At one point in her career(circa 1973-75) Jaya Bhaduri was a bigger star than Amitabh Bachchan.Her much-lauded performances in the obvious films Abhimaan, Uphaar, KoraKagaz, etc need no recommendation. But what about the Jaya Bhaduri master-performances which you have probably missed while no one was watching?
1. Bawarchi(1971): Among all the films that she did with her favourite HrishiKaku(Mukherjee) Bawarchi is the least celebrated ,probably because Jaya had a relatively briefer role in this one than in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Abhimaan and Mili. But as the quiet underdog of a large squabbling joint family Jaya spoke more through her eyes than her other voluble roles(Guddi , Uphaar) in 1970-71 allowed her to. Bawarchi was also the only film that brought the two superstars of the early 70s Rajesh Khanna and Jaya Bhaduri together. But only because they couldn’t say no to Hrishida, and only because they were not paired opposite one another. It is common knowledge in the film industry that the mighty Khanna didn’t like working with heroines who didn’t pander to his ego.
2. Piya Ka Ghar (1972): In 1971-72 when Jaya was the toast of the nation for her performances in Guddi,Uphaar, Parichay and Koshish she featured in two films with Anil Dhawan. Among the two Annadata was touching in its portrayal of humamcompassion.Basu Chatterjee’s Piya Ka Ghar was splendidly plebeian. In one of her quietest performances, Jaya played the newly married wife brought to joint family in a chawl craving for some privacy with her husband. Watch her attempts at trying to get her husband’s attention in a room full of racucous relatives.
3. Anamika(1973): In the year of Abhimaan and Zanjeer, came Anamika where Jayastarred as a woman apparently suffering from amnesia whom Sanjeev Kumar picks up on the road and brings home, with moving and hilarious consequences Remembered to this day for one of Lata Mangeshkar most popular songs Baahon mein chale aao, there was a lot more going for the film, mainly the brilliant chemistry between the lead pair. See them together in this film and you know why Jaya’s favourite co-star was her ‘Haribhai’ the much-missed Sanjeev Kumar.
4. Desh(2002): One of Jaya’s personal favourite as she got to play her son’s mother on screen. This elegiac Bangla film directed by Raja Sen(not the celebrated film critic) is about a woman having to choose between joining her son in the US and helping a young woman fight a corrupt politician in Kolkata. Jaya’s inner strengths as a human being were never more visible on screen. Abhishek made an appearance at the end of the film as her son.
5. Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa(1998): Govind Nihalani persuaded Jaya Bachchan out of retirement to play a powerful matriarch with a wimpy husband(Anupam Kher) whose only son (played brilliantly Joy Sengupta) dies suddenly. The devastated mother revisits her son’s life after his death to discover some dark uncomfortable truths about him. This is a nerve-wracking, life-changing film that is meant to change how we look at our lives vis-à-vis those closest to us. Jaya admits this was the toughest most challenging role of her career, and the most rewarding. Try to find it on one of the OTT platforms. It must be somewhere out there.