as an actress rests more on her performances than her roles. Natural, spontaneous and gifted with a spot-on sense of comic timing, Bali became a star in the 1950s. Impressed by her off-screen vivacity, director Kidar Sharma Sharma cast Geeta in his Suhaag Raat (1948). Audiences related to her instantly. Soon, Geeta was inundated with film offers. She accepted most. She won raves even in supporting roles like in the 1949 Suraiya starrer Badi Behan and the Madhubala starrer Dulari. In 1951, she became a major star with Guru Dutt's first hit, Baazi. Geeta proved she could do tragedy (Bawre Nain) and play the lighthearted heroine to comedian Bhagwan in the super successful Albela. She received a Filmfare Nomination as Best Actress for Vachan (1955) and another nomination as Best Supporting Actress for Kavi (1955). One of her memorable movies ever remembered is Anand Math. She married the man she loved -- Shammi Kapoor -- and had two children. When Geeta decided to make a comeback to films with an author-backed role in Rano, and left on an outdoor shoot to Punjab, she contacted the dreaded disease of smallpox. She was rushed back to the best possible treatment in Mumbai but she succumbed to the disease. In the winter of 1965, Geeta was cremated at Banganga, close to the Mumbai temple where she had married Shammi Kapoor.
Madhu Bala (1933 – 1969)
Early in her career, when she was still in her teens, Madhubala was called "the Venus of the screen". It was in 1942 that she entered the film world as a nine year old child artist (Baby Mumtaz) playing the role of daughter to Mumtaz Shanti and Ulhaz, popular actors at the time, in the movie ‘Basant’, which was an instant hit. In ‘Neel Kamal’ in 1947, director Kidar Sharma cast her as the leading lady against Raj Kapoor who was himself a fledgling star at twenty-three. It was Kidar Sharma who changed her name to ‘Madhubala’ (woman of honey). In the two years 1948-49, she acted in thirteen films, most of them in 1949.It was during this time that Madhubala blossomed into a great beauty. The movie that turned her into a real star overnight was Kamal Amrohi’s ‘Mahal’ (1949). She proved herself very versatile and spontaneous in the many diverse roles she did in her films 'Taraana' (1951), 'Amar' (1954), 'Howrah Bridge' (1958) and the rollicking comedy film 'Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi' (1958). Throughout the 1950s, she balanced the ups and downs of a demanding career with the knowledge that she was living on borrowed time -- she had a weak heart. Amazingly, her illness never cast a shadow on her luminous beauty. Ironically, in 1960, at the time of Madhubala's greatest creative achievement -- Mughal-e-Azam -- she was declared not fit enough to toil in the studios anymore. Her creativity was stifled; and her marriage to Kishore Kumar was also troubled. The Venus of Hindi cinema wilted when she was only 36. It may be a small measure of compensation but Madhubala's early death has added immeasurably to her legend. One never saw Madhubala look anything less than gorgeous.
Meena Kumari (1932 - 1972)
Meena Kumari is regarded as one of the most prominent actresses to have appeared on the screens of Hindi Cinema. During a career spanning 30 years from her childhood to her death, she starred in more than ninety films, many of which have achieved classic and cult status today. She gained a reputation for playing grief-stricken and tragic roles, and her performances have been praised and reminisced throughout the years. Meena Kumari is often cited by media and literary sources as "The Tragedy Queen", for her frequent portrayal of sorrowful and dramatic roles in her films.
Meena Kumari gained fame with her role as a heroine in Vijay Bhatt's Baiju Bawra (1952). She became the first actress to win the Filmfare Best Actress Award in 1953 for her performance. Meena Kumari was highly praised for playing the roles of a suffering woman in Parineeta (1953), Daera (1953), Ek Hi Raasta (1956), Sharda (1957), and Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi (1960). Though she cultivated the image of a tragedienne, she also performed commendably in a few light-hearted movies like Azaad (1955), Miss Mary (1957), Shararat (1959), and Kohinoor (1960).
One of her best-known roles was in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962), which is regarded as one of the best performances of Hindi Cinema. In 1962, she made history by getting all the three nominations for Filmfare Best Actress Award, for her roles in Aarti, Main Chup Rahungi, and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. She won the award for Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. For four more years, she performed successfully in Dil Ek Mandir (1963), Kaajal (1965), and Phool Aur Patthar (1966), all of which earned her Filmfare nominations, with Kaajal garnering her a fourth and last win of the Best Actress award.
Her final triumph was the epic love story Pakeezah. Despite her rapidly deteriorating health, she gave the finishing touches to her performance. Initially, after its release in February 1972, Pakeezah opened to a lukewarm response from the public; however, after Meena Kumari's death less than two months later, people flocked to see it, making it a major box-office success. The film has since gained a cult and classic status. She posthumously received her twelfth and last Filmfare nomination. Besides being a top-notch actress, she was a talented poetess, and recorded a disc of her Urdu poems, 'I write, I recite' with music by Khayyam.
Sanjeev Kumar (1937 - 1985)
One of the most endearing actors of Hindi cinema, Sanjeev Kumar was well loved whether he played the hero, a comedian or a grey-haired character actor. He carved for himself an enviable reputation as a thespian, starting with supporting roles in the Dilip Kumar starrer, Sunghursh and the Dharmendra murder mystery, Shikar. His performance in Anokhi Raat, Ashirwaad and Satyakaam was like a revelation. No one could imagine that this newcomer would one day become the most respected of actors of the Hindi cinema. Sanjeev Kumar’s real break into big-time cinema came in 1968 when he worked in films directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. In 1968, the then struggling Sanjeev made his presence felt by his natural and down-to-earth performance in Ashirwaad. In Sangharsh he matched strides with the thespian Dilip Kumar and proved how good he was as an artist. He walked away with the best supporting actor award. He played the role of a maniac in Khilona that took him to the pinnacle of glory and grandeur. After Khilona he never looked back. He never fit into the idiom of a conventional hero as was proved when he successfully played Jaya’s lover in Anamika and Naukar within months of playing her father in Parichay and then went on to play the role of her father-in-law in Sholay.
Sanjeev Kumar was an actor for all seasons. Be it comedy or tragedy, he could do it effortlessly. It is amazing how he could skilfully move from a flirtatious husband in Pati Patni Aur Woh to the tearful lover in Anamika. When it comes to comedy, one can only think of Sanjeev Kumar. No other actor could excel at comedy like him. He was so hilarious in Angoor. Naya Din Nayi Raat was Sanjeev Kumar’s magnum opus. He performed nine different roles and assayed all of them deftly. This film earned him a permanent place in the Hall of Fame.
From 1960 to 1985, he acted in 153 films. He was given the coveted National Award for his brilliant performance in Dastak and Koshish. Some of the other films in which Sanjeev Kumar left an indelible impression of his histrionics are Seeta Aur Geeta, Biwi O Biwi, Anhonee, Harjayee, Yehi hai Zindagi, Zindagi, Imandaar, Man Mandir Qatal, Love & God, Sawal, Ladies Tailor, Manoranjan, Vidhaata, Jani Dushman, Ram Tere Kitne Naam, Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Namkeen,..
Sanjeev Kumar was barely 46 when he died on November 6, 1985.
Smita Patil (1955 - 1986)
Regarded among the finest stage and film actresses of her times, Patil appeared in over 75 Hindi and Marathi films in a career that spanned just over a decade. During her career, she received two National Film Awards and a Filmfare Award. She was the recipient of the Padma Shri, India's fourth-highest civilian honour in 1985. Perhaps the word that describes Smita best is 'intense'. Her dusky, aboriginal beauty helped her tremendously as an actress; but finally it was her ability to emotionally penetrate her characters that marked Smita as one of the best actresses Hindi cinema has ever known.
Drawn to the visual arts, Smita made her debut in Shyam Benegal's childrens' film, Charandas Chor in 1974. Fortunately for Smita, she entered films at a time when there was a struggle brewing against the shackles of commercial cinema. And Smita found she fitted right into the new idiom espoused by a select few. After Shyam Benegal had tested her with a supporting role in Nishant (1975), he cast her in the lead in Manthan where Smita seemed to merge right into her character of a rustic woman. But her tour de force came with Benegal's next film, Bhumika (1977), in which she portrayed a troubled actress. She won the National Award and the film established the arrival of a formidable talent. She became one of the leading actresses of parallel cinema, a New Wave movement in India cinema, though she also appeared in several mainstream movies throughout her career. Her performances were often acclaimed, and her most notable roles include Manthan (1977), Bhumika (1977), Aakrosh (1980), Chakra (1981), Chidambaram (1985) and Mirch Masala (1985).
In time Smita was accepted by commercial filmmakers and from Raj Khosla and Ramesh Sippy to B.R. Chopra, they all agreed that she was "excellent." Smita was soon flooded with films. Namak Halal and Shakti (both 1982) were opposite Amitabh Bachchan (she was part of the original cast of Silsila too) and these films immediately put Smita in the A-list. Bollywood also admired her grit -- for taking part in a film industry morcha and walking in the sun when she was eight months pregnant. But all too soon, tragedy struck this actress' life. The industry was hosting a grand event called Hope 86 in December, 1986; the fateful night became a vigil for some when news filtered in that Smita was fighting for her life in a hospital. Smita passed away that night, but her work continues to live on.
Vinod Mehra (1945 - 1990)
Vinod Mehra started out as a child actor in a few films in the late 1950s and early 1960s before starting his adult film career in 197, acting in over 100 films in the 1970s through to the 1990s. Mehra made his debut in the 1958 film Raagni as a child artist playing the younger version of the character played by Kishore Kumar. After playing a few more minor roles as a child, he started his film career as an adult in 1971 with Ek Thi Rita, a smash hit based on the English play, 'A Girl Called Rita', along with Tanuja. This was followed by the film "Parday Ke Peechhay" opposite debutant Yogeeta Bali followed by Elaan (with Rekha), Amar Prem (1972) and Lal Patthar, though it was only Shakti Samanta's Anuraag (1972) with Maushmi Chatterjee, which established him as an actor. He went on to appear in over 100 films in his career spanning over two decades. He played the lead role in some of his earlier films but often acted in many multi-starrers as the secondary lead. Some of his prominent films were Nagin, Jaani Dushman and Khud-Daar. He received Filmfare Nominations as Best Supporting Actor for Anurodh (1977), Amardeep (1979), and Bemisal (1982).
He turned producer and director with the film Gurudev in the late 1980s, with Sridevi, Rishi Kapoor and Anil Kapoor in the lead. He died of a heart attack before completion of the film at the age of 45 in October 1990. The film was released in 1993 after director Raj Sippy completed the film.
Divya Bharti (1974 - 1993)
Divya Bharti started her career in 1990 with Telugu films making her debut in Bobbili Raja that became a colossal hit. She had captured the South by storm, and she was a goddess there. After several other hits in the South, she entered Hindi films with 'Vishwatma' in 1992 as her debut film, where she earned accolades for performing the song Saat Samundar Paar. Then Pehlaj Nihlani's Shola Aur Shabnam came along. The film was a box office hit and Divya was riding high again. Four Months later, Raj Kanwar's love story Deewana became the biggest hit of 1992, where she held her own against veteran Rishi Kapoor and debutant Shahrukh Khan. With the super success of Deewana, Divya got rid of her promising newcomer status and entered the A-list. Her performance in Deewana was highly appreciated. Around that time, Divya's other films Balwaan with another debutant Sunil Shetty and Jaan Se Pyaara with Govinda released and did well at the box office. By the end of the year, Hema Malini's Dil Aashna Hai released, in which Divya played a bar dancer, who searches for her biological mother. Although the film was a box-office failure, her performance in the film was much appreciated by critics.
On 20 May 1992, Divya got married to Sajid Nadiawala. Around midnight of 5 April 1993, Divya fell to her death from her husband's 5-storey Versova apartment building, Tulsi 2 in Mumbai. There were numerous speculations by the media regarding Divya's sudden demise, including the possibility of accidental death, suicide and even murder. The investigation into the circumstances of Divya Bharti's death was closed in 1998 without any definite verdict.
Obituaries rank as some of the highest read articles published by newspapers and news sources around the world. It might come as a surprise to some, but the obituaries of famous people often are written in advance, so when their soul departs, the news can deploy within seconds of their departure. But some celebrities, like the stars listed above, left so suddenly that the media was taken by surprise and unprepared with their obituaries. Their departure is so truly described by Michael Jackson - “Born to amuse, to inspire, to delight; here one day, gone one night” - in his soulful and so true to his own life song, “Gone Too Soon...”