Vyjanthimala At 81: “Cinema Was One Phase In My Life”
Dancing diva the super-iconic Vyjanthimala
Speaking from Chennai with that special glow that makes even cynical Bollwyood divas like Raakhee Gulzar and Hema M
Vyjanthimala retired from films in 1971 .Her last Hindi film was Ganwaar with Rajendra Kuma
“Oh,you know about that?” Vyjanthiji laughs her throaty laughter. “Yes, Kamal was very insistent. He came all the way home to meet me. I am very fond of him. But when he spoke of the role I said, ‘Kamal, you know I gave up acting long ago. Once I make up my mind I don’t go back.So sorry.’ I was sad to turn him down. Rajnikanth is a very dear friend and someone I truly admire . He has asked me many times to do films. I was so happy when at a public gathering Rajni said, ‘Look at this lady. No amount of money can tempt her back to the arclights.’ I somewhere feel people respect you if you stick to your principles.”
Hindi filmmakers have also been keen to see this timeless diva from Nagin, Madhumati, Devdas,
“Yes ,Mr Yash Chopra wanted me for Deewaar.And Manoj Kumar ..
Says Vyjanthiji, “I chose my roles very carefully. Even when I worked with the same filmmaker twice you won’t find any similarity in the characters I played. Look at my work in Bimal Roy’s Devdas and Madh
She speaks fondly of all her heroes. “Dilip Kumar Saab with whom I did some of my best films like Madhumati(which is one of my favourite roles), Ganga Jumna, Devdas,
Among her most memorable songs and dances Vyjanthiji recalls the naughty Buddha mil gaya in Sangam.“When it was conceived I was a little apprehensive. But once I decided to go ahead with it I gave it my best shot. I borrowed the look and the accessories from the cabaret performances I had seen abroad. Though it was a naughty number I can proudly say there not a jot of vulgarity in Buddha mil gaya.”
So is Sangam her favourite film from her own repertoire?
Without a thought the sharp-tongued but polite diva says, “No,I’d say Ganga Jumna is my favourite.The role was a big challenge for me.I had to play a girl from rural Uttar Pradesh and speak in Bhojpuri. Can you imagine, how far away that role took me away from my Tamilian roots?! I spoke the Bhojpuri dialect without a trace of accent, walked talked and behaved like a village girl.No one could tell I was not an Awadhi girl.”
Now Vyjanthiji has moved on to other things. “Acting was one phase in my life. But a very important phase. I gave it my best shot.Then moved on. Politics was another phase.And I enjoyed it. I don’t regret anything I’ve done. Because everything I do is done after great thought.Dancing has always been my first love. That remains unchanged. I am what I am because of my dancing. That apart I am very fond of several outdoor sports. I’ve recently returned to golf. I was a very good golf player. Then I gave it up because of my various other commitments. But now my husband Dr Bali has coaxed me back to golf after nine years.It’s like starting the game all over again from scratch.”
The fiery outspoken actress who once refused a popular award for Best Supporting Actress in Bimal Roy’s Devdas simply because she didn’t see herself as supporting actress, has lost none of her spirit .
“I look forward to every day, every experience. I am the happiest when I am with my husband , son , daughter-in-law and grandchild.Otherwise I am happy dancing. In fact I am now preparing for my big dance performance this winter.You must come.”