This post is dedicated to Raja Swaminathan and Archana Sapkota. These are some of the actresses dear to their hearts. I have often teased them that the girls on this list are too 'nice'. All of them, except Mumtaz who had loads of pizzaz.
The list is in order of the 'seniority' of the actress. The song chosen by me is the one that I particularly like featuring the actress. Do check out the songs if you want the best of the Stars to be showcased in a song.
A special thank you to Pamir Harvey for preparing this lovely poster for me.
Career duration: (1942-1964)
Debut film as heroine: Neel Kamal
Song: Mohe Panghat pe Nandlal Chhed gayo re.
An American friend of mine once said, "Madhubala is the most beautiful woman that God put on earth" More than fifty years have passed since her last film in 1964, yet Madhubala lives on the hearts of people. Posters of her are still being sold. Most people agree that Mughal-e-Azam is the grandest Hindi film ever made. She was beautiful and talented as well. Of her performance in Mughal-e-Azam, Dr. Philip Lutgendorf says "Anarkali ...whose incandescent portrayal by Madhubala upstages both of the bombastic male leads."
When I saw Madhubala perform in 'Mohe panghat pe Nandlal chhed gayo re', my jaw dropped to the ground at the sight her her beauty.
Career Duration: (1949-1963)
Debut film: Duniya
Song: Baar Baar Dekho
Shakila of the impish face and dark eyes is best known for films like CID, Aar Paar, China Town and Ustadon ke Ustad. The 50's and 60's were such a golden period for good music, that the songs of the era have become immortal. With them, they bring us a visual of beautiful actors who sang them onscreen. Most of Shakila's films had beautiful songs, but for me this great club song from China Town is special. Shakila charms the dashing crooner, Shammi Kapoor, into serenading her with this catchy number.
Career Duration: (1950-1994)
Debut film: Hamari Beti
Song: Kali Ghata Chhaye
When Gautam Rajadhyaksha (the famous photographer) was asked to name a face that was perfectly photogenic, he chose Nutan. He said she looked perfect from every angle. Her career spans more than 40 years as she segued effortlessly from a leading actress to playing roles of a mother. In 1988 Nutan acted in Muzrim Hazir, a TV series on Doordarshan based on Bimal Mitra's novel Asami Hazir.
Nutan has worked in many landmark films. Bandini and Sujata spring to the mind immediately. The song, Kaali ghata chhaye is from Sujata and brings out Nutan's effervescence, her beauty, her lovely eyes perfectly.
4. Bina Rai
Career Duration: (1951-1968)
Debut film: Kali Ghata
Song: Yeh zindagi usi ki hai
Bina Rai was a celebrated beauty. She was moon-faced with bright eyes. Her best known movies are Anarkali, Taj Mahal and Ghunghat. Anarkali was not produced on a grand scale like the later Mughal-e-Azam, but it captured the imagination of the viewers. The musical score by C.Ramchandra has kept the movie alive in the hearts of music lovers. Anarkali's lament "Yeh zindagi usi ki hai jo kisi ka ho gaya" is irrevocably linked to Bina Rai.
In Taj Mahal she plays Mumtaz Mahal and made it easy for us see why a pining Shah Jahan built Taj Mahal for her.
Career Duration (1954-1971)
Debut film: Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Song: Tere Sur aur mere geet
Ameeta personifies cuteness. She has a sweet round face, bright eyes and a pouty mouth that makes her look childlike and innocent. After a few forgettable films, she starred in Tumsa Nahi Dekha alongside Shammi Kapoor. This movie was a turning point for Shammi Kapoor, catapulting him into boundless fame. She worked in several films, but was never very successful. Munimji, Goonj Uthi Shehnai, Ham Sab Chor Hain, Ham Sab Ustaad Hain, Mere Mehboob were some of the movies which are still being watched.
In Goonj Uthi Shehnai she played a simple village girl who goes into a trance,Radha-like, when Rajendra Kumar plays his Shehnai. Their love for each other perseveres though all odds. The song, Tere Sur Aur Mere Geet, was very popular in its time. The Shehnai was played by none other than Ustaad Bismillah Khan. It brings out playful innocence of Ameeta, I feel.
5. Waheeda Rehman
Career Duration (1955 - )
Debut Film (Hindi): CID
Song: Jaane kya tune kahi
This ageless beauty has seen decades whizz past her without any seeming effect on her face. She appears in movies, on television, looking stately with her white hair still set in a widow's peak. As far as I know she has not hung up her shoes yet.
Guru Dutt discovered her on a visit to Hyderbad and brought her to Mumbai to work in CID in a supporting role. Her next film was Pyaasa where she shared credits with Mala Sinha. Then we had the deeply emotional Kagaaz Ke Phool, Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, Ray's Abhijaan, Guide, Mujhe Jeene Do, Reshma aur Shera. One fabulous movie on top of the other. I have not even counted all the fun and romantic movies she did like Kala Bazaar, Ek Phool Char Kaante, Chaudvin ka Chand.
In Pyaasa she is introduced to the screen with this song. As a prostitute Gulabo, Waheeda is out looking to entice a man, but unknowingly traps the man who has written the song she is singing.
Career Duration (1960-1977)
Debut film as heroine: Love in Simla
Song: Gal gulabi kiske hain.
Slim as a reed with a face like an angel, Sadhana had a bombastic debut. Right after the superhit Love in Simla came Parakh, Ham Dono, Prem Patra, Asli Naqli, Mere Mehboob. It was like her career went from one high to another.
Love in Simla was a very enjoyable romantic comedy. Sonia is a dumpy looking teenager in glasses who falls for her sister's boyfriend. She gets a makeover at the hands of her grandmother and makes a grand entrance into the club where the boyfriend, Joy Mukherjee is instantly smitten and dances to this fun song with her - Gal gulabi kiske hain. One look at the song will make you fall instantly in love with Sadhana.
Career Duration (1961- )
Debut film as heroine: Hamari Yaad Aayegi
Song: Koi keh de zamane se jaake
Tanuja came from the renowned Samarth family and was the younger sister of Nutan. Cute, perky and bubbly are the words that describe her best. She has enjoyed a long career. She may not have reached the heights that her sister did, but then there were very few actresses who could match up to Nutan. Tanuja had her own niche during her heydays and has been working steadily.
In this song, Koi keh de zamane se jaake, you can see Tanuja's playfulness.
Career Duration (1961-1990)
Debut film as heroine: Faulad
Song 1: Tune jo samjha hai mujhko
Song 2: Zindagi Ittefaq hai
With her cute eyes and a little nose, Mumtaz had a perfect face for a chocolate box. One of the cutest actresses to grace our films, she lit up the screen every time she appeared on it. She was a wonderful dancer, mostly party or club dancing, nothing classical like Waheeda. She had to work in many many B or even C grade movies before inching her way upwards to reach the top. She started early in bit roles and worked in several Dara Singh films as a heroine. After 7 years, she was cast alongside Dilip Kumar in Ram Aur Shyam as the second lead after Waheeda Rehman. She worked in several movies as the second lead or a supporting role. Do Raste catapulted her into the big league. It was a huge hit and after that there was no stopping her.
I have chosen two songs for Mumtaz. I love Tune jo samjha hai mujhko from Boxer. Mumtaz dons a frilly dress and top boots and dances with abandon.
At one point in the song 'Zindagi Ittefaq hai' Mumtaz kicks off her shoes and dances while Dharmendra and Feroze Khan watch a little dazedly. Mumtaz never lost her cool, you feel as you watch this song. You have to admire her chutzpah as she dances and later responds so beautifully to Dharmendra's singing.
9. Leena Chandavarkar
Career Duration (1970 - 1985)
Debut film: Man ka Meet
Song: Is zamane me, is mohabbat ne
Leena has to be, after Mumtaz, the cutest actress to hit the Hindi film scene. She debuted in Man ka Meet and had three more releases in 1970. At the end of it, she was one of the top heroines and worked with all the major actors of her time. Her career was short, but bright.
Mehboob Ki Mehendi was a muslim social, almost the last of its kind. She was paired with the hottest actor of the time, Rajesh Khanna. They make a lovely pair, Rajesh looked great in Achkans and was able to declaim Urdu very well. Likewise Leena looks gorgeous in Shararas and fit her role as a damsel in distress to a T. She looks lovely in this song, Is Zamane me, is mohabbat ne. It is easy to see why she shot right to the top.
10. Jaya Bachhan
Career Duration (1971 - )
Debut film in Hindi: Guddi
Song: Gagan pe do taare takraye
Jaya Bhaduri debuted with no less than Satyajit Ray in Mahanagar. She was the brightest star in FIIT, Pune. She was all about talent. She had a lovely face and refused to ever go glamourous. As a result, she was cast in Hrishikesh Mukherjee films, or was given a substantial role in mainstream films. She still works in films.
The song Gagan pe do taare takraye is from one of her early films, Shor. She plays a young girl who is attracted to Manoj Kumar. This is a song she sings after she overhears a plan to get her married to him.
11. Moushami Chatterji
Career Duration (1972 - )
Debut film in Hindi: Anurag
Song: Mere Bachpan tu jaa
Moushmi had a fantastic debut in Bengali film Balika Badhu as a child bride who gradually learns what it is to be married. She was so successful that crossing over to Hindi was a cakewalk for her. She was beautiful and talented and was counted amongst the top actresses of her time.
Kachhe Dhage was an early film that Moushami starred it. In the film, she catches the fancy of two rival dacoits who are smitten by her innocence and charm. In this song, she is seen as a young village girl on the brink of adulthood.
12. Vidya Sinha
Career Duration (1974-2011)
Debut film: Rajnigandha.
Song: Rajnigandha phool tumhare
Vidya Sinha was another girl-next-door type of an actress who escaped the Glamour Brigade like Jaya Bhaduri. She starred mostly in small (but very effective) films by Basu Chatterjee, with whom she debuted in Rajnigandha.
The song is taken from Rajnigandha which she sings while she thinks about her boyfriend, Amol. He usually brings her a bunch of Rajnigandha flowers. It is a beautiful song full of longing for love.
13. Swaroop Sampat
Career Duration (1989 - )
Debut film: Doosra Kanoon
Song: Tumhari palkon ki chilmano me
Swaroop Sampat came to films after winning the Miss India crown - like Zeenat Aman before her. She was gorgeous and talented but did not work in many good films. Her best known films were Nakhuda and Naram Garam. She became the small screen sweetheart of India with her immensely popular role in TV series "Yeh jo hai Zindagi".
I love this song a lot. It is written by Nida Fazli and set to music by Khayyan. Raj Kiran and Swaroop are like cherry on top of the cake in this lovely song.
Here is a playlist of all the songs listed in this post.