Queen of middle-ground cinema, actor Vidya Sinha passes away

Vidya Sinha in 'Karm'   | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

For a younger lot of viewers, Vidya Sinha’s name might resonate for her TV appearances in shows like Kkavyanjali, Qubool Hai and more recently Kullfi Kumar Bajewala, but her glory days were in the 1970s when she rode the wave of the middle-of-the-road cinema that balanced itself ingeniously between the outright commercial and the resolutely arthouse.

The veteran actor passed away on Thursday.

The first film to get her noticed was Basu Chatterjee’s Rajnigandha (1974), officially credited as her debut though Raja Kaaka was the first film that she signed for. Her Deepa in Rajinigandha is a role any actor, past or present, would love to dig deep into. As a woman torn between two men with diametrically opposing personalities — one who comes back from the past (Dinesh Thakur) and the other who she is currently in a relationship with (Amol Palekar in his debut too) — Sinha got ample opportunity to make a strong impression even though she had absolutely no grounding in acting. Based on Mannu Bhandari’s story Yahi Sach Hai, the film captured the dilemmas of a young woman with subtlety and sensitivity as did the delicate title track by Lata Mangeshkar — Rajnigandha phool tumhare — written by Yogesh and composed by Salil Chaudhury.

The next film, Chhotisi Baat (1975), again from Chatterjee, may have had Palekar at its centre but as the woman he can’t express his love to, Sinha again caught the eye of the viewer with her simple, easygoing, unaffected ways and her appeal got defined as that of the girl next door.

Girl next door

Yet again, the Chaudhury-Yogesh-Mangeshkar combo gave her another lovely song of love and longing: Na jaane kyun.

Inkaar, a thriller with Vinod Khanna, Mukti, a love triangle with Shashi Kapoor and Sanjeev Kumar, and Karm with Rajesh Khanna — all released in 1977 — took her into a more mainstream zone. The acme of it was Pati Patni Aur Woh (1978), B.R. Chopra’s comic take on extra-marital affair in which she is the wife saddled with an adulterous husband played by Sanjeev Kumar. The outings with Gulzar — Kitaab (1977) and Meera (1979) pulled her back to the middle ground of cinema that she had started off with.

She went back to Chatterjee with Tumhare Liye (1978), a reincarnation romance where she again teamed up with her favourite co-star Sanjeev Kumar and got to lip-sync the lovely Jaidev composition Tumhein dehti hoon to lagta hai aise. Never too ambitious about her career in films, as she herself admitted in an interview, she opted for motherhood and family in the 1980s.

A Miss Bombay and a model, Sinha may have kept up with the fashion trends of the times with the bouffant, extended cat-eye liner, pearls and chiffon sarees in bold prints, but still retained her individuality. Those were the days when beauty was not mass-produced and homogenised and allowed for imperfections.

Born in the year that India won Independence, Sinha passed away, ironically, on the 73rd Independence Day.

Vidya Sinha (15 November 1947-15 August 2019)

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2022 8:45:32 PM |

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