The 83-year-old actor talks about the tranformation in film industry and more
Sweta Ranjan | October 27, 2016
Vyjayanthimala Bali was perhaps the first south Indian actor to become a national star. One of the prominent actors of the golden era of Bollywood, she ruled the film industry for almost two decades, the 1950s-60s. Besides acting, the 83-year-old is a renowned Bharatanatyam danseuse and choreographer. Vyjayanthimala took an active interest in politics and won Lok Sabha polls in 1984 on the Congress ticket. Some of her evergreen films are Devdas, Naya Daur, Sangam, Sadhna, Madhumati, Amrapali, Jewel Thief and Nagin. After quitting films, she focused more on promoting dance and music.
My association with films: You don’t act the character. You live and breathe it. Practising Bharatanatyam helped me with expressions. I used to perform for various charitable institutions. In one of the performances a director for AVM productions had come and wanted to launch me. I was 15 then. Girls from good families were not allowed to appear on screen. It was difficult. Some of my family members were against my decision but my grandmother, who had interest in arts and classical music, was supportive. We grew up listening to classical music in our homes. I was born in Chennai and our house was situated right in front of a temple. I could hear the sounds of the bells, chanting and shlokas. So, all that got inside me. Dance and acting followed.
One film close to my heart: Ganga Jamuna. There I had to speak Bhojpuri and play that character which was very interesting.
On transformation in the film industry: Things have changed so much and so fast. They want to copy the west. They should adopt good things from the west like their timing, discipline and the way they conduct themselves but we are copying more of drugs and violence. During our times, there was so much respect, which is lacking today. Actresses were treated like goddesses and princesses. I held my dignity and self-esteem and I would not do anything which I would not like to do. The directors knew what to take out from me. There was no vulgarity or cheapness. Even in a bold number like Buddha Mil Gaya in Sangam nobody could point out a finger and say ‘Oh, that was cheap’.
Actors with whom I was more comfortable: I have worked with all the Kumars. I cherished working with Dilip Kumar and have learnt so much from him. He used to concentrate a lot on his role. When we did Naya Daur he used to practise how to ride a tonga. Rajender Kumar and Dev Anand were equally good.
Actors in today’s times: Actors are just repeating themselves. Same pout, the same expressions they carry in all films. I am not able to see any difference. Earlier film stars were icons. Amongst the few I like is Madhuri Dixit because she is a good dancer and very nimble on her feet; has a good smile and expressions.
Besides dance my interests are: I am an avid golfer. In one of the tournaments in Delhi I had won a big trophy.
Black and white or colour cinema? I am a fan of black and white films. In this medium I find the expressions better.
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