Regional Star, Hindi Also-Ran: Ten Actors, Ten Songs

(With much thanks to blog reader Dr TN Subramaniam, who suggested the theme for this post, and who also supplied the first three examples of the actors that appear on this list).

I did not watch too many regional Indian films until fairly recently. True, Doordarshan did show regional cinema back when I was a child, but I was never tempted to watch (now that I think about it, I’m not even sure those films were subtitled). But in recent years, ever since I began to make a concerted effort to watch more non-Hindi films, I’ve been struck by the gap between regional cinema and Hindi cinema. A gap in many ways. For one, in the types of films made; in the production values; in the standard of acting and directing (note: I do not at all think that Bombay’s Hindi film industry outdid its regional counterparts in these areas. In a lot of cases, it was the opposite: regional cinema turned out a lot of films that were more original and generally of a higher standard than Hindi cinema, enough for Hindi remakes to be churned out).

And then there were the people who acted in these films. On the one hand, there were the many actors who confined themselves to the cinema of the region they belonged to. These were the majority, some of them even very fine, well-respected actors (think Tulsi Chakraborty, for instance) who were never seen in Hindi cinema. On the other hand, there were actors, big stars of regional cinema, who were also fairly successful in Hindi cinema. Bengalis like Suchitra Sen and Utpal Dutt; stars of Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada cinema like Padmini, Vyjyanthimala, and Waheeda Rehman: stars in their own regions, and stars familiar to Hindi filmgoers as well.

But there were some regional stars who, for some reason or the other, never could make it big in Hindi cinema. Perhaps they never felt the need to pursue a career in Hindi cinema (Soumitra Chatterjee, I know, was one of these), and never had the time; perhaps they could not be bothered with the language skills needed (though I can think of several people who did make names for themselves in Hindi cinema without being too good at Hindi). Perhaps they just didn’t have what it took to make them popular with a Hindi-speaking audience. Perhaps they were pure unlucky.

B Saroja Devi

So here is the list: ten songs featuring people who were big stars in regional cinema, but who didn’t quite achieve the same success in Hindi cinema. These are, as always, from pre-70s Hindi films that I’ve watched. Also, while these are otherwise in no particular order, the first three songs feature actors suggested by Dr Subramaniam to illustrate the theme.

1. Sun le meri paayalon ke geet saajna (Sasuraal, 1961): Jayshree Gadkar. Jayshree Gadkar is not a total non-entity when it comes to Hindi cinema, but most viewers would remember her from her frequent appearances in mythologicals and family dramas. But Jayshree Gadkar was a much greater presence in Marathi cinema, where she starred in many more films (and won awards, too, for several of them). Having started as a child actress in the 1950s, she went on to act till well into the 1990s, even turning director later in life.

Here, in a family drama that is best known for its songs, Jayshree dances onstage with a troupe of extras to a song beckoning a lover. Lovely music, and fairly competent dancing by Gadkar.

Jayshree Gadkar in Sun le meri paayalon ke geet saajna, Sasuraal

2. Khoya-khoya chanda khoye-khoye taare (Door Gagan ki Chhaaon Mein, 1964): Supriya Chowdhury. Born in Burma, Supriya Chowdhury had so early on shown a talent for dance that the Prime Minister of Burma had personally given her an award for her dance when she was just seven years old. Her dance lessons continued once her family (forced to flee Burma during World War II) arrived in Kolkata. Supriya Chowdhury went on to debut in the 1952 Uttam Kumar-starrer Basu Paribar. Over the course of some five decades, she worked in many films, including much-acclaimed ones like Meghe Dhaka Tara. She won numerous film awards, as well as the Padma Shri.


… and she acted in a handful of Hindi films, including Kishore Kumar’s home production, Door Gagan ki Chhaaon Mein, where she played the role of a young woman who befriends a mute boy and his widowed father. This song, a lullaby, serves to build a bond between the boy and the woman, and inadvertently, with the boy’s father as well.

Supriya Choudhury in Khoya-khoya chanda, Door Gagan ki Chhaaon Mein

3. Mann re tu hi bata kya gaaoon (Humraahi, 1963): Jamuna. Jamuna was a big name in Telugu cinema, having first shot to fame with her performance in Missamma (1955), which as most Hindi film buffs would know, was remade in Hindi as Miss Mary (interestingly, Jamuna played the role of Sita, the precocious teenager daughter of the household, in both the Telugu and Hindi versions of the film). Over the course of her career, Jamuna acted in close to 200 films, and won several awards. She even appeared in a few Hindi films, her role in Milan (1967) getting her a Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award as well.

The first time I ever saw Jamuna was in this film about a woman married to a reformed rake: his history, of which she’s aware, is such that she regards her unwanted husband with utter contempt, unaware that he has fallen so deeply in love with her that he’s changed his ways. The bitter and miserable wife’s angst comes pouring forth even in public; when, at a party (as is always the case in Hindi cinema) she’s asked to sign something, this song of woe and accusation is all that comes forth.

Jamuna in Mann re tu hi bata, Humraahi

4. Jai jai hey Jagdambe Mata (Ganga ki Lehren, 1964): Savitri. Jamuna was a major star, but her mentor was even bigger. At one time the most sought-after and the highest paid actress in Telugu and Tamil cinema, Savitri was an acknowledged superstar, an actress who could carry a film on her shoulders in an era when cinema across India was dominated by male stars (which it still is, to be honest). Watch the absolutely brilliant performance of Savitri in the delightful Maya Bazaar, for instance, and you can see just what a phenomenon this woman was. But. Like so many others (including her husband, Gemini Ganesan), Savitri’s stint in Hindi cinema was brief and forgettable. She acted in a handful of films, mostly in a supporting role, and even then, the characters she played weren’t especially memorable. For instance, in the very melodramatic and tedious Ganga ki Lehren, she played the self-sacrificing wife of Dharmendra’s character, and spent most of the film weeping or singing bhajans or other sad songs.

Savitri in Jai Jai hey Jagdambe Mata, Ganga ki Lehren

5. O raat ke musaafir (Miss Mary, 1957): Gemini Ganesan.  A colossus of Tamil cinema, Ramasamy ‘Gemini’ Ganesan ruled as the ‘Kaadhal Mannan’ (the ‘king of romance’) in Tamil films. While the other two ruling superstars of Tamil cinema—Sivaji Ganesan and MGR—predominantly acted in dramatic films and action movies respectively, Gemini Ganesan made a name for himself in romantic roles. In a career that spanned several decades, Ganesan won many awards, including the Padma Shri.

Most Hindi-speaking audiences would at least have heard of Gemini Ganesan, as the father of the very popular Hindi actress Rekha. But it’s not as if Gemini Ganesan himself was a complete disaster in Hindi cinema; he was pretty good opposite Meena Kumari in the very enjoyable Miss Mary (where he reprised his role from the Tamil version of the film). Miss Mary, while a big hit, ended up being the only major Hindi film Gemini Ganesan is remembered for. There were other films too, again remakes of Gemini Ganesan’s Tamil hits, but most of those made little impact, and/or are now mostly forgotten.

Miss Mary, however, is still loved, and this song, in which two lovers petition the moon, is a classic.

Gemini Ganesan in O raat k musaafir, Miss Mary

6. Chhoti si mulaqat pyaar ban gayi (Chhoti Si Mulaqat, 1967): Uttam Kumar. I have to admit that this is one of the cases of a regional superstar failing in Hindi cinema that I find most inexplicable. I can imagine that some of the other regional stars who appeared in Hindi cinema may not have had looks that appealed to a pan-Indian audience; some may not have had the language skills that would make them believable. But Uttam Kumar? Uttam Kumar was still quite handsome when he starred in Chhoti Si Mulaqat, and his Bengali accent was no worse than (say) Biswajit’s. And while Chhoti Si Mulaqat was a film with rather regressive tones, it was really worse than many other Hindi films of the period.

But yes, Uttam Kumar—possibly the greatest star of Bengali cinema (so great that it’s said Satyajit Ray wrote Nayak with Uttam Kumar in mind), loved by millions, acting in hundreds of films, and winning accolades left, right and centre—did, oddly enough, end up in a flop with this film, which he had produced. Uttam Kumar went on to act in several other Hindi films as well, which fared marginally better, but he was past his prime by then. For now, the title song from Chhoti Si Mulaqat, where he matches steps with the beautiful Vyjyanthimala.

Uttam Kumar in Chhoti si mulaqat pyaar ban gayi, Chhoti Si Mulaqat

7. Kuhu kuhu bole koyaliya (Suvarna Sundari, 1957): Akkineni Nageshwar Rao. Akkineni Nageshwar Rao or ANR was, along with his contemporary NT Rama Rao, one of the greatest Telugu film personalities ever. Not only was he instrumental in establishing the Telugu film industry in Hyderabad (having helped move it away from Chennai), he also founded Annapurna Studios and established a school of film and media in the studios in recent years. With a slew of awards (including the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award and the Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and Padma Shri), ANR was definitely one of those regional stars who left a mark on Indian cinema as a whole.

Suvarna Sundari, simultaneously made in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi, starred ANR in the Telugu and Hindi versions. It was a fun fantasy film, pretty entertaining, and with this iconic classical song. This was the only Hindi film ANR worked in, and I enjoyed it enough to wish he’d worked in more.

ANR in Kuhu kuhu bole koyaliya, Suvarna Sundari

8. Jaagi badan mein jwala (Izzat, 1968): Jayalalitha. One could probably make a pretty long list of actresses from the South who also appeared in Hindi cinema. Some like Waheeda Rehman, Vyjyanthimala and Padmini became such major stars in Hindi cinema that they didn’t do much (or any) cinema in the South anymore. Others, like Jamuna or B Saroja Devi, did a few films but never quite managed to make a success of their careers in Bombay.

And there was Jayalalitha. Jayalalitha, the stuff of legend, whom even present-generation Indians would have heard of as the four-time Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, but who, in her time, was one of Tamil cinema’s hottest stars. The ‘Queen of Tamil Cinema’ ruled the box office in the 60s and 70s, acting in close to 150 films in a little less than two decades. Acting in Telugu and Kannada films too, she made a name for herself as both actress and dancer, and won several awards.

Jayalalitha worked in only one Hindi film, Izzat, opposite Dharmendra (Tanuja was the lead actress; Jayalalitha was in a side role as the love interest of the hero’s half-brother). In this song, one of the typical ‘tribals dancing’ sequences so beloved of Hindi cinema, she shows off her dancing skills.

Jayalalitha in Jaagi badan mein jwaala, Izzat

9. Jaiyyo jaiyyo sipahiyya bazaar (Nishaan, 1949): P Bhanumathi. An actress, a producer, director, author, playback singer, composer and lyricist: P Bhanumathi wore many hats, and seems to have excelled in pretty much all those spheres. A multi-talented woman, she acted both in Telugu as well as Tamil cinema, and (from what I’ve seen of her) won several awards, including the Padma Bhushan. India Post also issued a postage stamp in her honour.

I fell in love with P Bhanumathi when I watched Chakrapani (in which she starred opposite ANR):  she was a delight to watch. Then, a year later, I happened to watch another very entertaining film, Nishaan, which starred Bhanumathi. The Hindi remake of a film originally in Tamil (and later made in Telugu, all three versions starring Bhanumathi in the lead role) was about twin brothers, but Bhanumathi stole the show. Here, in the reason I watched the film in the first place, she manages to hoodwink an entire contingent of soldiers and give them the slip—with a song.

10. Jaata hoon main mujhe ab na bulaana (Dadi Maa, 1966): Kashinath Ghanekar. I began this list with a star of Marathi cinema, and I’ll end it with another (it’s odd, though, that despite Bombay being the capital of Maharashtra, relatively few Marathi stars seem to have transitioned into Hindi cinema; perhaps that is a topic that needs much more research, especially from someone who’s equally conversant in both Hindi cinema and Marathi cinema). Kashinath Ghanekar (whose second wife was Sulochana Latkar’s daughter) may not have been as huge a star in cinema as he was on stage (in the world of Marathi theatre, he was supposedly a ‘superstar’ who was for a long time the highest-paid actor as well). Besides starring in many plays, though, Kashinath (as he was often billed) also acted in several popular Marathi films, including one with a Hindi cinema connect: he was the lead actor in Paathlaag (1964), the original version of the Hindi suspense film Mera Saaya (1966).

And he acted in—as far as I can gather—two Hindi films. In Abhilasha (where he appears, among other scenes, in the female version of Waadiyaan mera daaman) and in Dadi Maa, where he plays the role of the modern-day prince who’s been brought up as a foundling. The more well-known song from Dadi Maa is probably Ae maa teri soorat, where Kashinath shares the ‘singing’ with Dilip Raj (son of P Jairaj), but this song is picturized completely on him alone, as his character wanders through the wilderness, having left behind all those who were dear to him.

Kashinath Ghanekar in Jaata hoon main, Daadi Maa

Can you add more names to this list? And, if you do have other actors to suggest, can you please also suggest some good films of theirs in their respective regional languages that you would like to recommend? While there’s very little chance that I will be able to get hold of subtitled versions of old films, hope springs eternal.

113 thoughts on “Regional Star, Hindi Also-Ran: Ten Actors, Ten Songs

  1. Thanks for this interesting post. Much needed distraction. I watched Savitri first in Ganga ki Lehrein and hated her performance. It was only later that I watched Maya Bazar and some other movies that I understood why she was such a big star! As for Uttam Kumar, now why he didnt click in Hindi cinema, that is a mystery for sure, especially If Biswajit could make it somewhat as a hero…. strange!
    Hmm, I havent seen Hamrahi. Do you think its worth a watch?

    • Watch the sub titles version of the recent Tamil film Mahanati based on Savitri life Uttam Kumar did not click in his first attempt because he got into wrong hands in Bombay who exploited him fully unlike Biswajit who hade the renowned Hemant kumar supporting him You must watch Humrahi for a good family drama with excellent Comedy and SJcomposed songs

    • Yes, Harini. I first watched Savitri in Ganga ki Lehren and hated her! But Maya Bazaar changed that completely. She was so good in that.

      Humraahi is pretty standard MB. Woman hates her husband (whom she’s been forced to marry) because she thinks he’s a philanderer. She doesn’t know he’s reformed after falling for her, but he manages to convince her by looking after her after she falls seriously ill… it’s been ages since I watched it, so I don’t remember much of whether it was good or merely average.

    • Savitri is among my favorite actresses in Tamil cinema (have not watched too much of her in other languages). Despite being a Tamilian, since I grew up in Bombay, my first film of hers was also “Ganga ki LehreN” and I could not understand why my mom and grandmother loved her so much. It was not till much later that I realized just how great an actress she was. In many ways she reminded me of Meena Kumari – both had the ability to have great comedic timing (though Savitri had the edge in this area) despite often being given melodramatic roles; and the other is their ability to emote with great subtlety when needed. They both battled weight gain and alcoholism in the latter part of their careers and died way too young.
      I remember watching “Navarathri” approximately 40 years back, where Sivaji Ganesan played 9 roles and what stands out for me in that film is Savitri (I am sure Sivaji fans will balk).

      Now that I have finished talking about her, I want to congratulate you on another nice themed post Madhu. One name that I would add to this list is Aparna Sen – she has acted in very few Hindi films and never quite made an impact. Her later entry as a director was better received though those films were more English than Hindi.
      Another Bengali actress in that ilk is Lily Chakravarty who was only in a few Hindi films like Achaanak, Chhupke Chhupke, Mausam and Alaap.
      Among actors, Anant Nag would qualify – made several several films in Kannada, but only a handful of Hindi films, even those in the “offbeat” category.

      • Thank you for that very interesting comment, sangeetbhakt! I read it with a lot of interest.

        Aparna Sen, I totally agree with. Both with her lack of success as a Hindi actress, and her directorial success being in films that were more English than Hindi. Lily Chakravarty and Anant Nag I had forgotten about, so a special thank you for those names!

  2. Gemini’s Teen Bahuraniyan with three South based leading ladies in the Title role Sowcar Janki,Jayanti and Kanchana

  3. Kanchana was seen in Farz also where she sang on the screen ‘na na na aaja mere paas………….She is a living legend today

  4. Jayanti was seen in Lal Bangla made by Producer/Director Jugal Kishore Watch her on YT in the famous Mukesh song ‘chand ko kya maloom….Friends will have to excuse many of the uploaders on YT to mention Character actor Hiralal singing on screen actually it is Jugal Kishore himself , he liked playing roles in his own films

  5. Rajshri Productions in the mid 70s used to make small budget films in dozens then They introduced Odia Actor/Director Prashant Nanda opp Zarina Wahab in Naiyya a remake of his own Odia film name I cannot recall

    • Going off on a bit of a tangent here. I remember Zee Classics constantly playing Rajshri Productions movies from the 1970s-80s and catching a few odd glimpses of “Naiyya”. Later, I went down a rabbit hole while searching for info on Odia star Mahasweta Roy (who had acted in a few Bengali movies) and found that she acted in the original Odia version of “Naiyya” along with Prashant Nanda. The original “Shesha Shrabana” was very different from the ‘happier’ Hindi version! “Shesha Shrabana” was rather morbidly depressing. Not to generalize, but I have often found the Hindi versions of regional movies being less tragic/less serious.

      • I have to admit I’ve never seen Naiyya. But yes, I agree that most Hindi versions of regional movies tend to be less serious/tragic (also, paradoxically, less funny if the original is a comedy! – e.g, Maya Bazaar was certainly a lot less fun in Hindi, and several people have told me that Chhadmabeshi was much funnier than Chupke-Chupke).

  6. We all are aware of the famous leading lady Rajshree who left films and settled in US during mid 60s During the same time another South based leading lady Rajshree worked in Pyar Kiye Jaa Nasihat two films i can recall. She never changed her name but in the Titles was referred as Rajshri ‘South’

  7. Strange is the case of Sridhar’s Dharti staring Rajinder Kumar/Waheeda a remake of a Tamil film ‘name not known’ staring Shivaji Ganeshan ,leading lady I do not know the name There was a character who came in the climax probably helping the Hero I saw the film when released while still in school therefore do not remember the details In the Hindi film Dharti Shivaji Ganeshan did that role ‘probably his only Hindi film and Rajinder Kumar did the same role Tamil version

    • When compiling this post, I had searched online for Sivaji Ganesan in Hindi cinema (though I couldn’t remember anything that appeared in his filmography). Thank you for this – valuable piece of information.

    • I may have misunderstood what you were trying to say Sundeep. But I interpreted what you said above as Rajendra Kumar doing the same “friend” role in the Tamil film as Sivaji did in the Hindi remake “Dharti”. If so, I don’t think that is the case. Actor Muthuraman played that role in Tamil I think.

  8. Very excellent and informative post.
    Madhuji congratulations!
    We can think of Laxmikant Berde and Ashok Saraf. Even Ashwini Bhave and Varsha Usgaonkar. All are big names in Marathi cinema and surely deserve to be.
    The male actors mentioned above were restricted to supporting and character roles. The heroines did shine in a few Hindi films, but never experienced stardom in Hindi films.
    At present can think of these names.
    To watch three of the above mentioned Marathi stars in a single block buster movie, I would mention अशी ही बनवाबनवी. It waa a remake of Biwi aur makan and is still hugely popular in Maharashtra. I don’t know if a subtitled version of the film is available. I’ll check.

    • Thank you so much, Anupji! I was hoping people like you would be able to help pinpoint Marathi actors who could fit this theme, and you didn’t disappoint. :-)

      I would love to watch Ashi Hi Banvabanvi – I really liked Biwi aur Makaan!

      • I would certainly like to mention the super star/film maker Dada Kondke who was popular amongst the masses in Mahrashtra for his double meaning humour He did work in a Hindi film ‘andheri raat mein……………..but never was regular Maybe the Marathi speaking cinegoers just loved him and he vice versa

  9. An actress called Nishi was virtually a superstar in Punjabi films, but did not do so well in Bollywood. One of her popular songs with Pradeep Kumar from ‘Tu Nahin Aur Sahi’.

    • Thank you so much, Nishi! I did wonder about Nishi Kohli, because the scanty information online did indicate that she was more popular in Punjabi cinema than in Hindi cinema, but it was not possible for me to gauge just how popular. Thank you for telling me. It’s a pity she didn’t get bigger roles in Hindi cinema – I’ve seen her in several movies, even in leading roles, but not leading roles in A Grade films.

  10. Thank you. That many in this list were from Telugu cinema made it really interesting for me.
    Savitri, the Telugu Meena Kumari, was never really Jamuna’s mentor. Towards Savitri’s tragic end Jamuna cared for her.

  11. Intriguing post, Madhu. And very well-researched. Thank you also to Dr TN Subramaniam for suggesting it.

    I think the reason why many, if not all, of the people you mentioned in this post,
    weren’t all that interested in a Hindi film career, either, Madhu. For instance, Gemini Ganesan – he only acted in the Hindi versions of south films, if you notice. And that’s because the South Indian producers signed him on.

    I think that would have been the case with Bhanumati as well, especially since she was one of the south Indian heroines who did not have a pronounced accent when she spoke Hindi (she dubbed her own dialogues). They had a well-established career down south, and in Bhanumati’s case, as you noted, she wore many hats, I think she just didn’t care enough. Same is true of ANR.

    I mean, look at the present day Telugu superstars, who could easily give our Hindi film heroes a run for their money. Or people like Prithviraj and Dulquer from Malayalam, who have dabbled in Hindi films – they just are not interested. In the case of the latter two, they get far better roles in Malayalam to be bothered. For the Telugu heroes, Mahesh Babu once said that he was perfectly happy where he was. And he has the sort of looks that one would expect North Indian audiences to like.

    • Thank you, Anu! And for adding your perspective to it. Yes, I definitely agree that their already having plenty of work (and acclaim) in their own regions was enough for these stars to not want to go to Hindi cinema. Especially when their own cinema was so robust, there wasn’t a need, I suppose, to want to expand their horizons (given, especially, that Hindi cinema was no great shakes anyway). I’ve also seen that most of the stars who transitioned into Hindi cinema and made it big there (Waheeda, Vyjyanthimala, Hema Malini) tended to then desert regional cinema – so obviously they couldn’t juggle two cinema industries simultaneously, which makes perfect sense to me. Of course, there were still those who seem to have made films in both places (Padmini, Sharmila Tagore), so obviously there are exceptions!

      I am so glad, though, that Prithviraj Sukumaran dabbled briefly in Hindi cinema! I discovered him because of that film with Rani Mukherji – I’ve forgotten its name, now – and that set me off on searching out his Malayalam films and watching several of them.

      • Aiyya! “:) That was an interesting film. Pity it didn’t succeed. Yes, Prithvi was good in that, and in Aurangazeb which, if you haven’t already, you should absolutely watch – not just for Prithvi, but for Rishi, and the subject matter.

        Dulquer is charming as well, and can speak Hindi well, which is a bonus. But Fahad, if you haven’t watched him, do try to catch him in his Malayalam outings. He’s brilliant (and the movies he acts in are damn good, too).

        • @Anu: I must watch Aurangzeb. I had been meaning to, since I like both of them so much, but somehow it slipped through the cracks. Will put that on my list ASAP. I have seen only one Dulquer film (Ustad Hotel, which I liked a lot) but none in Hindi, as far as I recall. Not Fahad – would love if you can give some suggestions for his Malayalam films. Fortunately, getting hold of subbed new films is a bit easier. :-)

          • Dulquer was there in Karvaan with Irfan and Mithila Palkar, and in The Zoya Factor with Sonam. Both light films, easy watch. Not great, but not bad at all. (So you can see why Dulquer is not chomping at the bit to cross over to Hindi.) Karvaan, in fact, had several laugh-out moments with Irfan’s one-liners. Both one-time watches, but you won’t regret watching them.

            As for Fahad, any of his films… :) As I said, I don’t think he’s acted in a ‘bad’ film recently. But I reviewed Maheshinte Prathikaram (Mahesh’s Revenge) here: https://anuradhawarrier.blogspot.com/2018/05/maheshinte-prathikaram-2016.html
            Then there’s Thondimuthalum Drisakshiyum (Spoils of a robbery and an eye witness); Kumbalangi Nights, Chaapa Kurishu (Heads or Tails), Amen, Iyobinte Pustakam (The Book of Job), and of course, Bangalore Days, which had three of Malayalam Cinema’s young brigade – Fahad, Dulquer and Nivin Pauly – acting together.

            What I absolutely *love* about the youth brigade in Malayalam is that none of them have any qualms doing short, character-driven roles in other ‘hero’ films. They seem to wander in and out of each other’s films without any ego hassles.

            Another Malayalam actor you should watch out for is Biju Menon.

            • Ooh. Thank you so much, Anu! *running off to search on Netflix*.

              I’m between films right now, so this is a good time to check out some of Fahad’s films. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

        • “Prithvi was good in that, and in Aurangazeb which, if you haven’t already, you should absolutely watch – not just for Prithvi, but for Rishi, and the subject matter.”

          I agree. I ended up quite liking “Aurangzeb”, especially because of Rishi Kapoor’s performance.

      • Just one nit – I really would not consider Waheeda Rehman a South Indian actress per-se – yes she comes from Tamil Nadu, but I don’t think she ever had a speaking part in a Tamil or Telugu film – though she was a dancer in a song or two. Her entire career was in Hindi cinema – and I am a huge fan – always wanted to hear her speak in Tamil, do some film in the language. But she never did.
        And the same is probably true for Hema Malini as well, though I think she did a few films where there was a Tamil version like “Hey Ram”. But I cannot recall her ever being a heroine in a South Indian film.

        Vyjayanthimala on the other hand was a totally different situation. She has done several films in Tamil, many of which are classics. Although she probably did more films in Hindi than Tamil. She even went back to Tamil cinema in 1960 after she had made it big in Hindi and did a handful of films there.
        Padmini was a mega-mega-mega-star in South Indian cinema – never quite made it that big in Hindi by comparison.

        • @sangeetbhakt: Thank you for that insight. Stupid to me to have assumed, on the basis of a couple of Telugu dances that I saw, to slot Waheeda Rehman as a South Indian actress. Sorry about that.

  12. Thank you for the lovely post. Here’s a South Indian, mainly Kannada, actress Bharathi Vishnuvardhan, from the movie Hum Tum Aur Woh.

    • Bharti was very popular in Hindi films, she appeared in Poorab aur Paschim,Mastana Sadhu aur Shataan and the recent Khel to name a few

      • Anant Nag is one nane from the Kannada film industry which comes to my mind. He started of in Hindi films. He was introduced by Shyam Benegal and did around 6 films with him all in Hindi. He then moved to the Kannada film industry and became a major star. His films were very successful starting with the romance and family dramas in the 70s to being a very successful actor in out and out comedy films of the 90s. He switched to character roles in the 2000s and still acts.

        I don’t know if you could call his stint in Hindi cinema unsuccessful, most if his Hindi films being non-commercial artsy types.

        • You’re right, Anant Nag is certainly not unsuccessful in Hindi cinema; in parallel Hindi cinema, he was a pretty formidable name. But I guess not the same level of stardom as he appears to have attained in Kannada cinema…

  13. Oh!
    And I found subtitled copy of अशी ही बनवाबनवी
    If you get time, watch it.
    It also features Sachin, Supriya and Sushant Ray. The latter also had a short career in Hindi films. He died prematurely of heart attack.

  14. You reviewed Saat Hindustani didn’t you? Madhu, one of Malayalam Cinema’s superstar trio (the others being Satyan and Prem Nazir), was one of the seven. And he was an NSD graduate and a Hindi professor – he could easily have made the transition. I wonder what stopped him – lack of interest from him/Hindi producers/ lack of good roles… he was getting fantastic roles in Malayalam cinema in the 60s when there was a paucity of them in Hindi, so perhaps he didn’t care too much about crossing borders.

    The other person I can think of is actress Sharada who, born in Andhra Pradesh and worked in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada, did most of her seminal work in Malayalam, and is deservedly acclaimed as a “Malayali actress’. She appeared in a handful of Hindi films as well – Samaj ko Badal Dalo, Agni Rekha – not great films, as you can see, even the titles don’t really ring a bell.

    But your post certainly started me thinking… :)

    • Yes, Madhu was one of the first people I had thought of for this post, since I remembered him from both Saat Hindustani as well as Chemmeen. But from a cursory look at Saat Hindustan, I couldn’t see him lip-syncing to the song there, so I dropped Madhu. But yes, Madhu would have fitted well – he had the looks, and his Hindi diction was perfect. Plus, he could act. Ah, well. Hindi cinema’s loss!

      I hadn’t known about Sharada – I don’t even recall the names of those films!

      • “Samaj ko Badal Dalo” was way too depressing for my taste!

        I remember watching “Agni Rekha” in some obscure channel as a kid. Weird I still remember that movie and not what I had for lunch yesterday. 😅

  15. Excellent review. I would like to mention some Marathi actors of the earlier times.
    Shanta Apte ( Kunku and its Hindi version Duniya na Mane)
    Shahu Modak ( Manoos in Marathi and Aadmi in Hindi). He also acted in many Hindi and Marathi mythologicals and sung the song ‘Mere Naina Talaash’ (from Talaash) on screen
    Gajanan Jagirdar ( Shejari and Padosi in Marathi and Hindi respectively)
    Raja Paranjpe ( Jagachya Pathivar)
    Sulochana Latkar
    Sriram Lagoo (Pinjra Hindi and Marathi)
    Sandhya ( Do Aankhen Barah Haath, Pinjra, Jal Bin Macchli)
    I am sure the list of Marathi actors is not complete
    Thanks for refreshing old memories!
    Nitin

    • Thank you so much! Shanta Apte had occurred to me too, but I was under the impression that she’d been fairly popular in Hindi cinema too. Perhaps I was mistaken.

      I would not put Sriram Lagoo, Sandhya, Sulochana Latkar and Gajanan Jagirdar in this list, though – they may not have been stars, but (I think) they were well-respected and very familiar faces in Hindi cinema during the 50s and 60s (and 70s, in the case of Dr Lagoo). Plenty of other Marathi actors, of course, but I was specifically looking for huge stars in Marathi cinema who can barely even be spotted in Hindi cinema. :-)

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. Thank you, again!

  16. Madhuji, a great subject to write on. Wanted to add two names :-
    1) Lakshmi who made it big down south in all the four languages but did not do too well in Hindi movies. Julie (1975) and Aangan ki Kali (1974) are two of her movies I have watched.

    2) Radhika – again a great actress in South Indian movies. But did not fare well in Hindi movies. There are a few movies she acted in like Naseeb apna Apna (1986)

    • Thank you so much for those additions! Now that you mention it, I do remember seeing Radhika in Naseeb Apna Apna, I hadn’t known she’d been a big star down South.

    • One actress in this ilk is Jyothika, who later married Surya and is/was a big-name actress in Tamil films. But she was born Jyotika Sadanah and made her debut in the Hindi film “Doli sajaake rakhna” – it was a fairly big flop. And I don’t think she ever made another film in Hindi. But she went on to become a major star in Tamil cinema. It was always surprising to me that she never ever returned to Hindi cinema for even a film or two – cause she is a very good actress (at least IMO) and beautiful (again IMO :-) )

      • I looked up Jyothika (the name didn’t ring a bell), and her face looks very familiar – I have a feeling I’ve probably seen her in some film (no, not Doli Sajaake Rakhna. Yes, very beautiful!

  17. Sandhya Roy was a very successful and well-regarded actress in Bengal. She worked in many films made by her husband, Tarun Majumdar. She also played a prominent role in Satyajit Ray’s “Ashani Sanket”. She played a small role in Asli Naqli. Here’s a song from the film.

  18. Another Bengali actor, Anil Chatterjee, tried his hand in Hindi films but did not succeed. He is regarded as one of the best actors in Bengali cinema acting in Ray’s, Ghatak’s and Tapan Sinha’s movies. Here’s a song from Faraar.

    • I was slapping my forehead for not remembering Anil Chatterjee, because I am watching Mahangar these days and had seen Faraar just a few months back. He was also in Meghe Dhaka Tara.

      Would Basant Choudhary also fit? I think the only Hindi film of his is Parakh, but he had a much more impressive oeuvre in Bangla.

      • Anil Chatterjee was excellent in Mahanagar. Have you seen Ray’s “Postmaster”? He was very good in this but was over shone by the child artist. Do watch it if you haven’t. Also “Nirjan Saikate” (no subtitles, I’m afraid).
        Basanta Choudhury would certainly qualify. I, too, am hard pressed to remember any of his Hindi films, apart from Parakh.

        • Thank you! I have just finished writing my review of Mahanagar and will be posting it tomorrow. He was superb in that. I will keep an eye out for Postmaster too, thank you. My Bangla is not good enough to handle something without subtitles, so Nirjan Saikate will have to wait, I’m afraid.

        • Basant Choudhury did atleast 3 more Hindi films – including Grahan and Yatrik ( which is unarguably 1952’s Best Hindi/ Indian film and otherwise also one of Indian cinema’s greatest movies ever made!!) ..

            • Dear Madhu ji,

              While YATRIK is available on YouTube, the
              earlier Bangla Film MAHAPRASTHANER
              PATHE is not.

              Both the Films had the same set of Songs
              and this was one of the more popular
              Meera Bhajan in the Film, sung so
              evocatively by BINOTA CHAKRABORTY
              (nee Vinita Amladi)

              By the way, YATRIK is another Hindi Film
              featuring TULSI CHAKRABORTY

              With warm regards

              PARTHA CHANDA

      • Basant Choudhury indeed had a very impressive oeuvre in Bangla cinema. Infact, he delivered many a hit during the golden era of Bangla cinema, though today skewed media depiction makes it seem that Bangla cinema of yesteryears was all about two heroes only. Nothing can be further from the truth. Anyways, propaganda can create myths but its only facts that convey truth loud enough.

      • Strangely enough.. Anil Chatterjee was much better in Raktapalash – the bangla original of Faraar. While the story was impressive, I couldn’t help but notice the confusion that seemed to have plagued director Pinaki Mukherjee ‘s mind while he was remaking his own Bangla hit in Hindi. Consequently, Faraar doesn’t come across as powerful as Raktapalash, which is a pity, because Pinaki Mukherjee is no mean director himself. When even the most famous of Bolly directors were making the same formulaic films, Pinaki Mukherjee made one different film after another, all the while staying within the limits of so-called- commercial- cinema.

        Of course, I so wish that Hemant Da had retained Sandhya Roy as the heroine in Faraar – that definitely would have helped the picture much more. But then I understand the unsaid political games that one has to play by in Bollywood to get one’s project off the ground and running. Anyways, I don’t believe bollywood to be be-all-and-end-all of everything Indian cinema. Infact, Bollywood is as regional as any other cinema or as national as any other Indian cinema can get. The psuedo- supremacy of Bollywood needs to be called off for once and all – especially when it is the so called other cinema that has produced the greater part of classy cinema that this country has had to offer till date.

        • Thank you for telling me about Raktapalash. I did like Faraar, but thought it could have been better – there was just something missing, that I couldn’t quite pinpoint. I think Shabnam, at any rate, was not a good choice – Sandhya Roy, I can well imagine, would have done a much better job.

          “The psuedo- supremacy of Bollywood needs to be called off for once and all

          Probably stemming from the pseudo-supremacy of the Hindi-speaking belt, actually! North-Central-West India seem to generally have a chip on its collective shoulder about everything.

  19. i would like to object to the title. Also ran sounds condescending. I don’t think any of them wanted to conquer Hindi heartland as they were all popular in their own region.
    Some extremely so! It was more as a form of diversion or trying out something new for most of them or helping out a friend/ associate.
    You could have included Oonche log and KR Vijaya. Or was there no song in the Hindi version of major Chandrakant. I don’t remember.
    Also the versatile comedian from South Manorama starred in Mehmood’s kunwara baap. wasn’t there a song on them
    I think Anu Warrier has already covered most of what I had to say. So amen to that.

    • “i would like to object to the title. Also ran sounds condescending.

      I am so sorry for that. I racked my brains to come up with a title that wouldn’t stretch into a sentence but would cover the gist of what the post is about. I knew this wasn’t perfect, but hoped that from my introductory paragraphs, it would be clear that far from thinking of regional cinema as somehow lesser than Hindi cinema, I thought of regional cinema as better… that message obviously wasn’t conveyed, for which I’m deeply sorry. Please accept my apologies; I never meant to sound condescending or deprecatory.

      I hadn’t known KR Vijaya was a major star. Thanks for that suggestion, and for Manorama.

      • No no no. The intention was not to hurt you at all ! Just that it sounded bad. As your reader I only know too well that you genuinely care about all cinema and the only distinction you make is between good, bad and indifferent cinema.
        In fact sorry for drawing out an apology from you. You definitely need not!
        Regarding K R Vijaya she starred opposite all the leading stars of the day and then started her own production banner where she took on female centric projects .. where usually she reduced her hero to playing second fiddle.
        Not that I care for those movies but I give her credit for achieving some success in such films too! She was also popular in mythological movies where she would come as Amman ( goddess Durga’s equivalent) These too were extremely popular. she went by the moniker Punnagi Arasi.( Queen of smiles !)
        So much for her!
        Manorama was the undisputed comedy queen for close to three decades and a tear jerking mother( usually widowed) for another decade and half. She did all sorts of characters , crooned and generally was much adored by the public. She had the distinction of acting with four chief ministers—with Annadurai & Karunanithi on the stage with MGR & Jayaliltha in movies.

        • I wasn’t hurt, just mortified that my intentions were misunderstood! I had definitely never wanted to convey the impression that I thought worse of regional cinema than of Hindi cinema – on the contrary. Anyway, let that be, it’s sorted out now. Am relieved to know that you know I am not a believer in Hindi cinema being better than regional. :-)

          Thank you for those interesting insights into KR Vijaya and Manorama. Wasn’t Manorama the one who played Jiljil Ramamani in Thillana Mohanambal?

        • Manorama – one of the most talented comediennes in Indian cinema. I don’t know how she did it – but she could make any scene just come to life. Almost every other actor that I can think of has had films where they fail for whatever reason – I have not seen that to be the case for Manorama – in her comedic roles. Her later roles as ‘aathaa’ – that is a whole other story. How and why she changed her image like that – I don’t know. While it was extremely successful for her, I just felt so let down.
          When I got back and watch older films, I am amazed at how many films both Manorama and Nagesh (often her comedic partner) have acted in. I think it should be some kind of record – not sure how they found the time to be in so m any films. And it is not just a cameo here and there. Speaking of Nagesh, that is another extraordinary talent – excellent comedic timing, excellent dancer, did some amazing tragi-comedic roles, and then later even was a villain in films.
          I know, I know, I will stop here – this is not connected to the theme of this post, but when Manorama is mentioned, I just cannot resist jumping in to be a swooning fan. And yes, she was Jiljil Ramamani in “Thillana MohanambaL”.

          • Yes, I remember Nagesh too from Thillana Mohanambal. I do so wish more Tamil films were readily available with subtitles! There are so many I want to watch.

  20. Now that you have written on the Regional cinema actors in Hindi films, another interesting article could be Leading ladies with their favourite directors Priya/Chetan Anand,Asha Parekh/Nasir Hussain Sharmila/Shakti Samant to name a few

    • I would think there are too many there to do justice to the theme! A related theme I was thinking of, though, was Hindi film actors in ‘unlikely’ regional films – not Kishore Kumar in Bangla films, but Waheeda Rehman, Simi, Helen and Tanuja in Bangla films, for instance. Now that would be a challenging one, since I don’t know any beyond those four I’ve listed!

      • Sharmila in Malayalam too, Madhu. She acted in a film called Chuvanna Chirakukal, with music by the Malayali’s favourite Bengali composer. : )

        It was dubbed into Hindi as Daisy, and if I remember right, was based on Harold Robbins’ 79 Park Avenue, though, of course, adapted to Indian tastes.

        • Thank you, Anu! I did wonder if any major Hindi film actors and actresses ventured South (other than Khushboo, of course, in recent years). Sharmila comes as a surprise, to be honest. I wonder if Helen ever danced in a film down South… I’ve seen her dance in the Bengali Gali Theke Rajpath:

          • Absolutely! Helen danced in Telugu films. Tom has been uploading a lot of Helen dance videos recently and here’s one from Telugu:

            From Uthama Puthiran in Tamil:

          • Helen most definitely did do atleast one dance number that I know of in Tamil cinema. Lovely song and she stands out in this dance number. It is a fairly long song and she only comes in midway. The film is the hit “Uthhamaputhiran” *ring Sivaji Ganeshan

            She also did a dance (that I just discovered while I was looking for a link to the song above) in the film “Srivalli”

            And she danced with Rajnikanth in the film “Billa”, a remake of “Don”. Equivalent role of the one she did in the Hindi original I think.

  21. Dear Madhu ji,

    Without trying to be Regional, I would hesitate to say that TULSI CHAKRABORTY never
    acted in a Hindi Film. Two that readily come to mind are HUMRAHI (1945) and
    NAUKRI (1954). He perhaps had a Cameo role in DO BIGHA ZAMEEN and a few
    others.

    About MISS MARY and its earlier Telugu version, both are based on a Bangla Play
    MANMOYEE GIRLS’. SCHOOL written by one Rabindra Nath Moitra way back in 1932!

    Two Films were made in Bangla, one in 1935 (starring Tulsi Chakraborty and Kanan
    Devi) and the other in 1958 starring Bhanu Bannerjee.

    You may like to cross check.

    With warm regards

    PARTHA CHANDA

  22. Madhuji,
    An interesting post on a novel theme.
    One often wondered why some top regional stars don’t become as successful in Hindi films.
    I believe, superstars and top actors/actresses of South & Bengal most often are comfortable and happy with their popularity and success in their regional cinemas.
    These regional film industries are much bigger and popular than even Hindi movies in their respective states. So, many regional superstars don’t want to put extra efforts, some of them need to overcome the language barrier and accents.
    In contrast, Marathi cinema always remained in second position in Mumbai and Maharashtra where everyone patronizes Hindi films. So, usually Marathi actors & actresses look forward to gaining a foothold in Hindi films.
    Interestingly, as against Marathi actors, many Marathi heroines become top Hindi stars but they either worked only in Hindi films (Nutan, Madhuri Dixit) or did more bilinguals (Durga Khote, Shobhna Samarth).

    Majority found fame and success in supporting and character roles, so they cannot be considered here.
    I wouldn’t even include Ashok Saraf and Laxmikant Berde in the list as they never entered Hindi movies as leading actors or heroes. Both did only supporting or comedy roles in a good number of Hindi movies and were fairly successful and known.
    One name comes to my mind is Mahesh Kothare. He was quite successful as a child artist (Master Mahesh) in the 60s.Hindi movies and later became a famous actor—producer-director in 80s-90s Marathi cinema. But his attempt as a leading hero in Hindi failed – Sant Gyaneshwar 1982.
    Alka Kubal, who achieved superstardom with Maherchi Saadi, did a couple of B – grade Hindi films, One of them was Naya Zaher, starring Uttam Mohanty (Orissa), Shatabdi Roy (Bengal) and Ragini (Gujarat)
    Some other well-known Marathi names from 50s-60s who tried Hindi movies:
    Uma – Dosti 1964 – Gudia humse roothi rahogi.
    Raja Gosavi, a comedy hero – School Master 1959 – O dildar bolo ek baar
    Arun Sarnaik – Lady Killer 1968

  23. Wondering if Samit Bhanja (who acted in Guddi) and Swaroop Dutt (in Upahaar) can be included here. I am not aware about the magnitude of their success in Bengali movies.
    Two more Bengali stars from the later years – Debashree Roy and Prosenjit.
    Debashree Roy was in the news for working with cricketer Sandeep Patil in Kabhi Ajnabi The while Prosenjit could not achieve even half of his father Biswajit’s success.

    Even South superstars such as Venkatesh, Chiranjeevi and Vishnu Vardhan tried to establish themselves in Hindi movies but failed after initial success.

    • Interesting! I watched Guddi so long back, I’d forgotten Samit Bhanja was in that. And no, even I don’t know how much of a star he was. The same goes for Swaroop Dutt.

  24. Looking forward to your post on Hindi film actors in Regional films.

    Many Hindi actors have worked in Marathi films. Right from doing full-fledged leading roles (Jairaj, Johnny Walker, Mehmood, Ashok Kumar, Jackie Shroff, Aruna Irani and many others) to doing guest roles (Sanjeev Kumar, Rajesh Khanna, Anil Kapoor etc.) to song-n-dance numbers (Rekha, Jeetendra, Moushumi etc.).
    Even Sharmila Tagore acted in a Marathi film in recent times, Samaantar, directed by Amol Palekar.
    And I know of at least 4 Marathi films in which Helen had a dance. One of them is Keechak Vadh 1959 which was made in Hindi as well.

  25. Arun Sarnaik was Marathi superstar he died in road accident before that he appeared in only Hindi movie ‘Lady Killer” Mukesh song Qatil hai teri adaa” was picturised on him and Helen

  26. Found another Marathi film song picturized on Helen – a cabaret number in the film Dhakti Bahin (Younger sister). Incidentally, the song also stars the hero Arun Sarnaik.

    And here’s the link to the song from Dosti picturized on Uma, which I had mentioned in my first comment.

  27. This is a highly admirable post and both yourself and Dr. Subramaniam deserve accolades. Songs like O Raat Ke Musafir, Mann Re Tu Hi Bata and Chhoti Si Mulaqaat have been my personal favourites. I am not suggesting you a particular song but any Meerabai song (Bhajan) sung by as well as filmed on Bharat Ratna M.S. Subbulakshmi from the movie Meera (1948) is apt for the theme chosen for this post (in my view).

    • Thank you, both for the appreciation and for the suggestion! Here’s a song from Meera, Baso more nainan mein Nandlala: beautiful.

      I hadn’t known that MS Subbulakshmi was a great actress-star as well. Of course, as a colossus of classical music, she’s in a league all by herself. Thank you for educating me on that.

  28. I will post here case of Tarla Mehta, a renowned stage actress of Gujarat – younger sister of more famous Dina Pathak.
    Cinemaazi lists many films under the title “Tarla Mehta’
    I list her three songs that I know of have filmed on Tarla Mehta

    Thumak Thumak Chali Hai – Ek Ke Baa dEk 1961) – Mohammad Rafi – S D Burman – Kaifi Azmi

    Jaane Kya Dundhati Raheti Hai – Shola Aur Shabnam (1961) – Mohammad Rafi – Khayyam – Kaifi Azmi

    Jeet Hi Lenge Baazi Hum Tum Khel Adhura Chhoote Na – Shola Aur Shabnam (1961) – Mohammad Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar – Khayyam – Kaifi Azmi

    • I hadn’t known that Tarla Mehta was such an important star, though I have watched Shola aur Shabnam. Thank you so much for this interesting addition to the list, Ashokji!

  29. Madhu ji ,
    Namaste .

    Don’t know where my comment on
    ” Composers singing for themselves ” got disappeared ???!!!

    Well , I njoyed this post .
    While reading , I kept thinking why why why those stars could nt get the name nd fame in hindi ?
    A perfect list I must say Madhu ji .

    I wud like 2 add some names here .

    Ramesh Deo .. he was a superstar in marathi movies . His pairing as a hero with Seema , Jayshri Gadkar gave many hit films … But in hindi , he was nt offered role of a hero ..
    Let me add a popular marathi song sung by Mahendra Kapoor . It is from the movie अपराध .
    ” सूर तेच छेडिता गीत उमटले नवे ”
    Watch a very handsome Ramesh Deo ..

    Anupama … again a famous name in marathi films .. did nt get as much fame in hindi films as she got in marathi films .
    Here is a song from धर्मकन्या

    Besides marathi , Anupama has some hits in gujarati also . Let me add a song from the superhit classic gujrati film જેસલ તોરલ ( जेसल तोरल ) It is sung by Suman Kalyanpur .
    ” જેસલ કરી લે વિચાર ” ( जेसल करी ले विचार )

    Nd
    Snehlata … Yes she has got a very famous song to her credit in movie खामोशी …
    ” हमने देखी हैं उन आँखोंकी महकती खुशबू ” .. but other than that she did nt get much scope in hindi movies … whereas she was at the top …no 1 heroine in Gujarati movies . Her pairing with Upendra Trivedi nd Naresk Kanodia was gr8 .
    Here is the title song from a film સાજન તારા સંભારણા
    ( साजन तारा संभारणा)

    Madhu ji , thnx for this post .

    With best regards ,
    Pramod Godbole.

    • Thank you, Pramodji! Very valuable additions to the list. I had considered Ramesh Deo, but even though he wasn’t a hero in Hindi cinema, he was by no means an unknown face, either – he did quite well as a supporting actor. Which was why I left him out of this list.

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