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Art is not a luxury, but a necessity.


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Ali Peter John

On August 15, (yesterday) when the country had just begun celebrating its 73rd Independence Day and sisters were excited about celebrating Rakshabandhan and the Roman Catholics were celebrating the assumption of Mother Mary, the mother of Jesus, a once beautiful, present and talented actress was breathing her last few breaths in a hurry as it was because the suffering had grown too long and unbearable. Vidya Sinha, one of the better actresses of the seventies and eighties who shone with films like “Rajnigandha” and “Chhoti Si Baat”, both directed by Basu Chatterjee and with Amol Palekar as her hero left for what we assume to be heaven or hell, but no one has been able to prove if there are places like these.

Vidya Sinha was an underrated actress who also didn’t get her share of the limelight. She had done over thirty films with actors like Rajesh Khanna, Sanjeev Kumar and Kiran Kumar among others and had worked with some of the big banners, especially B.R Films, but she continued to be known as the rajnigandha of “Rajnigandha” and the Prabha of “Chhoti Si Baat”, the typical middle class office-going working girl of Bombay (it was not yet Mumbai then).

Vidya was also born in a middle class family even though some of her male relatives were associated with films. She was among the first of the actresses who proved that an actress could make it big even when she was a little older and even married. Her characters in “Rajnigandha” and “Chhoti Si Baat” were the source of inspiration for many middle class girls, especially in the cities. All credit to discover the geniune actress in her goes to the now eighty-one year old director, Basu Chatterjee, who was the man who proved that small too could make it big and he showed how it could when both the films he directed were not only appreciated but also created a stir at the box-office and gave the industry two new and very down to earth stars in Amol Palekar who was a clerk in a bank and did Marathi theatre in his free time and Vidya Sinha who was a small time middle class girl from a place or a suburb where there was a majority of South Indians and Maharastrians. I think it was a pace called Matunga.

She had a very turbulent life right from the time she fell in love and married Venkateshwar Iyer and they had a daughter called Jhanvi. But life had decided to be cruel to her as her husband who ailed most of the time finally died when he was young, leaving behind a young widow in Vidya and their little daughter. Vidya had to do some rethinking about her life even though she was doing quite well as an actress. There were wild rumours about her affairs with some leading actors and filmmakers, especially one of the senior Chopras and one of the most popular Khans of those times, but before the rumours got wilder, Vidya who was always holding fast to her Indian traditions and values took a break from films when she was somewhere near the peak and left for Australia where she lived for more than six years in Sydney. It was then that she met a man called Salunkhe (a Maharastrian) and married him. This marriage also led to a great deal of turbulence as the man was very abusive, a drunkard and a good for nothing man who only tried to exploit her, harass her and make her life miserable. He affected her life and her career till she couldn’t bear it any longer and filed for a divorce which took years to reach a settlement, but her plea for divorce was finally granted with maintenance.

She had no other way to make a living and opted for television were she got work as the elder sister, the mother and she even played a grandmother in one of the last serials she appeared in. The bad life continued to haunt her as she herself fell a prey to a serious ailment, which made her cough endlessly and made her breathless from time to time, which became worse with time, but she continued to work in the serials she had chosen to do Besides “Rajnigandha” and “Chhoti Si Baat”, she was also seen in meaty roles in films like“Hawas” ,“Mera Jiwan”,“Inkaar”, “Mukti”, “Karm”,“Kitaab”, “Pati Patni Aur Woh”, “Tumhare Liye Gauri”“Safed Jhoot”,“Meera”“Love Story”,“Josh”and “Bodyguard”.She was pitted against actors of the calibre of Amol Palekar, Dinesh Thakur, Shabana Azmi, Ranjeeta, Amjad Khan, Danny Dengzongpa among other leading stars, but she always stood out as an actress of a high class and even a born natural actress. Gulzar who had done two films with her,“Meera” and “Kitaab” with her remembers her as ‘‘an actress who never acted. I especially remember her as the woman who takes great pleasure in robbing beggars of their coins in “Kitaab” and she was entirely different in “Meera”. Some actresses never get the chance to prove how good they are and Vidya Sinha was one of them.”

I had my own little encounters with her and she turned out to be just like the woman next door, like she was in most of her films. She was shooting for “Chhoti Si Baat” in my office (Express Towers, Nariman Point) and Basu Chatterjee was at his best as he revelled in shooting common everyday scenes. He had used my office as the office of Vidya’s office and he needed a man to play her boss. I recommended my advertisement manager, Mr Nandu Shah who was the only man who wore a tie in my office and had quite a good personality and had met George Bernard Shaw on a ship which had stopped in Bombay and Shaw who was on the ship met Nandu Shah and shook hands with him and had said, “we must be distant relatives, you are Mr Shah and I am Mr Shaw”. Mr Shah had lived up to my recommendation and his shot with Vidya as her boss was a one-take shot and the entire audience which was my office together with Basuda and Vidya gave him a round of applause. He had faced a camera for the first time in his life….

Vidya had to play the mother of Kumar Gaurav in his debut-making film, “” and she ended up her feature film career with her playing the mother of Salman in “Bodyguard”. She lived the last ten years of her life playing any kind of character in the TV-serials that were offered to her and she accepted because of her acute need for money. Her lung ailment was getting worse and it was difficult for her to work for a long time and had to shoot in between taking breaks and the directors were kind to her by letting her do her work the way she could….She was a very harried, harassed and frustrated woman towards the last few years of her life. Her friend, Ms Romi Mittal who is now settled in America and was a leading journalist when Vidya was at her peak remembers how she was in regular touch with Vidya who told her about her small joys and major sorrows. All her sorrows, however came to an end when she breathed her last few breaths and then her last breath which was her farewell to the world which I think was not very kind to her.

And like it happens in this industry, Vidya too was left alone in her last and lonely days and the industry behaved like it behaves when a person is no more of utility value. There was hardly anyone from the industry at her funeral, just a few young artists who were working with her in her last serial.

And as I console myself and try to believe that Vidya Sinha is no more among us who are still breathing and living, I think of the lines from the popular song from “Chhoti Si Baat” which goes, NA JAANE KYON HOTA HAI ZINDAGI KE SAATH, KISI KE JAANE KE BAAD YAAD AATI HAI, PHIR CHHOTI CHHOTI SI BAAT.

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Tags: Bollywood, Bollywood News, Bollywood Updates, Television, Telly News, Vidya Sinha, Passed Away, Rajnigandha, Chhoti Bahu, Bodyguard, Kulfi Kumar Bajewala, RIP

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