How it happened
I started my career in acting in the late 40s with Tamil film Vazhkai , and the Telugu version called Jeevitham . Both were successful and I dubbed my own voice for the Telugu version. To speak about my first break, I must mention Bahar . Released in 1951, it was AVM's Hindi remake of Vazkhai with some alterations to suit a pan India audience. My co-stars were Karan Dewan, Om Prakash and Pandari Bai. It was a real challenge for me to learn Hindi at the Hindi Prachar Sabha. Under the guidance of eminent scholars, I learnt the right Hindi diction and accent very much required for any actor.
How did it feel
My first shot in Bahar was nothing memorable. It was a simple and normal appearance. Karan Dewan was helpful. He was good looking and charming. In an emotional scene in Bahar I was initially under-confident. After three to four takes I was able to deliver the right emotion, crying and delivering a dialogue. As an actress I gave priority to emotions and my dancing abilities.
How life changed
Nagin , a fantasy film, was a rip-roaring success catapulting me to stardom. Followed other hits like Ladki and New Delhi with the mercurial Kishore Kumar. It was finally in Devdas that I was able to prove my true histrionic prowess. Aptly penned by Nabendu Ghosh, Devdas was a perfect adoption of the original Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay masterpiece. I was pitted with great actors like Motilal, Dilip Kumar and Suchitra Sen in Devdas directed very well by Bimal Roy, my mentor in Hindi films. Dilip Kumar is my most talented co-star. With him I acted in a number of hits like Naya Daur, Madhumati, Paigham and Gunga Jumna . Since Amiya Chakrabarty expired, Nitin Bose took up the mantle of the director in Kathputli . Facing the majestic Balraj Sahni was any actor's great challenge. An offbeat theme with a Pygmalion touch, Kathputli remains one of my truly memorable films. In one intense scene Balraj Sahni was very effective with his modulated and well-timed dialogue delivery.
Sadhna , directed by B.R.Chopra had me opposite the versatile Sunil Dutt. It was a powerful social saga in which I performed the character of a woman forbidden in civilised society. I clearly recollect a scene with Sunil Dutt in which I had to press my upper lip to the lower and emote silently. B.R Chopra and Sunil Dutt highly complimented me for my performance. I must make a special mention of Sunil Dutt in Sadhna for his uninhibited acting.
(as told to ranjan das gupta)