Vyjayanthimala Bali

- Vikram Chandiramani

A trained classical dancer in Bharat Natyam, Vyjayanthimala started acting in Tamil films but moved on to Hindi films when M V Raman cast her as a heroine in 'Bahar'. Like several others from the South (Padmini, Ragini, Hema Malini, Jaya Prada, Sridevi) she is considered a pseudo-classical dancer and have never been taken seriously by authentic students of classical Indian dances. Their film connection to classical dance is what calendar art is to the murals of Ajanta. This has hurt and Vyjyanthimala with her dance shows and dancing school, has tried to win an image as a serious dance exponent.

However, it is because of her snake dances in 'Nagin', followed by the 'classical' dances in 'Devdas' and 'New Delhi' that she was skyrocketed to the top. 'Ganga Jamuna', 'Sangam', 'Madhumati', 'Amrapali', 'Jewel Thief' and 'Prince' were some of Vyjyanthimala's memorable films. Numbers like 'Dhoondo Dhoondo Re Sajna', 'Main Ka Karoon Ram Mujhe Budha Mil Gaya', 'Honthon Pe Aisi Baat' evoke memories of a heart throb who left everything for a marriage to a man from outside the film industry. Later, Vyjayanathimala made it to Parliament though, like most actors, her contribution to politics remains debatable. Her son Suchitra Bali is trying to get a toehold in Bollywood.