Jaya Bachchan, who turned 70 on April 9, was the 'girl-next-door' of the 1970s Hindi cinema. In films like Mili, Guddi, Parichay, Koshish and Bawarchi among others, she proved she could be the daughter, the sister, the friend and, importantly, the beloved, you could bank on.
It is usually hard to imagine a Bollywood female actor being fully covered, with the sari “pallu” safely pulled over the shoulder, and yet be such a huge star. That's what Jaya Bhaduri was back then, in the early 1970s.
In the case of Jaya Bhaduri (now Bachchan), the strength of her persona, as the girl-next-door, gave her distinctness. Her ordinariness was her biggest calling card. Her dependability was her biggest strength.
Jaya made her film debut, starring as a teenager in Satyajit Ray's “Mahanagar”, starring Bengali actors Anil Chatterjee and Madhabi Mukherjee. The Ray experience convinced her to go to Film and Television Institute in Pune to train as an actor, where she walked away with a gold medal.
Bollywood veteran Hrishikesh Mukherjee would pick her up to play a school girl in Guddi (1971), opposite Dharmendra (appearing in the role of a film star), who is crazy about her screen idol. Her simplicity, a vivacious smile and sprightly nature would come to be associated with her for good.
Jaya went on to play a number of characters, drawn from this mix, with great aplomb. Her films with Gulzar, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee, would define a new kind of Indian cinema, something it hadn't been accustomed to.
With Sanjeev Kumar, the other great exponent of acting, she would prove that, sometimes, acting doesn't even need words as the duo did with “Koshish”, where they play a speech and hearing impaired couple.
However, she was not always demure. In Jawaani Deewani (1972), she tried to experiment with a glamorous avatar. In Zanjeer (1973), while the focus was clearly on Amitabh Bachchan, she plays a street performer (there's a scene where she is sharpening a knife too).