After 53 years of dedicated service in the field of cinema, both in acting and administration, Sharmila Tagore, one of the great actresses of Indian cinema, was recently honoured with Padma Bhushan award, something she deserves wholeheartedly.
Among the 54 Padma awardees assembled at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on April 5, 2013 to receive the 2013 Padma Awards, she had special significance as it was more of a home coming and receiving an honour from the first Bengali President Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi.
More significant was that President Mukherjee, a diehard Bengali, gave away the award to Sharmila, the great-great-grand niece of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
Padma Awards, the country’s highest civilian awards, are conferred in three categories, namely, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri and are given away every year. ‘Padma Bhushan’, the second highest award in this category is given for distinguished service of high order.
And today who is more worthy than 68-year-old Sharmila Tagore? If she had regaled today’s oldies in the 60s and 70s through her charm and acting, she also as the past chief of the Indian Film Censor Board allowed the new generation to view what they deserved in the modern day context. Thus she touched upon the lives of several generations of Indians.
Born in an ultramodern Bengali family in Hyderabad in 1944, Sharmila took up her first acting assignment at the age of 15 in 1959 when noted filmmaker Satyajit Ray chose her to act in his Bengali movie Apur Sansar (Apu’s World). She then featured along with actor Soumitra Chatterjee in several Bengali Ray-made movies, before shifting to Hindi movie made in Bombay.
In Bollywood, she made her mark with film-maker Shakti Samanta’s movie Kashmir Ki Kali in 1964 featuring with Shammi Kapoor. Three years later Samanta delivered another hit movie An Evening in Paris once again featuring Sharmila and Shammi.
Soon after she was paired along Rajesh Khanna in movies such as Aradhana (1969), Amar Prem (1972), Safar (1970), Daag (1973) and Maalik (1972).
The Sharmila-Rajesh pair delivered six box office hits namely Aradhana, Safar, Amar Prem, Chhoti Bahu , Daag and Avishkaar and three flops such as Raja Rani, Tyaag, Maalik. This pair also appeared in a special appearance in two films such as Badnaam Farishte and Naseeb.
Sharmila was far ahead of her times given to her family background and boldness to carry any attire in a movie. Her father was an officer in the British East India Company and thus she was exposed to modern way of life in conservative India.
So when she dared to appear scantily clad in An Evening in Paris when she was barely 21, everyone was taken aback. But since then she inspired actresses like Parveen Babi, Zeenat Aman and Dimple Kapadia to appear in bold attires setting a new trend in the entertainment-starved India.
In the 60s and 70s, she appeared along with Shammi Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna and Dharmendra who were the best in those times but the Rajesh-Sharmila pair remained the most popular among movie goers.
Sharmila Tagore, who tested success very young in life acted in movies across genre. Be it in art films of Satyajit Ray to Bollywood masala movies and social drama, she excelled in every format. She also acted in intense movies and her roles were appreciated by one and all.
A trend-setter in style, Sharmila’s butterfly knot blouse, long eyelashes, curvy dresses became fashion statements when she ruled the silver screen and she became a role model for young women of her time. She was also appreciated for her unique looks, dialogue delivery and dimpled cheeks.
She was the second highest paid Bollywood actress from 1966-1969 along with Nanda and Waheeda Rehmaan. She was highest paid actress alongside Mumtaz from 1970-1975 after her pair with Rajesh Khanna took her ratings to all time high.
In 1975, she featured in Gulzar’s movie Mausam and won the National Film Award for Best Actress. She also took up a supporting role in Mira Nair’s 1991 film Mississippi Masala.
Recently she appeared in Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s move Eklavya: The Royal Guard, which brought together Sharmila Tagore and her son Saif Ali Khan in a movie, for first time since Aashiq Awara (1993). Superstar Amitabh Bachchan also featured in this move as the royal guard. Her latest is a Marathi film named Samaantar by Amol Palekar.
A recipient of numerous awards, Sharmila Tagore bagged Lifetime Achievement at the Filmfare Awards in 1997. She was the head of Indian Film Censor Board from October 2004 till March 2011, one of the highest stints at this Ministry of Information & Broadcasting-controlled regulatory body. In December 2005, she was chosen as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Of late, she has been contributing for the benefit of cricket, something she likes the most.
Exactly the way she achieved success at a very young age, she also got married to a super rich and famous individual and became a mother very young as compared to the present day actresses.
Ace cricketer of those years and captain of Indian cricket team and Nawab of Pataudi, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi proposed Sharmila. And both tied the knot in December 1969. Sharmila was 25 then and was at the peak of her career. She converted to Islam and changed her name to Begum Ayesha Sultana but the public continued to adore and know her as Sharmila Tagore and she got the Padma Bhusan on this name.
At the age of 26, she gave birth to her first child Saif Ali Khan in August, 1970. Then her daughters Saba and Soha were born in 1976 and 1978 respectively. Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan also married very young to film actress Amrita Singh but this marriage could not last long. The divorced couple has two children Sara Ali Khan and Ibrahim Ali Khan who stay with their mother after separation.
Last year Saif Ali married much younger Kareena Kapoor, who is among the top two Bollywood actresses today. Sharmila’s daughter Saba is a jewellery designer and Soha is into acting in Bollywood movies and featuring in advertisements.
Her husband, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi also known as Tiger Pataudi, died in September 2011 at the age of 70 after 42 years of marriage due to respiratory failure. Thus a fairytale marriage came to an end, but Sharmila is carrying forward her late husband Tiger Pataudi’s cricket dreams and taking care of the subjects of their erstwhile Nawab-ruled state Pataudi in Haryana.
The best thing with Tiger Pataudi, the 9th Nawab, was that he allowed his wife to act in movies after marriage and both conducted gracefully in their married life contributing significantly to each other.
Sharmila stays in New Delhi and her passion for movies still remains alive and she would continue to be remembered as one of the best actresses Bollywood has ever produced.
By Jully Mishra from Mumbai