She had the kind of face which could launch a thousand ships.
She was an actress extraordinaire and was deft with her feet – so much so that she was called ‘twinkle toes’.
Vyjayanthimala’s immense contribution to Indian cinema has been the introduction of a higher standard of classical dance on screen. She was an expert Bharat Natyam dancer who also displayed other skills. Her abilities forced many young actors of her era to take up classes in classical dancing.
She has won Filmfare awards for her acting skills and is actually the first to refuse one of those awards for Best Supporting in Devdas, claiming her role was a major one.
Here are five films which display the considerable and varied skills of Vyjayanthimala:
Cast: Dilip Kumar, Vyjayanthimala, Ajit, Jeevan, Chand Usmani
Director: B R Chopra
Buses versus tongas become the focus of this tale as the winner of a race between the two will get to run the transport services in the town. Tongawala Shankar (Dilip Kumar) is unafraid of the challenge while his compatriots think he has no chance.
But with the help of his sweetheart Rajni (Vyjayanthimala) he takes on Kundan (Jeevan) who started the transport war by buying the buses. Shankar knows he does not have much chance but has faith that something good will happen.
Cast: Vyjayanthimala, Sunil Dutt, Leela Chitnis
Director: B R Chopra
Prof Mohan (Sunil Dutt) is an upright man who lives with his mother (Leela Chitnis) whose only ambition is to see him married. But Mohan thinks otherwise until his mother becomes ill and unconscious. A friend helps him by suggesting Champa (Vyjayanthimala), who could pose as his wife.
Champa is a prostitute who is planning to steal from Mohan’s house eventually. When Mohan’s mother hands over the family jewels and sari, she runs away but finds that her customers mock her and don’t care she returns reformed. Mohan begins to love her but when reality strikes he finds it difficult to accept it.
Cast: Vyjayanthimala, Sunil Dutt, Premnath, Gajanan Jagirdar, Bipin Gupta, K N Singh
Director: Lekh Tandon
In this period film, the life and times of Amrapali (Vyjayanthimala), a royal courtesan in the kingdom of Vaishali, is highlighted. The film goes back into history, tracing the story of Magadh King Ajatashatru (Sunil Dutt) and his love for Amrapali around 500 BC.
The King is so obsessed with her that he destroys Vaishali to get her. But she gets transformed after meeting Gautama Buddha and becomes his disciple. What will the king do?
Jewel Thief (1967)
Cast: Ashok Kumar, Dev Anand, Vyjayanthimala, Tanuja, Anju Mahendru, Faryal
Director: Vijay Anand
Vijay Anand delivers another great film under the Navketan banner, this time in the thriller genre which proved to be a big hit. Vinay (Dev Anand) often gets mistaken for Amar, a jewel thief. So he works with the police to unmask Amar.
But things are not so simple and Vinay gets a shock when a woman announces that she is his fiancée. Vinay admits his identity but gets embroiled in a devious scheme which affects his life and sanity. Will he get well again and expose the real crook?
Cast: Vyjayanthimala, Raj Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Iftekar, Randhir Kapoor
Director: Raj Kapoor
Three friends get involved in a tragic love story which ends in tragedy. Sunder (Raj Kapoor) and Gopal (Rajendra Kumar) fall in love with Radha (Vyjayanthimala) but she prefers Gopal to Sunder. But Sunder loves Radha obsessively and confesses to Gopal about it.
Gopal sacrifices his love for Radha for Sunder who joins the Air Force. But Sunder is listed missing in action so Gopal professes his love for Radha. But just when the two are to get married, Sunder reappears safe and sound which makes things rather difficult. Someone while have to make the big sacrifice.