Sharmila Tagore – the symbol of Bengali Beauty in Bollywood:
Sharmila Tagore is one of the remote actresses gracing bollywood during 60s and 70s, who had rabindrik image which depicted a unique appeal for the film lovers of the country.
She started her career with the Bengali film Apur Sangsar, in 1959, the third episode of the Apu Trilogy directed by one of the greatest directors of the world Satyajit Ray. Scenes depicted by Ray, where she was silent, her expressive eyes spoke for herself. She acted in other films of Ray including Seema Baddha, Aranyer Dinratri, Debi, etc., but viewers had acknowledged her sublime performance opposite Uttam Kumar, in Ray’s film Nayak, 1966, which was based on the biography of Bengal’s greatest superstar of all times. Sharmila played the role of a journalist and her submissiveness before a popular matinee idol shot in Rajdhani Express depicted the bashfulness of Bengali women of that age.
In 1964, Sharmila began her career in hindi films in Shakti Samanta’s musical blockbuster Kashmir Ki Kali, 1964, opposite Shammi Kapoor. She displayed the role of submissive Kasmiri woman and gave elegant lips in OP Nayyar’s songs sung by Asha along with Rafi including “isharo isharo”, “diwana hua badal”, etc. The same pair was launched again by Shakti Samanta, in An Evening in Paris, 1967, this time Shankar Jaikishan’s composition of music flabbergasted the audience, including duet songs sung by Asha and Rafi like “raat ke humsafar”, etc. The entire film was shot in France and Indian audience got an additional flavour of rich locations in addition to popular music.
Sharmila Tagore acted in successful films after that period including Yakeen, Satyakam opposite Dharmender, Talash opposite Rajender Kumar, Dastan opposite Dilip Kumar, Aradhana, Safar, Amar Prem opposite Rajesh Khanna, Mere Humsafar opposite Jeetender. Most of these films had excellent music and that contributed to the success of the films in addition to romantic performance of Sharmila Tagore opposite all these actors.
In the mid -70s Gulzar gave a new dimension to the performance of Sharmila Tagore by casting her in a double role in Mausam opposite Sanjeev Kumar. She was the daughter of a village doctor near Darjeeling, who treated Sanjeev Kumar while he came to that place while studying medical science. He went abroad for further education, within short time Sharmila gave birth to his daughter which was played by Sharmila again and due to victim of circumstances she became a tawaif. The entire film hovers around that relationship and Sanjeev Kumar, the father at the end of the film takes her back to the city. The film was based on reflections and Madan Mohan’s music, Gulzar’s lyrics and the songs sung by Lata, Bhupinder Singh and Rafi, including ‘dil dhoonta hai phir wohi” touched the soles of the viewers. She won the national award for the best actress in that year for sublime performance in Mausam.
Sharmila Tagore’s performance in Gulzar’s film Namkeen opposite Sanjeev Kumar is worth mentioning. She played the role of the eldest daughter of Wahida Rehman ( a widow of a poor rural family) and acted as a guardian for the other two sisters who received support from the truck-driver played by Sanjeev Kumar. Besides her performance opposite Uttam Kumar in films like Amanush, Anand Ashram, Dooriyan, is worth mentioning. In Anand Ashram, she married the doctor who opened a dispensary in the village for treatment of poor, helpless villagers and she ably supported her husband in the noble mission. Unfortunately she died while giving birth to her child. The rest of the film relates their relationship with the next generation but throughout the film Uttam Kumar mourned the untimely death of her wife and displayed her immense love for Sharmila.
Dooriyan relates to complex relationship between the husband and the wife which leads to separation and again unification at the end of the film as the children of the couple could not stay without their parents together. Very soft virtues of husband wife relationship was displayed in the film and the duet song “zindagi zindagi” sung by Anuradha Porwal and Bhupinder Singh and “zindagi me jab tumhare gham nahi the” talked about them. Jaidev’s everlasting tunes have not lost significance even today. In recent years Sharmila Tagore won national award for best supporting actress in Goutam Ghosh’s Abar Aranye. Although Sharmila Tagore did not belong to the category of powerful dancers like Vaijayantimala or aristocrat performers like Meena Kumari, her soft, docile, submissive, understanding characteristics have given a separate dimension to bollywood films for which her films should be preserved and restored.