A beauty's successful Bollywood stint

Kalpana in `Saheli'. Photo: Archives   | Photo Credit: HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES

The year 1962 was a bad one for India. The Chinese marched into the North East, people lost faith in Jawaharlal Nehru and his slogan of ‘Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai' and morale was low.

But there were compensations. One was witnessing F. C. Mehra's musical hit ‘Professor,' which completed a golden jubilee run at most of the theatres. Shammi Kapoor was gradually nearing his peak and ‘Professor' played a key role. The film remained one of his favourite ones.

Two senior actors helped the film win laurels, Shammi and Lalita Pawar. Its heroine was a young girl, Kalpana, who had acted in just one film, ‘Naughty Boy'. But in the company of veterans, she too rose to the occasion.

Kalpana was just 19 then. She streaked across the silver screen like a meteor. Of the few films, ‘Teen Deviyaan' with Dev Anand in the male lead, was a major hit. No one remembers ‘Saheli', ‘Tasveer' and ‘Nawab Sirajuddawala' in 1967, after which she stopped acting.

And now Kalpana is dead, at 65, a victim of cancer. She died at a Pune clinic, looked after by her daughter and son-in-law. She was involved in a long standing property dispute over a plot of 56 hectares, which some people allegedly sold to a builder forging her signature. They were caught and are now facing trial. For years, fearing reprisals, the family was lying low and even the news of Kalpana's death came to be known after several days. A sad end for a bright, beautiful star, whose father, a freedom fighter, was close to Jawaharlal Nehru and other top Congress stalwarts.

Impressive debut

Kalpana learnt Kathak and was discovered by actor Balraj Sahni and writer Ismat Chugtai, who brought her to Bombay. She was heroine material as was proved in her debut film, ‘Naughty Boy'. Impressed, F C Mehra cast her in his ‘Professor'.

‘Professor' was a rare entertainer, which left the viewers delighted and satisfied. It needed a fresh-faced, lively beauty in awe of her grandmother, played superbly by Lalita Pawar, who guards the young girl like a hawk, particularly from young men. Along comes young graduate Shammi Kapoor, poor and in need of money to treat his ailing mother. Disguising himself as an old man, he enters the Pawar household and is appointed the young girl's tutor. Then comes the shocker, when the matriarch of the house, falls in love with him! Lalita Pawar ‘in love' was a sight to behold! The Shammi-Kalpana jodi looked fresh with the hero courting his sweetheart with such outstanding numbers such as ‘O Gulbadan…' and ‘Khuli Palak Mein Jhota Gussa…'

The other reason for the film's success was Shammi Kapoor's ability to put young heroines at ease and get the best out of them. Asha Parekh, Sharmila Tagore and Rajshree among others are cases in point. These pairings clicked in a big way and Kalpana was no exception.

Although ‘Teen Deviyaan,' was also a hit, in Dev Anand movies the focus had to be on Dev Anand.

Kalpana was married to a naval officer but the marriage ended in divorce. Her talent and beauty deserved better results but that was not to be!

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 4:07:58 AM |

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