Her hands dyed red in heena, her kohled eyes. All speak for her. The long red bindi with white chandan underlining it, introduces us to the Bharatnatyam danseuse and yesteryears’actress Vyjayanthimala Bali, who was in Chandigarh on Friday.
She left the industry at the peak of her career. “I gave preference to my family. I had already worked a lot by then. It was by chance that I entered the film industry. I enjoyed acting for directors like Bimal da, BR Chopra, Raj Kapoor, SS Vasan and others. I never dubbed my dialogues… although it was not easy but I worked hard and managed to learn the mannerism required to deliver effective dialogues. Ganga Jamuna mein toh Bhojpuri bolna tha… per maine kiya. But now films are over for me, I don’t intend to act again,” she says, a wide smile spreading across her face.
She is busy talking as well as managing some poses for the shutterbugs. But Vyjayanthimala is attentive and conscious, carefully managing the pleats of her green duppatta. “I usually balance things well, I am immersed in different cultural activities and as well as in my newly little granddaughter.”
Whatever she has earned onscreen and off screen accompanies her till date. Characters played by her continue to live on, in memories. “From a tribal girl in Naagin to a princess in Suraj, from the role of a village lass to that of a sophisticated lady in Sangam, all my roles were different from each other. Every character was unique, not like today’s films which seem each other’s replica. The actors seem so repetitive!” she says. But she appreciates Aamir Khan. “I liked 3 idiots, Lagaan and Mangal Pandey. I too played Mangal Pandey on stage in one of my dance acts. Rajiv (Gandhi) ji had asked me to do a stage presentation on the centenary celebrations of Indian National Congress.”
Like films, she has also exited from politics. “My exit wasn’t sudden, but a gradual detachment. I contested for Lok Sabha elections against a seasoned contestant. But now, I am only focussing on my dance and cultural engagements.”
She says that for her, Indian culture is a way of living. “We have such a rich culture. Indian spirituality is highly appreciared in foreign countries. They follow yoga, read our vedas and puranas. And what we do? We copy them.” But isn’t that an off shoot of globalisation? “No, no! This is sheer confusion!” And Vyjayanthimala disregards this confusion in films as well…
It is time to go back into the memory lane, once again.
“Today, technology has made filmmaking a much easier job. Sangam was the first technicolour film and it was also the first film to be shot abroad.” She is all praise for Raj Kapoor, her director in the film. Did she miss out on anything? “I wish I had done a film with Guru Dutt, Bimal da’s Bandini and Gulzar’s Aandhi. All these were offered to me, but I declined. When I was offered Aandhi, I got cold feet. It was about Indira Gandhi. I had so much regard for her and was scared of playing her…”
There are so many memories to recount… “I am full of old moments. If you want to know more, read my autobiography,” she smiles again, this time, to say good bye. “My family is waiting. See you at the Mohammad Rafi Night at Tagore Theatre tomorrow.”
She is chief guest at the function to be held today evening.