Her 1957 black-and-white classic, Naya Daur, was colourised and re-released 50 years later on August 3, 2007. But Vyjayanthimala Bali who recently released a four-DVD pack of Naya Daur, Devdas (’55), Madhumati (’58) and Sangam (’64) brought out by Shemaroo, is strongly against colourising any of her classics.
“Ravi (producer Ravi Chopra) wanted to bring out Naya Daur in colour, but personally, I think the earlier film was beautiful and effective. I strongly advised Rinkie (producer-director Bimal Roy’s daughter Rinkie Bhattacharya) against colourising either Devdas or Madhumati. The latter’s eerie impact would be lost in colour,” asserts the veteran actor, who played a triple role in Madhumati, adding with a laugh, “I didn’t believe in ghosts till I became one. I think I made a really nice ghost.”
She admits she’s heard that the climax of Shah Rukh Khan’s Om Shanti Om (2007) was lifted from Madhumati, but she hasn’t seen the film. She hasn’t seen Sanjay Leela Bhanasali’s Devdas (2002) either. “From what I saw in the promos, it had a lot of gloss and glam. But I prefer Bimalda’s black-and-white one. It was more believable and real,” she reasons.
Vyjayanthimala had turned down the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Role for Devdas, while Madhuri Dixit accepted the same 47 years later. “It’s a matter of opinion and principle. I refused because Bimalda had clearly told me that his film had two heroines, so there was no way Chandramukhi was a supporting role. In fact, Devdas was a turning point in my career. It transformed me from a dancing star to a ‘serious’ actor and I went on to do other performance-oriented films like Sadhana (’58), Ganga Jamuna (’61) and Sangam,” she points out, picking the scene where a sozzled Devdas takes leave of her and she touches his feet, knowing this could be their last meeting, as her most memorable moment. “Dilip Kumar was in full flow. I was watching the play of histrionics with wonder and hoping I would forget my one measly line, ‘Aur mat peeyo Devdas.’ (Don’t drink more, Devdas).”
She has vivid memories of the love triangle in Sangam too. “It was the first Hindi film in technicolour, a three-and-a-half hour film with two intermissions, two superstars — Raj Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar — and a great piece of showmanship. We may well have a Sangam remake next, but for me, the original will always rank amongst my best works,” says the 76-year-old star, who quit at her peak, 42 years ago and has no plans of returning to the screen.
“My dancing keeps me busy. I still do a lot of shows in India and abroad, especially during the festive season. Also, I’m researching the long-forgotten temple dances and reviving these old forms because I believe there’s no present without the past and no future
without the present.”
A Member of Parliament from ’84-’91, Vyjayanthimala, however, doesn’t discount the possibility of returning to politics and says that one of the changes she’d like to bring about is to have a common law for all, irrespective of post, position or class. “And I’d want to carry on the fight against corruption that’s making our beautiful country ugly,” she says.
“It was noble of Anna Hazare to take up the cause and despite what people say, I don’t think he is politically inclined. That’s why he struck a chord.”