Eye Candy Part 4: Bollywood’s Classic Beauties

The last of the eye candy posts, and (in my opinion), the toughest. Hindi cinema—and this is irrespective of era—seems to be replete with beautiful women. Offhand, I can’t think of a single leading lady whom I’d put in the `plain’ category. So, selecting the ten women from the 50’s and 60’s whom I think are the ultimate when it comes to sheer pulchritude was a very, very difficult task. But it’s finally done, and after having changed, rearranged and turned around my list God knows how many times, I’m finally done.

Bollywood's classic beauties

So here goes, in order, beginning with my favourite:

1. Madhubala: This was one name I didn’t have to think twice about, or even change its position on the list. Even the caustic Baburao Patel is supposed to have called Madhubala the ‘Venus of the Indian screen’. Whatever; she’s simply out-and-out breathtaking.

Madhubala in Howrah Bridge

2. Waheeda Rehman: In a recent interview, I heard Waheeda Rehman say that when she was young, in her family she was known as the `ugly duckling’. “The camera was kind to me,” she said with a smile. I don’t believe that. No camera, no matter how benevolent, could be this kind. She looks ethereal any which way – decked up as the young bride in Chaudhvin ka Chand, or sans makeup and with her hair flowing about her shoulders in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam. Beautiful all the way.

Waheeda Rehman in Chaudhvin ka Chaand

3. Asha Parekh: A little gawkish in her debut film (Dil Deke Dekho, though she’d already done a bit part in Asha) and a little gaunt in later films like Caravan, but so luminously lovely through much of the 60’s. And a great dancer too.

Asha Parekh in Love in Tokyo

4. Vyjyantimala: Another of those women who danced wonderfully, acted well, and looked beautiful. Those huge and expressive eyes are her best feature, I think—and personally, I feel she looked her best in later films like Sangam or Chhoti si Mulaqat.

Vyjyantimala in Sadhana

5. Sadhana: Part of the reason I like Sadhana is that she bears an uncanny resemblance to my mother! But prejudices aside, I just think Sadhana’s gorgeous in a fresh-faced, sweet way. Or, when she’s dressed up to the nines, so glamorous. And frankly, I do think the `Sadhana cut’—her trademark fringe—suited her a lot!

Sadhana in Woh Kaun Thi?

6. Meena Kumari: In the days before alcohol and depression took their toll on her face and figure, Meena Kumari was one of the loveliest. Especially when she smiled, which was admittedly rare in so many of her films!

Meena Kumari in Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam

7. Shyama: Shyama is, for me, a conundrum. Why did a woman so beautiful and vibrant always get slotted as the evil bhabhi or the sidekick’s girlfriend? Her films as a lead actress are few and far between, but every time I see her onscreen, I can’t help but be charmed by those flashing eyes and that bright grin.

Shyama in Bhabhi

8. Nutan: What a fine actress, and how lovely. Nutan is perhaps not classically beautiful, but there’s a gentle, calm loveliness about her that doesn’t intimidate. I look at her, and I think: she must’ve been a nice person. Beauty from within? Perhaps.

Nutan in Paying Guest

9. Mumtaz: Another not-quite-classic beauty, but she walks into a frame, and lights it up immediately. I love everything about Mumtaz: the cheery smile, the gloriously retroussé nose, the dancing eyes, and the style (see her in Zindagi ittefaq hai: awesome). Absolutely intimitable.

Mumtaz in Aadmi aur Insaan

10. Mala Sinha: Yes, I know there are plenty of you out there who’ll wonder at this inclusion. But Mala Sinha, when she’s not being weepy, can be very pretty indeed. Also, like Mumtaz, one of those actresses who could carry off a Westernised look with aplomb; the chic dresses and bobbed hair of a film like Aankhen seem to suit her more than the plait, bindi and gharelu look of Bahurani.

Mala Sinha in Dillagi

And three more, whom I couldn’t fit in, but definitely do need to mention:

Shakila: For someone who acted in blockbusters like CID and China Town, Shakila appeared in relatively few films. But her somewhat fragile beauty can be very attractive indeed. I wish we’d seen more of her.

Shakila in China Town

Helen: Not a classic beauty, but what a screen presence! I adore Helen: her expressive eyes (even when she is, as in most films, wearing coloured contacts), the slightly crooked smile, and the dancing, of course. The jealous, seductive Ruby of Teesri Manzil; the fatalistic Kitty Kelly of Gumnaan: could they have been played by any other than the vibrant and lovely Helen?

Helen in Teesri Manzil

Sharmila Tagore: Another extremely arresting face, and so attractive in films like Mere Humdum Mere Dost, Anupama and An Evening in Paris. If only she hadn’t consented to wear those huge hairpieces: too many of her hairdos look as if they’ll topple off any minute.

Sharmila Tagore in An Evening in Paris

So who are your favourite ladies from the 50’s and 60’s?

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100 thoughts on “Eye Candy Part 4: Bollywood’s Classic Beauties

  1. It is very difficult to make a list of the most beautiful women, isnt it? I love your choices except for Asha Parekh – her childish voice always grates on my ears and her fashion sense was rather off-putting too (clothes that emphasised the thinness of her torso and the relatively big bums). Though I must admit that I like most of her movies especially the ones against Shammi.

    Mala Sinha is lovely too, I just cant get her appeal. Most of my Bengali friends hate her, and after watching a ton of Suchitra Sen movies I can understand why – she is like an imitation of Suchitra!

    My 50s favorite of course, is Madhubala. The others on your list too, but lower down! And my 60s favorite is definitely Sharmila, closely followed by Sadhana. I loved Sharmila’s large bird’s nest – the rest of her looked so delicate in comparison! She had such a great sense of style, not to mention the dimples. And she’s one lady who’s managed to look gorgeous all throughout the 70s the horrendous 80s, 90s and even now.

  2. I was very pleased to see Mala Sinha on the list. I was in despair as I read on and her name didn’t appear. :-)
    And then – there it was. I would put her much higher.

    Mumtaz! I could never make up my mind about her. I like and dislike like her at the same time.

    Meena kumari too would go up higher, simply because i have seen her in lots of smiling films. The photographers seemed to be very fond of shooting the closeup of her face, from a certain angle from top.

    So basically I agree with your choice.

  3. Madhubala, Nargis, Nutan (I think she’s as beautiful as anyone else!), Kalpana Kartik…and I think I like them all! 8) It’s so difficult, as has been noted before. Thanks for this post. I certainly need to see some of Mumtaz’s films. Maybe you could recommend a starting point. (?)

  4. The list is quite comprehensive…….except that Mala Sinha has never been a favourite with me. I also thought of Saira Bano, Aruna Irani and Tanuja. The latter was never a beauty and did few films, but nenertheless had a certain impish charm. Aruna Irani is and was one of the most beautiful woemn in Bollywood…sad how she lost out playing bit roles dur to her unfortunate personal choices.

    I love these arite ups.:)

  5. bollyviewer: Asha Parekh can be a bit irritating at times, but I still think she’s lovely… and guess what? My sister goes to the same gym as Sharmila Tagore, and was telling me that she looks even more beautiful without makeup than she does with it on. At her age, too. Wow.

    pacifist: I think I need to see more of Meena Kumari’s cheerful films. The only one I remember watching is Kohinoor, which was a blast. Unfortunately, some of her best known ones are stuff like Pakeezah, Kaajal, Bheegi Raat, Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam etc, none of which had her smile for more than a few minutes at the most!

    theBollywoodFan: Yes, it’s so difficult! Everybody was so beautiful. (And nobody’s even mentioned actresses like Nimmi, Nalini Jaywant, Laxmi Chhaya or Nanda yet). Some Mumtaz films that I really like – which means Mumtaz plays a substantial role in them – are Khilona, Sachcha Jhootha, Brahmachari, Mere Humdum Mere Dost, Ek Naari Ek Brahmachari, Humraaz and Aadmi aur Insaan – the latter is Mumtaz, in my opinion: she’s absolutely gorgeous!

    Rachna: Thank you! Yes, I guessed someone or the other would disagree with my Mala Sinha choice… but then beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.
    Saira Banu was lovely in her first film, Junglee and a few early films after that. I think her features got a little too sharp and her voice a little too shrill after that, but I know what you mean. Aruna Irani’s pretty too (who isn’t?!!), and Tanuja was definitely one of the screen’s most vivacious, if not classically beautiful. I love her in films like Bahaarein Phir Phy Aayengi and Jewel Thief.

  6. Yes, I adore Sadhana too, she’s so lovely! Of all her films, I think my personal favourites include Parakh, Prem Patra, Ek Musafir Ek Haseena, Waqt, Woh Kaun Thi, Hum Dono and Mera Saaya. She isn’t at her prettiest in Mera Saaya but it’s still a good film, and with great music.

  7. Wow, what a list!
    You will get mine soon! have to search for it, have it tucked somewhere. And does mine differ from yours!

  8. Wah!!

    There is something about black and white photographs and films. The ladies look so enticing and mysterious.

    Vijayantimala looks a little bovine but then she is such a superb, graceful dancer. I think Nargis had that slightly off sort of beauty that is captivating to watch. And I agree about Meena Kumari — she had a very lovely smile. I will get lynched for saying this but I never saw Madhubala’s appeal.

    A very beautiful list. Cheers!

  9. The actresses, I’ve listed here are not listed according to their beauty but their debut on the silver screen in leading roles

    Nalini Jaywant
    Now, why have I put her on this list? Simply because I find her beautiful! She had these sleepy eyes, which I don’t like! But she had this serene expression. And in each role she looks as if she is that woman and no other, may it be the courtesan in Kala Pani or the young maiden of Munimji or the Mata Hari in Samadhi or the frustrated widow of Shikast. Just take a look at the change of expressions and the longing in the songs ‘kare badra tu naja’ from Shikast.

    Madhubala
    Well, if one talks of beauty, one has to mention Madhubala.
    But if you look at her closely, she is hardly what one would call beautiful. Her cheekbones were too high, she had too square a face, and she was little bit on the plump side. But one looks at her and is captivated by her face, her smile, her wonderful eyes and flawless skin.

    Meena Kumari
    The tragedienne! But there was much more to her than that. First of all she was a very beautiful woman and she had lots of sex appeal! (Don’t pelt me with stones!) I find all her scenes in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam so laden with sexual tension, which reminds me of Elisabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

    Shakila
    People will say Shakila who? I can remember, when I first saw her in Chayya Geet (later christened Chitrahaar) in ‘neend na mujhko aaye’, I also couldn’t sleep. I just can’t understand how anybody can look so beautiful. God just gave her oodles of beauty

    Padmini
    She obviously had lots of sex appeal (Raj kapoor would say voluptuous). And she had these wonderful expressive eyes. And no, I don’t think this expressiveness came alone from her Bharat Natyam training. There is this liveliness in her eyes, which can only be inborn. And I think she had the loveliest lips in the whole Hindi film industry.

    Nutan
    I don’t know how to describe her. I just know that I find her extremely beautiful in the late 50s and early 60s films, till she decided to do the Sati-Savitri films. Not that she doesn’t look good in sarees or with Indian jewels and things, but somehow simultaneously she started having this facial hair problem (I am sorry if that was impolite!). I always felt, she was natural, when she had these roles like in Tere Ghar ke Saamne, although she was just great in Bandini.

    Waheeda Rehman
    What a transformation from what dustedoff called gauche (I had too look up this word in the dictionary) in CID (1956) to this stunning beauty of Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1960). Again these expressive eyes! Wow! And this poise! I don’t like her appearance in the post Guide years. Something went wrong with her skin (?) or something. Or are the colour films from that era to be blamed. But again she looks hauntingly beautiful in Teesri Kasam and also in the 70s films like Phagun and also Kabhi Kabhi. And an actress par excellence! Meena Kumari fans will kill me but I am of the opinion, that Waheeda would have given Pakeezah more dimensions and depth.

    Sharmila Tagore
    Sorry dustedoff, what would be Sharmila Tagore without her ‘chidyaa ka ghosla’? Have a look at her in Kashmir ki Kali, her head looks like it just had blow with a hammer. It looks so flattened. Glamorous to her last toe nail! Although everybody finds her acting superb, I find she is best in her portrayal of Sharmila Tagore. All said and done, a very beautiful, sexy and glamorous woman in the best sense of these words.

    Sadhana
    She metamorphosed from Jane next door to glam avatar. But either way she looked fabulous! Even after her eye-ailment she looked great!

    Tanuja
    Impish is the word, which is commonly used in her context. She had great looks, she had a superb complexion, tantalizing eyes and those lovely cheeks! *sigh*

    Nargis
    My mom was a great fan of Nargis. She is a really good actress, but I hardly find her beautiful. But all the same, she had this certain thing about her, which is hard to define. Allegedly she had a very big repertoire of ‘bad words’, for which I envy her!

    Vyjayanthimala
    Why isn’t Vyjyanthimala in the list above? The answer is simple: I’m prejudiced against her. Yes, I admit. My aunt, my sis and my bro and I belong to Waheeda Rehman camp. And in my family you were allowed to like either Waheeda Rehman or Vyjyanthimala, but not both. And if you started finding Vyjyanthimala beautiful, you had to deliver a written report, which was examined before you were allowed to have dinner. And since this was a very tedious process, I preferred to remain in Waheeda camp.
    But since I have grown up in mean time and started emancipating myself from my childhood years, I must admit Vyjyanthimala does look good. And she looks completely enchanting in Amrapali.

    Mala Sinha
    The same goes for Mala Sinha. It was either Mala Sinha or Meena Kumari. I preferred Meena. But now when I look at her (Mala Sinha) in some songs, I find her quite, let us say, nice. But I still can’t watch her act.

    Mumtaz
    Well, you would say, why isn’t Mumtaz in the upper list? Simply because I consider her more of a 70s actress rather than the 60s. I know she acted for more years in the 60s rather than the 70s. But then, it is MY list!

    ;-)

  10. “The last of the eye candy posts”

    No! nahiiin!
    How about eye candy post of the dancing girls. Helen and her tribe!
    I think they are the most discriminated class in Hindi films. They sure need a list!

  11. Sabrina: Yes, black and white photography does tend to hide a lot of faults, doesn’t it? I guess it also allows enticing light-and-shadow that helps people look more intriguing. I think of all the actresses I’ve listed above, nearly all looked better in their black and white films. For example, I don’t think Madhubala (yes, yes, I know you don’t care for her!!) looks that great in the coloured Pyaar kiya toh darna kya.
    Nargis, in my opinion (as harvey also says), is not what I’d call beautiful. But I think she had a certain something about her face that was striking – her eyes, maybe, and her general expressiveness.

    harvey: Ah, lovely to read that list and everything you have to say about the ladies (especially Nutan in her Sati Savitri roles: I agree!) I agree with everybody on your list, except possibly Padmini. For some odd reason, I like neither her nor her sister Ragini – I just find both of them very irritating and theatrical. They’re both great dancers, but the huge flashing eyes and the exaggerated expressions get my goat.
    Hey! A dancing girls eye candy post? Were there enough of them around in 50’s and 60’s? Let me think! (And if I can come up with ten I like, I promise there’ll be a post) :-)

  12. thanks, dustedoff!
    You are right about padmini. Her Hindi with South Indian accent, her over the top mannerisms are a real turn off. But good looking all the same! But she does have beautiful lips!

  13. looking forward to your dancing girls list. You will surely find 10.
    I will start mine tomorrow!
    Your promise comforted me a lot! :-) *grinning ear to ear*

  14. But then, they have to be ten dancing girls whom I like – which means I can’t put Kukoo on the list (can’t bear her!!)… so far I’ve come up with only six I can think of. And I’m not counting lead actresses who acted the tawaif in one off films.

    Look, I have a better idea: why not a post on my ten favourite mujras from Hindi films? ;-)

  15. Beena Rai, Nimmi rather than Asha Parekh or Mala Sinha for me…

    For an arresting face Suchitra Sen in Bombai ka Babu

  16. Beena Rai, definitely… she was lovely. Nimmi I’m a bit ambivalent about: I hated her in Aan and Amar, in both of which she was so theatrical it detracted from her looks. But she was lovely in Udan Khatola, especially in O door ke musaafir.

    Agree with your suggestion of Suchitra Sen in Bambai ka Babu: beautiful.

  17. Mala Sinha all the way, why would anyone feel she doesn’t have to be there, i saw her in Night in London recently and she was absolutely gorge, she still looks good even today

    what do do you think of Sandhya from Do ankhen Barah haath, although she didn’t break big, she was so beautiful, delightful and charming to watch

  18. dustedoff: Well, for the fact, that I didn’t like any lists, I am becoming quite addicted to them!
    Can’t understand you don’t like Cuckoo!
    It is your blog, ten fav mujras would be great!
    right now I can think of only: saathiya aaj mujhe nind nahin aayegi!
    I wanted so much to put nanda on the list. But when I analyse my choice, I realise that I just like Nanda because of the fact that she is Nanda and when I look closely she is not classically beautiful, so had to exclude with a heavy heart
    I share your opinion on Saira Banu.

    bawa: Nimmi was cute. I never thought of Beena Rai as beautiful. But she had beautiful teeth! I was always of the opinion that Suchitra Sen looked a bit like Madhubala, but was never really by her acting, although everybody sing hymns about it. But on the other hand I have only seen Mamta, Aandhi and Devdas.

    Sabrina: Well, somehow I understand you, when you don’t see Madhubala’s appeal. But for my eyes she was really a beauty! I agree with you as well on b/w fotos. Bovine beauty – Vyjyanthimala! my aunt would love you!

    RAchna: Aruna Irani was definitely a gifted actress.

    bollywood fan: Mumtaz film recommendation: any of her 70s films, preferably Aap ki Kasam! Choose one of her films with Rajesh Khanna rather than Jeetendra (I’m totally prejudiced against Jeetendra!)

  19. harvey: Ten great mujras it is. Will do a list. And you mentioned one that I’d already planned to put on that list – it’s a great one, Minoo Mumtaz (who, by the way, would have been on that dancing girls list) is very good, and of course the music is awesome.
    Cuckoo somehow tends to irritate me. She was from the old school of dancing, with those exaggerated gestures which I just don’t care for. Her protege Helen was waaay ahead! :-)

    bollywooddeewana: I agree on Mala Sinha but have to disagree on Sandhya – somehow I’ve never liked her! She’s an excellent dancer (have you seen Jal bin Machhli? – horrible film but superb dancing) but otherwise I don’t much care for her.

  20. I just stumbled upon this post, and I don’t recall whether I’ve seen the other eye candy posts. But I have to respond here, because I’ve been letting this sort of list run through my own mind a number of times. :)

    My list would go like this:

    1. Padmini – I do think she was the most beautiful actress and dancer, especially in the ’50s and ’60s.

    2. Meena Kumari – so beautiful, and such a fine actress too.

    3. Shyama – Always a great pleasure to watch, even in those not-so-nice character roles.

    4. Noor Jehan – I know many people would not consider her a beauty on the level of the great Bollywood beauties. But there is something about her presence in films from the ’40s and ’50s that I find irresistible. Maybe my eyes are being somewhat influenced by my ears. :) (Oh, but wait a minute – I guess she can’t count for Hindi cinema of the ’50s and ’60s… Are the ’40s close enough? Or is Urdu cinema close enough?)

    5. Madhubala – I’d put her on the list as most people would; I just wouldn’t call her #1.

    6. Vyjayanthimala – Not a beauty on the level of Padmini (everybody who knows me kows whom I would have voted for in that famous competition – and not just for dancing skills…), but she is very cute in many films.

    7. Minoo Mumtaz – Can’t say she’s a classic beauty, but she is oh so cute, especially when she dances.

    8. Waheeda Rehman – Yes, quite beautiful in some films.

    9. Helen – I agree, what a screen presence!

    10. Nimmi – I think she was very pretty in many films.

  21. 40’s is definitely close enough (after all, I have reviewed films from the 40’s), and I do think Noorjehan looked lovely – but like you, I’d say that has partly to do with how well she sang!

    Minoo Mumtaz has a lot of verve to her; not classically beautiful, but oh so peppy. I loved her in Kaagaz ke Phool, especially.

    Somehow I’ve never been able to like Padmini – her accent and the theatrics put me off. But yes, a superb dancer.

  22. Dustedoff, I guess we agree and disagree in a few places. :) I’m glad you agree that Noor Jehan looked lovely. But there are some more whom I like a lot whom you don’t like (oh, well)… I really do like Cuckoo! And as for Sandhya…well, as with Padmini, glad you agree that she’s an excellent dancer but I also like her in general.

    Bollywood Deewana, hi… I even thought of putting Sandhya on my own beauties list also, but then I thought, well maybe she did look a bit too odd to be called one of the great beauties (?)… :) But I certainly enjoyed watching her in Navrang – which I thought was a very good film, with excellent music (by C. Ramchandra).

  23. bollywooddewana: I haven’t seen either, but I’ve seen songs from both films, and the music is superb. There’s also one very intricate dance Sandhya does with something like seven waterpots forming a tower on her head… impressive! And the music, as Richard points out, is excellent.

    Richard: Well, we’ll have to agree to disagree! ;-) But then, beauty, like so much else, is subjective. And I have to admit that my concept of beauty tends to be influenced by the actor’s abilities (which is why someone like Vimmi, who was very pretty, never made it on this list).

  24. My faves:

    Asha Parekh for those wonderful big eyes and smile.
    Helen for her lovely eyes (no matter what color) and trim dancer’s body.
    Mumtaz for her cute round face and her alluring pout.
    Rekha, Sridevi, Hema Malini..and Babita for giving us 2 beautiful daughters in today’s bollywood :)

  25. Rekha, Sridevi and Hema Malini are lovely too, and I’d have included them if my post was for beyond the 50’s and 60’s – but agree completely re: Asha Parekh, Helen and Mumtaz: so beautiful, all of them!

  26. Shyama is my favorite.. Shame she didn’t get bigger roles.

    I wanna name some Sinhalese artists (from Sri Lanka – India’s delinquent brother) who could have been in Bollywood…

    Malini Fonseka

    Clarice de Silva

    Punya Heendeniya

    Also:

    Rita Ratnayake, Sandhya Kumari, Prema Ganegoda, Leena de Silva, Sumana Amarasinghe and Girley Gunawardena — artists I couldn’t find good pictures of online at the moment

    These artists are prettier than Padmini and Vijayanthimala imo.

  27. Shyama, Madhubala, Waheeda, Asha, Sadhana, Nutan and Sharmila are all good picks. Great list all in all..

  28. Upendra, thank you for introducing me to these ladies! You’re very right – they are very beautiful (at least those whose links you provided). I thought that first photo of Malini Fonseka was particularly lovely… though Clarice de Silva looks a little like one of the 1940’s Bollywood actresses!

  29. Eye candy indeed! I love this post… these are all beautiful women – and I heartily agree with your top pick – and your second pick.
    If I had a list, Sharmila (I actually love her with big hair! But I think she’s always stunning), Nutan (I agree with you on beauty from within), and Mumtaz (like you, I love everything about her) would be very high on it. Nargis would also be high on my list – I think she was absolutely beautiful – not conventionally so at all, but I just see her and think ‘beautiful’ – she actually takes my breath away sometimes. I probably wouldn’t have Asha Parekh or Mala Sinha or Vyjayanthimala on my list. As you always say, all in the eye of the beholder!

  30. Madhubala and Waheeda Rehman are just so beautiful, I couldn’t not put them right at the top of this list. I probably wouldn’t tag Nargis as classically beautiful, but she did have a certain je ne sais quoi about her that makes her very alluring! Strangely enough, one role – in fact, one particular song – in which I think she looks very striking is Dil ki girah khol do, from Raat aur Din. Even though she’s past her prime, the makeup etc makes her look really stunning.

  31. ohhhhhhh 50s !!
    it defficult to list all these queens but in my opinion I perefer madhubala no woman can be like madhubala and words can’t describe her beauty . she is a prove to tell us there is a heaven in the sky .

  32. Mala Sinha is, in my reckoning, one of the prettiest/sexiest actresses ever in Indian cinema. I do agree that she had a tendency to overact and, particularly, could look bad and annoying in weepy roles. But in many, many movies during the ‘happier’ portions of the films and in romantic song sequences she was simply too much – beautiful, shapely, fantastic smile/teasing look, lovely fluid movements… and much more. You can’t not like her if your male hormones are flowing well :-).

  33. Also, in the context of Hindi mainstream movies, I find nitpicking about ‘acting’ and ‘overacting’ more than a tad silly. I like Hindi cinema of the 40s, 50s and 60s for the music, song sequences, enchanting personas, and interesting, vignettes. As a whole Hindi movies throughout have never managed any authentic representation of any section of Indian life. The camera angles/movements, the scene framing, the way actors moved/talked reacted, the dialogue deliveries…etc. always struck me as contrived. Yet I love the films of these decades for whatever they are. They just straightaway grab my emotions.

  34. Yes, the number of films from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s that are even slightly realistic can be counted on one’s fingertips. I’d probably put films like Anupama, Parakh, Do Bigha Zameen and Kabuliwala in the category of films that one could identify with to some extent, though of course the songs push all of these films into a realm apart!

    But, despite everything – the sudden bursting into song, the exaggerated acting and gestures, even the dialogues (not just the delivery) – I still love these films. Much more, in fact, than later Hindi films, too many of which don’t even have redeeming features like good music. I can list barely perhaps 20 films from the 80’s onwards which I’ve really liked. Maybe not even that many…

  35. I stopped watching ‘new’ Hindi films in the early 80s, they were becoming repulsive in every way. I used to scout the papers for 9.30 morning shows to catch old b&w movies of the 50s and 40s. Those were the Sunday movie, Doordarshan days. I was not at all all into actors then, just song sequences.

    Btw, while on my Mala Sinha trip I bought and saw a movie I had seen long term back – naushervan-e-adil (1957), Raj Kumar, Mala Sinha, Sohrab Modi, Naseem Banu. See it if you have’nt. Pretty charmingly made. Lovely music by C. Ramchandra. It;s on Cyrus the great, the legendary Persian emperor. Sorab Modi, being a Parsi seems too have made it as a labour of love. You’ll also catch Naseem banu, Saira banu’s mother in the Queen’s role. Boy, Was she elegant!. She was one of the main eye candies of her time – early to mid 40s.

  36. Like Sabrina – I never found Madhubala hot. In fact, I somehow thought of her as a bit thick featured, with a bad profile and a not very gainly figure. But, Madhubala was a great, great actress in every genre. Crime (Jali Note, Howrah Bridge), Comedy (Aar Paar, Half Ticket, Chalti Ka Naam..), Dramatic/Tragic (Mughleazam), Haunted House type (Mahal)

  37. bollywooddeewana – caught Night In London. Leaving out that tight white dress with the bund gulla towards the end, Mala Sinha does look fantastic. Though she has ‘classical’ hips by today’s standards, her legs are slim and shapely, she moves and walks with energetic grace… so she looks fabulous in slacks and pants. She had a flair for these spy-crime chase roles. Pity she only got two such, the other being Ankhen. I am sure she would have made a great, glam, exotic Bond heroine. They should have used her in You Only Live Twice :-). Btw, her face had thinned down by then, which is why she looked very lovely in occidental hairstyles. I don’t think any of her Hindi film contemporaries could have had her kind of impact in such roles and outfits :-).

  38. I’ve seen a couple of songs from Nausherwan-e-adil, but haven’t been able to get hold of the film itself. Will look out for it, as soon as I’ve got through the queue of films I’ve got lined up to watch!

    I do prefer Mala Sinha in later roles, especially in films like Aankhen: the hairdo and the Western outfits suited her much more than sarees and hair pulled back into a plait or whatever.

    I refuse to enter into an argument re: Madhubala ;-). Yes, I agree her profile and her figure and her nose aren’t perfect, but then I think flaws are very much a part of each of the women listed here… it’s just that despite her flaws, I think Madhubala is absolutely beautiful.

  39. I never found Madhubala hot, that’s a personal thing based on my idiosyncracies :-).. But she certainly had presence. She had more presence than any other actress I have seen.

    The herioine I really likd from an overall perspective is Waheeda Rehman. Looks, acting, deportment. She was the most ‘appropriate’ actor the Hindi film industry had. I mean, given all the contrivances that surround our films, she showed a unique knack for getting into her characters. Tell someone to mimic Waheeda; they won’t know where to star. She never succumbed to any stylization.

    Shyama is also my favorite, as much as Mala Sinha. Watch her in this song sequence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofIcv0wbfAA

    I wonder why she didn’t make it to the top of the pyramid.

  40. Ah, well… I wouldn’t know whom to label as hot, anyway – just beautiful, and there’s a difference between the two, isn’t there? Now ask me about the men, and I can definitely say who’s hot and who’s not, in my lexicon!

    I still find it hard to understand why Shyama didn’t get better roles. That song from Shart is great (and she’s looking lovely), but then Shart isn’t one of the all-time grossers (though it had some fabulous songs). Shyama always ended up being the wicked bhabhi or whatever… I wish she’d got more roles like the one in Aar Paar and Barsaat ki Raat. She was so beautiful, and so vibrant!

  41. There is a difference, certainly :-). So many people (of the opposite sex) we find hot many not be conventionally good looking… sometimes not at all. The intricacies and forces of the mating instinct are still not well understood. Or are they? I would prefer them the causes and effects to remain in the mystery zone :-).

    Regarding Shyama, Bharat Bhushan… who shot to high enough heights and came down badly…. well a lot of that is in the realms of luck. Survival of the fittest. Shortsightedness – bad film choices, bad PR (getting too smug – lazy, temperamental), not adapting, not investing money wisely (B Bhushan I am told lost a lot of money producing or-co producing some films)…. sooo many factors…

  42. Somehow I’ve never been even vaguely interested in Bharat Bhushan – just too wimpy, in my opinion, to have been a leading man. I sort of tolerated films like Baiju Bawra and Barsaat ki Raat simply because they had lovely leading ladies and great songs to balance out the presence of Bharat Bhushan!

    “The intricacies and forces of the mating instinct are still not well understood.” No, I don’t think so! ;-) In any case, ‘hotness’ (as far as I’m concerned) is different from beauty – I was watching Jane Eyre (the 1944 version) the other day, and thought Orson Welles was hot. He wasn’t handsome, not by a long shot – but there was something about him that made it easy to understand why Jane Eyre fell for him!

  43. Hmmm … lot women don’t like BB. Though, I am told women in his heydays liked him. He kind of fitted into the ‘gentleperson’ hero space. Somehow he almost became the popular lead in films depicting the lives of legendary singers – Baiju Bawra, Basant Bahar and such – maybe because he had an easily-hurt (read sensitive) type expression.

    Btw, I loved Orson Welles as an actor and personality. I also loved Paul Muni. He too fell into a stereotype though – of portraying personages. Bogart too was my favourite in the days I was obsessed with b&w hollywood cinema. Amongst actresses, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn and others whose names I cannot recall. And, I absolutely worship Charlie Chaplain. I think his is the greatest body of work that has ever emerged in cinema till now.

    Hot… good looking… beautiful…. attractive…. hot/attractive but not beautiful. My older daughter, until recently, used to dwell on these shades quite a lot. Maybe I too did. Those were heady, exciting days, my teenage, in the early 70s. Woodstock, flowerpower, work-is-evil. Miss those!!

  44. Somehow I’ve never been a Bogart fan – I know there are readers on this site who’ll take offence to my saying I don’t like him much, but anyway; that’s the truth. He’s a good actor, but then there were others who were equally good…

    I guess I’ve never thought too much about the nuances of hotness/attractiveness/beauty, not even when I was a teenager! One just had one’s crushes and left it at that without trying to analyse it any further. ;-)

  45. Hi… Bogart I think stood out because he was not the typical all-american good looking type at the time when most of his conteopraries were stunningly good looking. You know, I read long ago someplace some comment about Dharmendra being the Bogart of Hindi cinema. How do you like that??!!

    I had this baal-ki-khaal nikaalnewali tendency when I was a teenager. It’s mostly gone by now. I am sure I must have annoyed a lot of people then by going into shades within shades of everything.

    What are you watching these days? Anything interesting?

  46. Dharmendra the Bogart of Hindi cinema?! Wow – that is an unusual comparison. I can’t see how, really… Dharmendra has always been much better looking than a lot of leading men, irrespective of Hindi or English/US cinema. Perhaps the Dharmendra of later, 70’s or 80’s films where he wasn’t quite so charming or naive (stuff like Sitamgar or Zalzala or any of the other rather trashy films, especially of the 80’s)? He acted the cynic, often with a criminal past, in some of those. Even then, I don’t think I’d equate him with Bogart.

    Yes, I’m almost constantly watching something or the other! I rewatched Dillagi a couple of days back, and am planning to see The Householder soon. Also Bringing up Baby and DOA: now if only I could choose which one to see first!

  47. Nor do I resonate with the Dharam – Bogart comparison. I wonder what prompted that comparison… could be the reviewer, or whoever, wanted to show off her/his knowledge of cinema. I read this sometime in the 80s, either in Filmfare or The Illustrated Weekly…

    Householder – Shashi Kapoor? Saw it in the 60s. I was 9 years old and found a Hindi actor speaking in English a little strange. Let me read your review. Then I’ll see whether to watch it again :-).

  48. I’ve never seen The Householder before – am looking forward to it! (though it might be a while before I can post a review: I have some other stuff lined up for next week, to coincide with S D Burman’s birthday).

  49. Inamullah, beauty is completely subjective… I know a lot of people may not think Madhubala beautiful or even a fine actress (which, by the way, wasn’t the focus of this post: acting ability is a totally different aspect). But this was my list, and I think I’m entitled to put in it women whom I find beautiful!

    Oh, and by the way: I’ve deleted your other comment because it’s just so very impolite. You should learn some manners, you know.

  50. Fantastic list! I kissed this post when you first did it, but came by way of Richard’s post today of film beauties. I love your list. Really how could you miss with so many gorgeous stars!? I too think Mala Sinha is adorable. I have only seen her in Pyaasa and Himalaya Ki God Mein and would love to see more of her. I don’t think I’ve see Shakila in anything, so thanks for introducing me to her. While reviewing Shyama’s filmography, I’ve seen and remembered her in a lot of films, but this post make me want to take a closer look at her next time I see her in a film. Her performances as meanies probably have distracted me from her beauty. Nice work yaar.

  51. Thank you, sitaji! :-)

    if you want to see Shakila, I’d recommend CID (a very good Bollywood noir and one of my favourite films) and Aar Paar, where she is, surprisingly, the vamp. Aar Paar is also a great film as far as Shyama is concerned – she’s the heroine, very beautiful and for once in a sympathetic role. Or you could try Khazanchi; I haven’t seen it, but I remember Greta gave it a good review on her blog.

  52. I totally love your list….If I was to make a list, I would have had all these 10 actresses, the order would have varied a little though. Waheeda, Nutan, and Sadhna would have topped the list followed by Madhubala, Meena Kumari, Shyama and the rest of them.
    If you just look at Madhubala’s eyes, or nose or cheekbones, one at a time, I don’t think there’s anything perfect, but on the whole she’s such a beauty!!! No wonder they say “imperfections add to beauty”.
    While reading the comments, all the discussion going on about Nargis, I was thinking of Dil ki girah se , and then I saw your comment mentioning this. I never felt Nargis was a classic beauty but there was something nice and attractive about her. But I really found her lovely in that song.

  53. You are so right! Madhubala’s features aren’t perfect if seen one at a time, but the combined effect is dazzling. And Nargis in Dil ki girah khol do is mesmerising – there’s something so sophisticated about her in that song (not in the rest of the film, though, sadly!)

  54. Dusted off, this is the first time I am posting here. I’m in sync with your list except I really do not understand the appeal of Mala Sinha.
    My own list would have Madhubala, Meena Kumari, Vyjayantimala (in Sangam/Amrapali she’s the most beautiful woman in the world for me) and early Waheeda. I can stop here but if forced to list 10, it’d be Nutan, Asha Parekh, Sharmila, Mumtaz and then more distantly perhaps Sandhya, Shakila and Kalpana Karthik. I don’t know the 50s very well actually so there could be others.

  55. Well, if everybody had the same lists, it would be a boring world! Thank you for sharing your list – I don’t agree with Sandhya and Kalpana Karthik, but hey, no big deal. In the 50’s, another actress who could at times look very pretty was Nimmi; unfortunately, she ended up doing some really theatrical acting (e.g. Aan and Amar) which really puts me off.

    Oh, and Suchitra Sen. Also so, so pretty. But there aren’t too many Hindi films of hers around…

  56. Good choices; this is my ranking:

    1, Asha Parekh
    2, Meena Kumari
    3, Nalini Jaywant
    4, Tanuja
    5, Helen
    6, Shakila
    7, Shyama
    8, Nimmi
    9, Madhuri Dixit
    10, Sadhana
    11, Waheeda Rehman
    12, Mala Sinha
    12, Mumtaz
    13, Zeenat Aman
    14, Nutan

    Per the Mala Sinha detractors — I recommend watching Pyaasa; she’s lovely in that.

  57. I often try to check out any news on some of my favorite actors/actresses and I came across the following stuff about Sadhana and some recent pics of hers. I was always wondering how she looks now – esp since she’s been shunning public appearances, including being a part of the launching of HumDono in color. Dev Anand is said to have tried his best to get his two leading ladies-Sadhana and Nanda- out of hiding for the colored HumDono premier but without any success. I’m sure many of us would’ve loved to see them.

    http://www.mid-day.com/news/2010/nov/211110-sadhana-harassment-case-yusuf-lakdawala-bailed.htm http://www.deccanherald.com/content/94028/harassed-sadhana-seeks-police-cover.html

  58. Thank you so much for that, Simplegal!! You’re right – Sadhana has led a very away-from-the-mdeia existence unlike her contemporaries like Waheeda Rehman or Vyjyantimala. It was good to see her, but also a little disappointing. :-( I wish she hadn’t dyed her hair – it looks so artificial; the grey coiffures of ladies like Waheeda Rehman and Shashikala are so elegant!

  59. From your list, I am a big fan of Helen. I also like Sharmila, Asha Parekh and Mumtaz. Helen in my opinion was not good looking in the 50s but from 1960(Hum Hindustani) onwards, she started to look good. She also maintained her trim figure throughout the 60’s, 70’s and early 80s. Asha Parekh was attractive but she had a really big bum and a really slim upper body. Sharmila and Mumtaz were always good looking.

  60. You all forgot one beauty……..Geeta Bali ,especially in “tadbeer se bigdi hui” from baazi (1951)……Bina Rai in Anarkali was also good….but she was not a great actress……..Madhubala is my all-time favourite,whether it be beauty or acting….

  61. Great list! thank you for including Helen, she’s so underrated in my opinion. I feel that she gets overlooked or isn’t thought of as being beautiful in the leading lady sense because she often played the role of the vamp, I think she’s pretty and can dance too, a winning combination! Personally I have yet to see the appeal of Vyjayanthimala and Mala Sinha.

    I can say that for me the most beautiful actresses of the era are idefinitely Sadhana and Sharmila Tagore. I think both were absolutely gorgeous in their youth.

    I loved Sadhana in Woh Kaun Thi, she was so enigmatic and hauntingly beautiful, amplified by the fog and the melody of “naina barse, rhim jhim rhim jhim” and that signature cut really, she is the only one who could have pulled it off.

    Sharmila Tagore I think was a very good actress, and she certainly was an arresting face, she had such a unique look even with the crazy, often too big for her face, hairpieces and large winged eyeliner. Actually I’d say that for her age she still looks pretty good, but let’s face it, she can’t be anything but awesome in my eyes; I’m a big fan of her acting ability, her being good looking is an added perk.

    Funnily enough, I didn’t know she was Saif Ali Khan’s mother until I was about 18–that’s when I actually found out what Bollywood was and got to know the world of classic cinema–my mind was blown. I had such a big crush on him at the time! It’s easy to see why and I still can’t believe I didn’t make the connection especially considering Sharmila Tagore had already been solidified as one of my favourite actresses; he’s definitely got his mother’s face! But that’s neither here nor there.

    • Incidentally, my sister used to go to the same gym as Sharmila Tagore did till a couple of years back, and she used to see the lady without makeup. My sister said Sharmila looks even more fresh and lovely without – at this age, mind you – than she does when she’s photographed for interviews etc. And considering she still looks so lovely to us who see her only in the occasional print ad or article, that must be quite something.

      And Sadhana I have a very soft spot for, anyway, since my mother used to be almost a spitting image of Sadhana. :-)

    • To each their own! I like Geeta Bali more for her effervescence and her undeniable charm than for her looks – though I willingly admit that she was certainly very pretty, especially in films like Albela.

  62. Madhubala, Saira Banu, Vyjayanthimala, Padmini, Sadhana, Asha Parekh, Mala Sinha, Sharmila Tagore, Hema Malini, Rekha, Sridevi, Jayapradha, Madhuri Dixit, Meenakshi Seshadri, Aishwarya Rai among the true beauties of Hindi cinema.

  63. Padmini definitely deserves a special mention here :) Like mentioned earlier by others, she had more sex appeal and expressive eyes (can be attributed to her mastery in dance). Though I may have to disagree with her having the “loveliest lips”, she had a sensuous screen presence in Hindi films, especially the post marriage avatar (thanks to Raj Kapoor). Agree with you on Lalitha.

  64. Now this is a list I can agree with mostly :-) Definitely agree on your top two. Easily the most beautiful women in Bollywood.

    Now, as far as who I would add…

    Nargis – she was so strikingly beautiful, but not in a conventional Indian way. She was like a Persian miniature, or a Hellenistic sculpture. She was just so luminous, with flawless skin that appears to glow even in candid pictures. And she had those erotic heavy lidded eyes and a slack jaw with a heart-shaped mouth, which always made her look like she was in the throes of sensual pleasure. She definitely had sex appeal in spades, probably most of all Bollywood women, due to her fiery temper and her devil-may-care attitude.

    I’ve noticed it’s most often women who can’t understand the appeal of Nargis’s looks. I think personally that women tend to internalize conventional beauty standards much more than men do, so they easily see women who don’t fall within those (narrow) standards as unattractive.

    Padmini – classical South Indian beauty, can’t leave her out. She gets overlooked a bit in the looks department compared to Vyjayanthimala, I feel. She’s also more sensuous than Vyjayanthi in my opinion.

    Suchitra Sen – so, so beautiful. Bengali women are gorgeous. I love her eyes and her longish face and the mole on her chin. And she was a very sexy, very daring lady with the photographs of her baring skin like that (there is a notable one of her topless back!).

    Kamini Kaushal – slightly older generation, but so, so pretty, and also unconventionally so.

    From your list I would probably take out Meena Kumari (too tragic), Helen (not a beauty as such, very sexy though), Shakila (very pretty, like porcelain, but too conventional), Shyama (also too conventional), and Mumtaz (with some reluctance: gorgeous girl, but I can’t put everybody at the top!).

    I would also put Sharmila Tagore in my top ten. Her unconventional face really appeals to me, though I think she looked her best in more traditional Indian styles, funnily enough. I can agree w/ the rest. Asha Parekh looked her most beautiful in Kati Patang in my opinion. Mala Sinha was also gorgeous, but I actually think that she, too, looked her best in traditional Indian styles. Those eyes!

    • Good! I’m glad we agree on Madhubala and Waheeda Rehman. :-) Both were simply stunning.

      Of your list, one person I definitely agree with is Suchitra Sen. She was very beautiful. When it comes to her roles in Hindi cinema, I think she looked her loveliest in Bombay ka Babu. I’m afraid I can’t bear Padmini in most films – there’s something about her which tends to put me off, most of the time, though I do admit she was a great dancer.

  65. though I didn’t liked your list but will not blame you because everyone has its own personal choice.

    First of all don’t give positions just mention them.

    Though I have issues regarding Saira Banu’s acting she is one of the most beautiful actress of 60s apart from this you haven’t mentioned Bina Rai who was very beautiful and her status was very high in the industry at that time (I am stating this because you have listed Shyama, Shakeela and Helen, as their status was not much more).

    Sadhana is beautiful but I like her without Sadhana cut more. Just see her in the song “Tujhe jeevan ki dor se…”, she is looking very beautiful without Sadhana cut. Asha Parekh is also beautiful but her physic is somewhat clumsy.

    How can you say that Vyjayanthimala looked more beautiful in her later works, just see her earlier works like Devdas, Naya Daur, Madhumati, Paigham and Sadhana.

    There was also another actress prominently of 40s but have done some films in 50s and early 60s, yes I am talking about Suraiya her name is worth required.

    Though the Mahanayika, Suchitra Sen was a Bengali superstar but her lesser number of Hindi films made her remarkable in Bollywood too. Her beauty was classic and mesmerizing.

    So if I’ve to make a list then I’ll add Bina Rai, Suraiya, Suchitra Sen and Saira Banu and will remove Shakeela, Mala Sinha and Helen and kick out Sharmila, ohh her face and acting is so irritating. She is not all beautiful indeed she is horrible. If sometimes she looks good then it is a result of good makeup and good photography. One thing to be mentioned here that she has no dimples she has holes on her cheek and her beehive hairstyle make her more horrible than she is.

  66. Bollywood Classic beauties
    My list-
    1.Madhubala- The same case here as yours.I didn’t even think once to change her position in this list.She looked so gorgeous and elegant.
    2.Vyjayanthimala- She is one of the most cute actress.She has a childish face and her eyes too beautiful.
    3.Nutan- She really looked gorgeous in her older movies but somehow in coloured movies she didn’t looked much pretty.
    4.Waheeda Rehman- She has a very attractive and lovely face.She looked very beautiful in Chaudhvin Ka chaand and Sahib bibi air Ghulam.
    5.Suchitra Sen – Again a Bengali beautiful artist in my list other than Vyjayanthimala .She looked so pretty in Bumbai Ka babu and Devdas but somehow she didn’t looked good at all in Mamta.She is loaded with heavy and shining make up with dark lipstick which destroys her beauty.
    6.Meena Kumari-Her face was very simple,beautiful and innocent but in the last years of her life her beauty was diminished because of her health.
    7.Sadhana- I really liked Sadhana’s looks specially in black and white movies.Though her haircut didn’t suited her much, She looked prettier without it.
    8.Bina Rai- She wasn’t a very popular actress of her time but still she looked much much much more beautiful than actresses like Nargis and the horrible Nimmi who were popular than her.
    9.Tanuja- Iam not a fan of her but whereas her looks are concerned she really looks charming.
    10.Asha Parekh – When I see Asha Parekh’s black and white songs it really shocks me.She looked so beautiful in those songs as compared to her looks in Coloured movies.

  67. my list. the beauty with which everybody could relate waheeda ji solvaah saal, chaudvi ka chaand , kala bazaar ) indian beauty nanda ji. mystique sadhna ji ( woh kaun thi ) western looks tanuja ji. sharmila ji i like her most in anupama and safar . she was famous for her short pallus. will choose padmini over vjyantimala. i like saira till mid 60s ( junglee, april fool, shaadi and bluff master her only two black n white movies i think. i dont like her from padosan and later career. i like sheela rehmani smile and mumtaaz ji chubbiness.

      • great thanks i feel saira looks best with joy. i always feel that april fool was written for shammi ji he didn’t had time so biswajeet ji landed.

      • i want to say something on Asha ji and shashi kala ji. when i watched shashi kala ji in the film. i immediately got remembered of aasha parekh in mere sanam. the point is they had same kind of style difference was aasha ji wear churidaar and shashi ji patiala. in saree. aasha ji sleeveless and shashi ji off shoulder. rest hair style and every thing just same.

                • Just thought I’d point out… Asha Parekh doesn’t wear churidaars in Mere Sanam, at least from what I remember (I’ve just also had a look at a couple of the songs). Very narrow salwars, not as flared as Shashikala’s, but salwars nevertheless.

                  From what I recall, it was Sadhana in Waqt who first wore – at least as a major actress in a major film – churidars with kurtas, leading to a trend (after 1965) for that combination. So Asha Parekh in Teesri Manzil might be a better example as a comparison to Shashikala.

          • on common looks ! salwar suit ! junglee , mere sanam. in saree aasha ji films do badan, love in tokyo. aasha ji looked different in western dress. my fav will be ajaa ajaa . if i could got the chance would have married first Rajender kumar and sadhna ji. then joy saira and shammi aasha ji.

    • I know some people who would endorse your opinion wholeheartedly. :-) I am not quite so certain (I’m thinking Devi, Meherbaan, Khaandaan, Milan, etc… but yes, she was, especially in the 50s and early 60s, hard to beat when it came to acting.

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