Vyjayanthimala Bali says she only wanted to prove to herself that she could be both an actor and a dancer
Yesteryear actor Vyjayanthimala Bali who was in the city recently as a chief guest on the 4th anniversary celebrations of Bangalore Club for Kathakali and the Arts, says her relationship and involvement with dance continues, more than ever, today.
“I suppose I live and breathe dance. My passion for dance is inborn, so it has always been in me and this is a sort of passion which keeps growing. I am still dancing and trying out various old, forgotten, rare temple dance forms,” she says, pointing out that her dance academy, Natyalaya has only recently published a book on the Thanjavur Quartet.
Part of the reason why she was so successful as both a dancer and as well an actor, admits Vyjayanthimala, is that she kept both passions totally apart.
“Films were films and dance was dance. Nothing could come in between so I was able to pursue both. When I had to focus on my films I did my best; at the same time I focused totally on my Bharatanatyam. But it was hard work.”
Despite being considered one of the biggest Bollywood stars with a career that lasted over two decades, Vyjayanthimala says she never really thought of herself as a star. “I just wanted to prove that I could not only be a dancer but also an actor and that sort of a thought never struck me. Stardom has not done anything to me. When I first started as a dancer, people only knew me as a dancer. But then when I started doing histrionics and dramatic roles under very able directors and co-stars I was able to rise to that level.”
Acting, she says, came quite effortlessly to her because of her strong roots in Bharatanatyam. “Acting and dancing go together because Bharatanatyam is a natya, which means that it is a mixture of dramatics, acting, dancing and expression. So I did not have to struggle to act, it was not difficult to slip into a role because acting, especially expression, is a part of the movements in classical dance.” But Indian cinema, she says, has gone through a sea change since her time. “So many influences have come in over the years, Western influences. There is so much fusion, not to mention confusion, and there is less inhibition now. But I think the kind of realistic approach which was there during my time, with real characters seems to be generally lacking, with exceptions. It’s more about camera tricks and fast editing, so one can’t make out whether they’re really fighting or not, whether they are really dancing or not. But then this is because technology is so advanced today.” Acting with the big three, the evergreen stars — Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, and Dilip Kumar, she recalls, was a wonderful experience.
“I worked the most with Dilip Kumar, we made a good team. All our films were successful. It was a great experience because I learnt how to react and respond. It was a great learning experience.”Yet she looks back to her dance performances as her fondest memories — whether in the United Nations headquarters or at the Sydney Opera House, where she recalls, she was the first to perform. “But dancing in India, my own country, is very important for me.”