Classic Actresses on Postage Stamps

Nothing as expensive as what I bought myself for my birthday, but yes, I’ve just acquired something I really like. Last Sunday, I visited Indipex, the International Philatelic Exhibition, currently being held at Delhi’s Pragati Maidan. Not because I’m especially interested in stamps, but because besides the auctions and the exhibitions and the sales of stamps, India Post also had an important new release scheduled.

[Note: You can click each of the images in this post to see a large image].

India Post—long notorious for thinking that politicians (and occasionally scientists) are about the only ‘great personalities’ worthy of having postage stamps of their own—have always given Indian cinema rather stepmotherly treatment. Considering the fact that cinema is probably the most popular form of entertainment in the country, and considering ours is the largest film industry in the world, personalities from cinema have been pretty much neglected.

Not totally neglected, I hasten to add. I knew a Nargis stamp had been released a while back, and that the gorgeous Madhubala was immortalised (as if she needed a stamp for that!) on a 5 rupee stamp in 2008. And while wandering through Indipex, I found a set of stamps featuring Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi, S D Burman and Hemant, Hindi cinema’s musical stalwarts. Plus, there’s a Satyajit Ray stamp.

Now, a long overdue tribute to some more cinema greats. On February 13, 2011, six commemorative stamps featuring famous Indian actresses—Meena Kumari, Nutan, Leela Naidu, Devika Rani, Savithri Devi and Kanan Devi—were released at Indipex (Yay! for the fact that they didn’t restrict themselves to actresses only from Hindi cinema). I’d read that Asha Parekh and Vyjyantimala were among the special guests who’d been invited, but haven’t been able to discover whether they came for the do or not. Hopefully in a couple of years’ time, these ladies will be getting their own stamps!

Along with the stamps, India Post also released a booklet, which contains brief biographies of the six ladies, including their major films, awards, etc. The Madhubala stamp was re-released at the same time, so I managed to buy one of those.

I also managed to buy a first day cover—all six stamps, duly stamped—and a sheet each of the Meena Kumari and Nutan stamps. Couldn’t get sheets of the others, but I’ll keep trying. Each stamp has a close-up of the lady, beside a still from one of her films. The only film still I could positively identify was Meena Kumari’s: it’s from Pakeezah. Nutan’s may be from Sujata (or Seema?), and Leela Naidu’s may be from Anuradha, but I can’t be sure in either case.

Who cares? I love these anyway!

By the way, on a related note: I received a comment from a reader just today. A petition is online to get the United States Postal Service to release a Tyrone Power postage stamp. If you’re for it (like I am), go sign!

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47 thoughts on “Classic Actresses on Postage Stamps

    • Fortunately, not very expensive – and I don’t think difficult to get either. Or did you mean you wished you had a stamp of yourself? ;-) That isn’t too difficult, either, right now. At Indipex they have a system whereby you can get yourself photographed at a kiosk and they’ll put your photo on a stamp for you. Not valid as postage, I think, though! Huge crowd wanting to get that done.

  1. Lovely post, thank you so much for sharing this info and the pics! I’m digging that first day cover, really am. Hope they eventually make their way to Rhythm House or eBay, and if not, definitely on my shopping list for that next trip to India. Cheers!

  2. A nice addition to your lobby cards :)

    Am I imagining or was there also a coin with Madhubala on it? Perhaps the only star ever to have that distinction?
    Thanks DO. Interesting post.

      • She looks better in the stamp than the coin! Am not that much of a Madhubala fan – and neither did I ever find her particularly beautiful and could never really understand what the hype about her was all about. But I have to say she looks ethereal in this stamp picture.

        • As far as I’m concerned, the coin is simply awful! If I hadn’t seen that ‘Madhubala’ inscribed on the coin, I’d never have known it was supposed to be her. But yes, she looks especially beautiful in the stamp.

    • Will you believe it, I’m such a duffer, it didn’t strike me that I wrote up this post right after The Postman Always Rings Twice – I realised it only late last night, and was thinking I should add a smart line in this post to that effect. You beat me to it! ;-) Maybe the next film I review – carrying on the tradition – should be Postbox 999!

  3. That looks amazing, something I might even like to have! What a pity, though, that they have to be dead. Here in Aotearoa, for a long time we had the distinction of having a living person other head of state on our currency (Sir Edmund Hillary), and it’s a bit disappointing that Waheeda misses out on being part of this set for having had the temerity to stay alive this along!

    • I was thinking the same thing – why does India (or at least the Indian government) tend to recognise the greatness of people only when they’re dead and gone and that appreciation doesn’t matter to them any more? Waheeda Rehman is a very good case in point. Or Dilip Kumar, for that matter. Dev Anand, too. Or Dharmendra. Sad…

        • Yes, otherwise they’ll think no end of themselves and end up being very proud, and that would never do!! Rather silly, actually, when in all the popular media and in people’s lives too, these personalities feature pretty extensively. I mean, if you are receiving loads of fan mail and people are constantly talking about how wonderful you are, surely it won’t be that much of a surprise to find you’re popular enough to get a stamp…

          Come to think of it. a lot of filmstars from yesteryears have been honoured with GOI awards – Padmashrees and so on – and have been Members of Parliament too. That should be credentials enough.

          Ho hum… let’s hope India Post keeps up the good work!

  4. These looks really nice!

    Though I guess my favorite thing (that I know of) to come out of the Indian postal service in recent years is this Special Cover:

    (Though I have to admit, I’m not exactly sure what a “Special Cover” is… :) )

    BTW, I have also been trying to find a picture of the Padmini stamp that came out in the Soviet Union, but so far, no luck…

    • No, they aren’t widely available. But I did a little bit of searching, and I found the India Post page on which they’re listed:

      http://www.indiapost.gov.in/Stamps2011.html

      There’s an e-mail address at the bottom of the page where you can write (I guess they should be able to send you some but you’ll need to find out how to pay etc). These invariably turn up on eBay within a few months – I remember seeing the Madhubala stamp there shortly after it was released.

  5. Soviet union has released padmini stamp after the film pardeshi(1957) because of her dance performance.also there is a postal cover of travencore sisters with padmini stamp

  6. IT is called a “miniature sheet” in philately. legendary heroines miniature sheet still available at GPO Bangalore. There has been a miniature sheet on legendary singers- Rafi, Kishore, Mukesh and Hemant Kumar. There have also been stamps on Rajkumar, Raj Kapoor, Satyajit Ray, Pritviray Kapoor, S D Burman, Guru Dutt, Ritwik Ghatak, Nargis Dutt to name a few of our film industry, Just yesterday stamp was released on Sahir Ludhianvi. Visit this post on stamps site- http://www.stampboards.com/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=42786
    the images of the stamps are there

    • Thank you! I didn’t know it was called a ‘miniature sheet’. I do know of the others who’ve been honoured with stamps – I have seen the SD Burman, Hemant, Satyajit Ray stamps and some more. Had also read yesterday about the release of the Sahir stamp. I do wanto lay my hands on that – will probably try at the New Delhi GPO.

      • I forgot to thank you for the other wonderful information on old hindi films. I too watch only hindi films of the 60’s to 70’s. I think after 80’s no movies are worth watching!! I am a great fan of Rajesh Khanna and Kishore Kumar.

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