Monday October 8, 2007
Personalised fiction, anyone?
INDIA DIARY WITH COOMI KAPOOR
Former Bollywood leading lady Vyjayanthimala broke the unwritten convention in the Indian society when she chose to touch upon delicate relationships with her leading men.
WHY do film stars write their life-stories? And if they do, must they embroider truth, or tell plain lies? Why not tell it like it really was?
These and some other questions are being asked following an autobiography written by yesteryears’ leading lady Vyjayanthimala. Her recent book, Bonding ? A Memoir, has scandalised the film industry.
It was neither its quality of writing, nor hitherto unknown secrets that made the headlines. No, surprisingly, it caused a sensation for what it chose to deny pointedly.
The 60-plus former actress who was the reigning Bollywood star through the late 50s to early 70s, pooh-poohed the film lore about her liaison with the late showman, Raj Kapur, with whom she had featured in several super-duper hits, including Sangam.
Wrote Vyjayanthimala: “It was in the 1960s that I was in the throes of controversies, and none of this was my own making. Willy-nilly I just got entangled. I got this offer to work with Raj Kapur. At that point, I didn’t really carry much of an impression of RK, as he was widely addressed. It was like working with any other star.
“As a film-maker he was a force to be reckoned with. He would not stop at anything, whether it was the enormity of the film, publicity or hype? I did not have any affair with him as was widely rumoured then?”
Immediately, the nation’s heartthrob of yesteryears brought forth a sharp riposte from the son of the late thespian himself.
She caused quite a few Bollywood old-timers to rewind to the late 60s when the romantic liaison between two leading film stars was at its zenith.
Angered by her gall to deny the affair, a film journalist commented the other day: “After disrupting Raj Kapur’s family life, Vyjayanthimala now paints herself white as the driven snow. Only the halo is missing from the Mother Teresa impersonation. Personalised fiction, anybody?”
Even this columnist recalls reading a film magazine of that era which had detailed how Raj Kapur’s wife, Krishna (who is still alive), disgusted at his affair with his co-star in Sangam, had moved out of her husband’s house with her sons and daughters and checked into a Mumbai hotel.
For weeks she stayed put in that hotel even as the Bollywood rumour mill went into over-drive, talking about the raging affair between RK and his latest heroine. It was the late singer, Mukesh, “the voice of Raj Kapur”, and a couple of other film folks who intervened to bring about family rapprochement.
Rishi Kapur, RK’s second son and a Bollywood actor, was so incensed at the suggestion in Vyjayanthimala’s autobiography that RK had deliberately spread the rumours about their romance to hype up his film, Sangam, that he felt obliged to publicly castigate her.
Thus far, no member of the Kapur family had publicly referred to the legendary showman’s various romantic dalliances. But feeling outraged by Vyjayanthimala’s indelicate reference to the late actor as manufacturer of false tales, Rishi Kapur confirmed that indeed his mother was so fed up with his father’s intimacy with Vyjayantihmala that she had moved out with her children to a city hotel.
Most ironically, Vyjanthimala’s famous liaison caused the outright break-up of another happily-married couple.
The actor introduced her to his personal physician, Dr Chamlal Bali, whom she eventually married. Dr Bali was already married to Ruby with whom he had three sons. But when Vyjayanthimala fell for him, Dr Bali left his wife and children and married her.
It was rumoured then that the actress had paid a huge alimony on behalf of her husband-to-be to buy Ruby’s silence. Dr Bali died several years ago. Vyjayanthimala has a son from him.
A few years ago, the son acted in a Hindi movie but it bombed at the box office. Since then his film career is at a standstill.
Coming back to the autobiography of the danseuse-turned-actor, it must be acknowledged that she was in her time one of the top stars both in Hindi and Tamil cinema.
Having been born in a Tamil Brahmin family, Vyjayanthimala writes that she had an early training in classical Indian dances. “I was born to dance? I was born when my mother was barely 16 and we grew up more like sisters? My grandmother was a mother to both of us.”
About her alleged affair with another film great of that era, Dilip Kumar, she writes: “Having done successive films with Dilip Kumar, the press began to link us romantically. Was there any truth in it? No, none whatsoever!
“We vibed very well, and professionally admired each other. So during the shooting of Ganga Jumna, grandmother was really annoyed that my image was being tarnished.
“My father went and had a word with Dilip saab, who told him there was nothing to worry about. 'This sort of linking up people always happens and it would die its own death. Don’t get upset. All this talk is meaningless'.
“It was shocking how a person like me was being dragged in unnecessarily, more so since I was overprotected and just not interested in getting involved with any of my co-stars.”
Here again, Vyjayanthimala seems to be rather economical with truth. For, so fed up was Dilip Kumar with her attention that he is said to have insisted on her ouster as heroine opposite him in the classic box-office hit, Ram Aur Shyam. She was replaced by Waheeda Rehman.
Unlike the West where Hollywood actors are known to write bare-all autobiographies in association with ghostwriters, Vyjayanthimala broke the unwritten convention in Indian society in general, and in Bollywood in particular, when she chose to touch upon delicate relationships with her leading men. Silence is the norm for celebrities as far as matters of heart go.
For instance, in the 50s the romantic liaison between Nargis and Raj Kapur was public knowledge. Upon her marriage to actor Sunil Dutt, never once did anyone from the film industry or outside refer to that link.
Nargis was nominated to Parliament in the 60s while her husband became a central minister several years later.
The late couple’s son Sanjay Dutt is a Bollywood hero.