Some of the most beautiful women have dominated the screen in India’s filmdom. There is that remark attributed to Satyajit Ray about Jayaprada. In his opinion, Jayaprada’s was the most beautiful face in the Indian movie industry. And he was probably not wrong. If you care to take a good look at Jayaprada’s features, you will perhaps agree with Ray, especially when you see that mole on her face heightening her appeal many times over.
In her time, Vyjayanthimala was one of the most beautiful women in Indian cinema. There was a huge degree of sex appeal about her, and it came to particular notice in that wrinkling of the nose and the occasional pout that marked her performance. Remember that scene when she takes a dip in the river in Sangam, with a naughty, irritating Raj Kapoor trying to elicit a promise out of her through a song and through commandeering her clothes?
With Waheeda Rehman, beauty was of a plain, homely sort. And because it was, it only enhanced her appeal in myriad ways. As a suffering, morose wife in Guide, she comes across as a woman willing to be loved. And love comes from Dev Anand, the mark of it being the alacrity with which Waheeda Rehman rushes into his arms in the midst of the song tere mere sapne ab ek rang hain. In Ram Aur Shyam, it is a perky Waheeda you get when she sings, with Dilip Kumar, the absolutely romantic main huun saqi tu hai sharabi.
Meena Kumari’s was plain seductive beauty. The tremor in her voice, the faraway look in her eyes and those full lips only accentuated the physical appeal in her. She was, in real life, an incorrigible romantic, even a compulsive lover. Few men there have been who have resisted being drawn to Meena Kumari’s glorious charms. She remains, years after her death, an addiction for many men.
But, of course, no conversation on Indian movie beauties can be complete without mention of Madhubala. In her was the truth portrayed once more of the handsome features underlining the physique of Pathan women. Madhubala’s was what you could easily describe as beauty that turned heads a full ninety degrees. There was sensuality about her, whole dollops of it.
Ah, but who can ever forget Nutan? Hers was a typical Indian face, with that sharp nose and thin lips that reminded you of the women in Indian literature. She was the kind of woman you could fall in love with, over and over again.
The writer is Executive Editor of
The Daily Star