“Aaj aisi acting kee ki Meena Kumari Ki chhuttii kar dee.”- her charming boast in Guddi won hearts of audiences and Jaya Bhaduri had arrived in Hindi cinema in style. This tiny young girl had both, endearing innocence and engulfing intensity. Her looks were neither stunning, nor sensuous- just sunny and homely. She had that typical girl next-door kind of appeal and with her expressive voice and even more expressive eyes, she made many a role memorable and in the process, became one of the top heroines of early seventies. The innocent young bride in Uphaar and Piya Ka Ghar; the teenage romantic in Jawani Deewani, the mysterious miss in Anamika, the courageous deaf-mute in Koshish, the rebellious granddaughter in Parichay, the chirpy botany student in Chupke Chupke and the silent young widow in Sholay– Jaya showed tremendous versatility and an ability to get under the skin of character.
Her on-screen- off screen romance with Amitabh Bachchan culminated into a famously, hastily arranged marriage in 1973. During Amitabh’s prolonged, lean waiting period as an actor, it was Jaya, who supported him by working with him in forgettable films like Ek Nazar and Bansi-Birju. Even in Zanjeer- Bachchan’s first star vehicle, she played a strong role. Marital responsibilities then put a lid on her acting but she made a brief, none-too-impressive comeback in Yash Chopra’s Silsila- again mostly to provide a helping hand to the then sagging superstar status of her husband. Late nineties saw her middle-aged second innings with maternal roles in Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, Fizaa and Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Ghum. Today she is better known as Jaya Bachchan- the better half of the most famous actor in history of Indian cinema, her own entity almost forgotten by most. But judging by various public comments by her hubby and children, it is quite clear that it is Jaya who rules the roost at home!
Here are three of her most memorable films.
Guddi – Jaya’s debut- film showed her as a star-struck teenage student who is infatuated with actor Dharmendra- (The star playing ‘himself’!)- and how the star colludes with her family to show her the none-too-bright, none-too-real side of show business to break her illusions. Hrishikesh Mukherji’s wonderful direction, Vasant Desai’s superb music (Bole Re Papihara) and Jaya’s endearing performance made this film into a classic.
Abhimaan is a poignant story of a singer couple (Amitabh and Jaya), torn apart by husband’s inferiority complex as he cannot cope up with the success of his more talented wife. Jaya’s terrific role of a simple, loving wife turning into an emotional wreck won her the Film Fare best actress award. S.D.Burman’s melodious music (Tere Mere Milan Ki Yeh Raina) was another touch of class.
In Mili, Jaya plays a bubbly, ever-smiling, ever-helpful girl, who even manages to change a seething, brooding loner (Amitabh) into a romantic. The scenario changes drastically as she is diagnosed with cancer. Jaya essayed this title role with a rare combination of energy and maturity.