NostalgiSparkling spitfireTanuja

Article Tools

Email this Article

Printer-Friendly Format

Letter to the Editor

Dinesh Raheja

"Aye Guru, tu jaTanujab mar jaayega apni library mere naam likh jaana," joked a young Tanuja with Guru Dutt.

She was not to know then how poignant those innocuous words would seem in retrospect during the shooting of Baharein Phir Bhi Aayegi. Almost always bursting with good cheer, the articulate Tanuja was as animated as a wood sprite.

Shescored each time she extended her off-screen effervescence to her screen image (Jeene Ki Raah, Jewel Thief, Haathi Mere Saathi).

Like Geeta Bali, the spitfire of the 1950s Tanuja possessed a sunshine smile and saucy attitude. To sadly corroborate the popular adage that history repeats itself, shetoo had only a handful of roles befitting her immense talent.

When 1940s star Shobhana Samarth decided to launch her daughter Nutan with Hamari Beti (1950), she also gave her younger daughter Tanuja a break as a child actor. The film did not do much for either of Shobhana's betis.

Soon, Tanuja was packed off abroad where she fine-tuned her etiquette and familiarised herself with English, French and German. She returned with only a working knowledge of Hindi but willingly shared screen space with her now famous sister Nutan for their home production Chhabili (1960). This film too failed to provide the wind below Tanuja's wings.

Famous songs of Tanuja
Kabhi tanhaiyon
mein yun
Hamari Yaad AayegiMubarak Begum
Raat akeli hainJewel ThiefAsha Bhosle
Baag mein kali khiliChand Aur SurajAsha Bhosle
Yeh dil tujh
bin kahin
IzzatLata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi
Ber lo ber loPaisa Ya PyarAsha Bhosle
Aap mujhe
achhe lagne lage
Jeene Ki RaahLata Mangeshkar
Sun jaa aa
thandi hawa
Haathi Mere SaathiLata Mangeshkar,
Kishore Kumar
Mera dil jo
mera hota
AnubhavGeeta Dutt
Yaari ho gayeeDo ChorLata Mangeshkar
Roz shaam aatiImtihaanLata Mangeshkar
Tanuja's true transformation into an adult heroine came with Hamari Yaad Aayegi (1961), helmed by director Kidar Sharma who had discovered Raj Kapoor, Madhubala and Geeta Bali. Ever up to monkey tricks,young Tanuja was even slapped by the veteran director for giggling during a dramatic scene.

Fortunately, the film also proved to be a slap on the face of her detractors. Playing a street waif, shegot her first recognition as a spontaneous actress. But the film did not register on the box-office radar and is remembered only for chanteuse Mubarak Begum's curse-in-verse, Kabhi tanhaiyon mein yun, hamari yaad aayegi ... phir na jee sakoge tum, na tujhko maut aayegi.

The early 1960s saw Tanuja's career stuck in development hell. Her roles were a curious clutch of supporting roles in major films like Aaj Aur Kal (her vivacious character provided a striking personality contrast to a morose Nanda), and Benazir (with Meena Kumari and Ashok Kumar); a role with comedian Mehmood (Bhoot Bangla) and lead parts opposite medium impact newcomers like Dharmendra in Chand Aur Suraj.

When Guru Dutt died, leaving Tanuja's big hope Baharein Phir Bhi Aayegi incomplete, Dharmendra replaced him. Mala Sinha may have had the more dramatic role, but it was Tanuja whom Dharmendra loved and serenaded.

But the big solo hit eluded her.Tanuja's progress was as arduous as any pilgrim's. Her late 1960s roles ranged from good (she sizzled in Jewel Thief), to bad (a go-nowhere role in Hema Malini's debut Sapnon Ka Saudagar), to indifferent (Nai Roshni, Wahan Ke Log, Juari). Creatively, the bright spark was Do Dooni Char co-starring Kishore Kumar. In this adaptation of Shakespeare's Comedy Of Errors, Tanuja displayed formidable comic timing.

It was her unusual pairing with Jeetendra in Jeene Ki Raah (1969) that catapulted Tanuja into stardom. She played a wheelchair-bound rich girl who is spurred to walk after she is smitten by Jeetendra. But, unknown to her, he is already married. Tanuja stayed true to her zingy personality and dried off any excessive melodrama.

In the same year, Tanuja won theBest Supporting Actress Filmfare Award for Paisa Ya Pyar. Tanuja was flooded with films, and some like Pavitra Papi (1970) showcased a more sedate side of the actress.

Tanuja's trademark films
1961Hamari Yaad AayegiAshok Sharma
1966Baharein Phir Bhi AayengiDharmendra
1967Jewel ThiefDev Anand
1969Paisa Ya PyarSharad
1969Jeene Ki RaahJeetendra
1969Haathi Mere SaathiRajesh Khanna
1972AnubhavSanjeev Kumar
1972Ek Baar Muskara DoJoy Mukherjee
1974ImtihaanVinod Khanna
In Haathi Mere Saathi (1971), sheshared space with elephants, big cats and Rajesh Khanna, the catnip of the 1970s. Her romantic role had negative shades towards the second half-- she thinks her husband's favourite elephant tried to kill her child and demands the tusker be banished -- but Tanuja won the audiences by bringing depth to her character.

Rajesh Khanna and Tanuja did two more films together, Mere Jeevan Saathi and Humshakal, but they proved to be also-rans. Tanuja then refused the role eventually played by Zeenat Aman in the ground-breaking Hare Rama Hare Krishna as she did not want to play Dev Anand's sister.

Tanuja was eminently interesting when she tried something different,like Basu Bhattacharya's Anubhav (1971). Shelet Bhattacharya shoot the film in her apartment and was rewarded with a memorable role of a wife caught between an unfulfilling marriage (to Sanjeev Kumar) and an ex-lover (Dinesh Thakur). In a vastly underrated performance, Tanuja made evident with the subtlest of gestures the many shifts in her character's psyche.

A whirlwind romance withMukherjee scion Shomu, her Ek Baar Muskara Do (1972) director, resulted in Tanuja getting married in 1973 andtaking it easy afterdaughter Kajol's birth on August 5, 1974.

Tanuja was wheelchair-bound once again (a la Jeene Ki Raah) in one of her last films as a heroine, Imtihaan (1974). She was cast more to type in Humrahi, a rollicking comedy which had Tanuja exchanging barbs and jokes with Randhir Kapoor.

Thereafter, shegrittily pulled herself out of a stagnant marriage but was swamped by character roles in films often starring former heroes. Her Pyar Ki Kahani hero Amitabh Bachchan had to call her bhabhi in Khuddar (1982).

But the occasional powerful character like in Raj Kapoor's Prem Rog (1982) kept her creative muse alive and reminded us of her talent and the famous sparkle in her eye.

Your Views


Comments:(characters remaining)

Your Views:
1996 - 2003 India Limited. All Rights Reserved.