Born in Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore’s family, debuting through genius director Satyajit Ray’s Bengali film Apur Sansar and marrying the then Indian cricket captain and a Royal -Nawab of Pataudi, Sharmila Tagore had just the right pedigree and simply oozed class- in real life, as well as on screen.
Not only was she a classic beauty with bewitching eyes but also a superb actress, who could be headstrong at times. Shakti Samanta – the director who gave her the first break, reminisced how he had to persuade her to drop her wacky demand to wear a two- piece bikini for a song shoot in An Evening In Paris and how he had to pull all stops to convince her to grey her hair in Aradhana!
Here’s a look-back at three Sharmila- classics.
Kashmir Ki Kali was Sharmila’s debut Hindi film. It’s a typically entertaining Shammi Kapoor- starrer with eye-pleasing Kashmir locales, a rich boy- poor girl love story with a perfect mix of comedy-romance-action and emotion and with O.P.Nayyar’s robust music (Yeh Chandsa Roshan Chehra and Deewana Hua Baadal). Sharmila plays the cute and coy Kashmiri belle but doesn’t have much to do except looking pretty!
After starting off as a decorative doll who was not afraid to shed clothes, Sharmila gradually graduated to doing more mature and more demanding author-backed roles in films like Anupama and Aradhana. In seventies, her pair with Rajesh Khanna was a big draw.
Amar Prem is a platonic love- story in the Devdas – Chandramukhi mould. Playing a courtesan (like Chandramukhi), Sharmila provides the emotional anchor to a rich man (Rajesh Khanna playing an alcoholic, again a la Devdas!), who is trapped in an unhappy marriage. There is a side- story of her playing foster mother to a neighborly kid. R.D.Burman’s melodious music (Raina Beeti Jaaye and Chingari Koi Bhadke) provides perfect foil to this emotional drama.
Mausam is a Gulzar classic telling a tale of a rich businessman (Sanjeev Kumar) in the twilight of his life, coming back to search for his long- lost love, to atone for his broken marriage promise. What he finds is a heart- breaking trail of two destroyed lives because of his folly. His old flame had died a mental wreck and her daughter had been forced into flesh trade. Sharmila excels in essaying this complex mother- daughter double role bringing out subtle nuances of characterizations. In spite of Sanjeev Kumar’s virtuoso performance, it is Sharmila who finally steals the limelight.