The year was 1974, and I had gone to watch a movie with my parents. I was too young then to grasp the sum and substance of the film. But there were two things that left a mark, and the impressions cease to fade even 45 years later. One was a pleasant melody that kept ringing in my ears; the other was the image of a beautiful lady sniffing a bunch of fresh, white flowers. The lovely girl was Vidya Sinha, and the evergreen song was the title track from the film Rajanigandha.
Talented actor of yesteryears, Vidya Sinha passed away on August 15. It is indeed a dramatic coincidence that she breathed her last on the day when India celebrates her independence and pays tributes to all heroes who have immensely contributed to the nation.
Glamour and sophistication did not define Vidya Sinha although she was crowned Miss Bombay at a beauty contest at the age of 18 and started her career as a model before entering the film industry. It was her smile and simplicity that won the admiration of Indian cine-goers. With unfaltering brilliance, she essayed the role of the girl-next-door, perfectly at home in a middle-class Indian household of the 1970’s.
Of the close to thirty films that Vidya Sinha acted in, I can count on my fingertips the films of hers that I had watched. They were Rajanigandha, Choti Si Baat, Inkaar, Mukti, and Pati Patni Aur Woh. But if I were to name my favorites, what immediately comes to my mind are Rajanigandha and Choti Si Baat. I have watched both films several times. They were directed by Basu Chatterji, who introduced her to the film world, and the music stemmed from the genius of Salil Chowdhury.
What was so special about the actor that appealed to her fans? The films that brought her acclaim did not have the ingredients that usually make a blockbuster. It was undoubtedly the angle of realism that loomed large. And added to this aspect was the wide range of emotions that she displayed so flawlessly. The way she fought with her inner feelings while having to decide between her ex-lover (Dinesh Thakur) and her fiancé (Amol Palekar) in Rajanigandha was so convincing that one gets involved in her dilemma. It feels like a real-life situation, not one that is played on celluloid.
Similarly, Choti Si Baat was another classic film, a love story with a difference. Vidya Sinha plays Prabha, who realizes the depth of her feelings for Arun, whom she is attracted to, after he temporarily leaves town. Both Rajanigandha and Choti Si Baat are built around simple stories that come to life through stellar performances by the cast. With co-star Amol Palekar who acted as brilliantly as Vidya, the pair seemed tailor-made for each other.
Vidya Sinha had the affinity for choosing scripts that were not mainstream. Later on in her career, she acted in television serials like Kkavyanjali (2005), Zaara (2006), and Neem Neem Shahad Shahad (2011) and also did a minor role in the blockbuster Bodyguard (2011). But if I were to think of this immensely gifted star, what would come to my mind is that girl with her gorgeous smile who in her plaited hair and crisp cotton saree melted a million hearts. What plays in my mind’s eye is the image of a beautiful lady amidst the tunes of “Rajanigandha phool tumhare” and “Na jane kyun hota hai yeh zindagi ke saath” : songs that soothe the senses and that will always feature in the collection of golden, magical melodies.
Rest In Peace Vidya Sinha ji as India salutes you!
(This article was featured in TODAY”S BEST section in MOMSPRESSO )