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