Guddi to Jenny: Jaya turns 58
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Guddi to Jenny: Jaya turns 58

Despite the years, the actress continues to charm, finds Arnab Banerjee.

india Updated: Apr 08, 2006 20:32 IST

Actress Jaya Bachchan (nee Bahaduri) turns 58 on Sunday. But as the years roll on, the Guddi of Hindi cinema still draws the same magic on and off screen.

We profile this talented and unconventional actress through her journey under the arc lights—from the nervous and giggly Guddi to the independent minded mother, Jenny in Kal Ho Na Ho.

Dream debut
Jaya was perhaps one of the first actresses to take up acting as a career seriously when she got her journalist-writer father to get her enrolled into The Film and Television Institute of India at Pune.

Her first brush with the arc lights at a much tender age of 15 left an indelible mark and remained with her as an obsessively fixated passion. Satyajit Ray cast her in his classic Mahanagar starring Anil Chatterjee and Madhavi Mukherjee. Jaya played their young daughter on the insistence of Manikda (Satyajit Ray) who happened to be her father Tarun Bhaduri’s “very good friend.”

The year was 1963 and thus started her long journey into the make-believe fantasy world of films. After graduating from the film institute, she landed herself the eponymous role in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Guddi.

Hrishikesh, who had seen her short Diploma films at the institute, called good friend showman Raj Kapoor and said, “Just watch out for this volcano, she is going to erupt and rule the industry.”

His predication for this diminutive girl sounded fake to many an industry glamour-struck pundits, who were swayed by picture-perfect good looks of actresses like Hema Malini.

But they all must have backpedaled as this deglamourised young actress went on to carve a special niche for herself in cinema.

 From Guddi to Jenny, Jaya Bachchan has always been a winner

Her Bollywood debut in Guddi as the giggly long plaited straight-forward uncomplicated girl, made her an instant household name. Some other films that followed helped her consolidate her position at a time when mainstream Hindi cinema saw Raj Kapoor’s Bobby creating history.

New Wave Cinema
The early 70s was also an era of New Wave films with K A Abbas, Mrinal Shome, Basu Chatterjee, Gulzar, Basu Bhattacharya, Mani Kaul and others pioneering a movement that changed the face of the Indian cinema forever.

The low-budget and realistic films imbued their distinctive and recognizable style and she benefited immensely from such films.

Gulzar’s Koshish and Parichay, Hrishda’s Bawarchi, Mili and Abhimaan, Asit Sen’s Annadata, Basu Chatterjee’s Piya Ka Ghar, Rajinder Singh Bedi’s Phagun, Sudhendu Roy’s Uphaar, Anil Ganguly’s Kora Kagaz and A Bhimsingh’s Naya Din Nayee Raat proved the girl-next-door image of hers was not a fluke and that she could outperform the overly dramatic and loud actresses of the era.

She also left her mark in the 1975 Ramesh Sippy all-time great classic Sholay, in which her silence spoke volumes about her craft.

Two-left feet
At a time when dancing was considered the most important qualification for actresses in Bollywood, she was the only one whose popularity, despite her poor dancing skills, soared to dizzying heights.

She also declined films, which clearly stressed the need for a glamorised leading lady. But her flirtation with mainstream did have its moments of glory when she paired with ‘great buddy’ Randhir Kapoor in Dil Deewana and Jawani Diwani.

No one could doubt her sincere effort or the elegance with which she wore trendy outfits and carried them off with great aplomb. And to think that she didn’t even have an hour glass figure to match a Zeenat Aman, she proved yet another point – that one needn’t be sexy or sensationally alluring to look at to be able to attract audiences to theatres.

Page 2: The Big B Effect

First Published: Apr 09, 2006 11:00 IST