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MGR learnt Bangra for month to dance with L. Vijayalakshmi

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L. Vijayalakshmi
L. Vijayalakshmi

T.A. Narasimhan

Chennai: Song and dance sequences of some movies leave an imprint in the hearts of the audience forever.

Figuring in this list is the famous Bangra beat in ‘Kudiyiruntha Koil’ (Aadaludan Padalai Kettu Rasippathilethan Sugam ... Sugam) featuring L. Vijayalakshmi and M.G. Ramachandran.

For her performance, Viji, as the leading lady of yesteryear is popularly known, was hailed as the dancing genius. The heroine of more than 100 films in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi is today a merry-tempered chartered accountant working as Budgeting Officer of Virginia Polytechnic University in the United States. Dance has been a passion for L. Vijayalakshmi. And, that was why her family shifted from Pune to Chennai in search of a Bharathanatyam guru for her. She was a quick learner and acclaimed dancer Kumari Kamala, who was her inspiration, presided over her ‘arangetram’.

New find

Critics and magazines had then praised her as a new find - a combination of Kamala and Vyjayanthimala. She used dance as a ladder to films, fame and fortune.

Film directors and producers took a fancy to her dancing skills; they sensed that a dance sequence by Viji in their film could be useful. The first offer was a Telugu movie. It was a dream come true for her. Telugu industry was fond of classical dance, and almost all films in Telugu opted for Viji’s dance sequence.

“It was then that Tamil industry opened its doors for me,” says Viji. ‘Bhavani’ was my first Tamil film. Modern Theatres’ ‘Edhirigal Jakkirathai’, ‘Iru Vallavargal’, ‘Vallavan Oruvan’, ‘Kaakkum Karangal’, ‘Ayirathil Oruvan’; Sridhar’s ‘Sumai Thangi’ and ‘Panchavarnakili’ made me a big star.”

“Jayakanthan’s ‘Pathai Theriyudhu Paar’ was produced by Nimai Ghosh in Hindi, and I acted with Meenakumari. Then, I acted with Mehmood in ‘Shabnam’, which gave me recognition in the Hindi belt. And, then I turned to Malayalam. I acted with Prem Nazir in three movies, including ‘Laila Majnu’.

“‘Ooti Varia Uravu’ was my last film [in the late 1960s]. It was during this film that my brother’s friend, Suraj Kumar De Datta, an agricultural scientist working in the Philippines, saw my photograph and fell in love with me. He proposed to me on the sets.”

Tough decision

With a prosperous film career ahead of her, it was not easy to take a decision. But, her parents helped her make the choice by highlighting the significance of getting married at the right time.

After ‘Ooti Varai Uravu’ she bid adieu to the film industry.

A pure vegetarian, Viji found it difficult to take a bite of the fish she was offered as part of the Bengali marriage ritual. In 1969, she settled down in Manila, and with nothing else to do took up higher studies. Agriculture was her chosen subject.

In 1977, when the then Prime Minister, Morarji Desai, visited Manila, the Indian Embassy there asked her to give a dance performance at a function organised in his honour. “Morarji ‘bhai’ called my husband lucky when he saw my Bharatanatyam performance,” Viji said. “I shifted to the U.S. in 1991 and studied CPA (Chartered Public Audit) and got a job as Budgeting Officer in Virginia Polytechnic University.”

On her Bangra dance with MGR in ‘Kudiyiruntha Koil’, she said: “You know... I am yet to receive my payment for the dance. Bangra sequence was new to Tamil movies then. Chopraji master had introduced the dance to the State for the first time in that film. And that is why it is still a superhit. On the shooting day, MGR watched me dancing and was horrified. ‘Ayyayoh… I cannot match Viji’s fast movements…’ he said, and withdrew.”

“I saw him discussing something with Chopraji and the shooting was put off. The song sequence was shot after a month. I was told that MGR had practised Bangra for a month to dance with me. It seemed full of fun… Even today people sing this song whenever they see me…”

Vijayalakshmi acted with the leading actors of the day, including MGR, Sivaji Ganesan, Prem Nazir, Jaishankar and Muthuraman. She acted with Jaishankar in many films. According to her, Nagesh is the best dancer the industry has produced, and she had the opportunity to dance with him in ‘Kaakkum Karangal’. L. Vijayalakshmi now lives with her husband and son in the United States.

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