26 comments on “Vyjayanthimala and Kamala Lakshman in Kath Putli

  1. Kamala Laxman as a “substitute” for Vyjayantimala?!! I think she was way better than Vyjayantimala – so light on her feet, so supple and soooo very graceful. But then in Bollywood the competition is never won by the better dancer!

  2. Thank you, Bollyviewer – so nice to encounter another fan of Kamala in the present-day filmi fan world!

    I agree, for the most part, Kamala Lakshman (or Laxman or Kumari, etc.) was a better dancer than Vyjayanthimala. Every time I see her dancing in a movie, it just amazes me. And clearly, I’m not alone in that regard. I’ve just read an interesting article about Kamala’s heyday, in the ’40s to the ’60s, which discusses how much she was praised and adored by her audiences. Expect another, big Kamala post soon. Maybe next?

    I don’t know why today’s filmi fans don’t seem to know much about her yet know so much about Vyjayanthimala. Not that Vyjayanthimala wasn’t a great dancer herself, but…

    Could part of it be Vyjayanthi’s ability and willingness to do pop dances, rock’n’roll dances, etc.? Maybe she was more versatile in that way than Kamala. How would Kamala have fared with “Eeena Meena Deeka”?

    I guess the acting is a big part of it. Not having expertise in these matters (to put it mildly), I wonder how better educated dance critics and fans would compare the acting/dramatic element of these women’s dancing. Maybe Vyjayanthimala sometimes had the edge in facial expressions, abhinaya, etc.? (In this movie, I think some of the expressions she puts on when she’s dancing as a peacock are just fantastic.)

    Although, to me, the Travancore sisters had the best facial expressions – well, the two we saw on film, anyway. I still count Padmini as my favorite actress-dancer, and she was wonderful as a dancer.

    But if we want to compare dancing skills (alone)… I don’t know… Personally, I’d rather not view one dancer competitively against the other. And in about half of these Bollywood dance competitions (Padmini vs. Vyjayanthimala, Vyjayanthimala vs. Helen vs. Shammi Kapoor(?!), etc.), nobody really won anyway.

  3. There are others too like Ragini Lalitha , Sheshadri , Hemamalini.

    Meenakshi Sheshadri is best TV does not conceal anything Hemamaliniis aweful Vijayanthi mala has charisma hold our attention but no god as a dancer; what about Waheeda Rehman ?

    The younger generation are like mechanical Toys

  4. Please note the correction it should be ” No good” not god ;

    I saw Kamala kumari long back we loved her ; later I met her in Bombay ; she was our In- Law’s neighbour; what impressed me was she did all the work herself carrying her stuff. no starry airs .. a pity she and R. K. Lakshman divorced !!.. See her as Lord Krishna in ” Meera ” starring M. S. Subbalakshmi; Kamala was famous for her ” Snake Dance ” for which she became a legend ; I do wonder how she is … I remember her smile most of all ; a pity she was not as shapely as Vijayanthimala; that is so important in Bharath Natyam;

  5. LVR, thanks for your interesting comments.

    It is very interesting to hear you say that Vyjayanthimala is “no good” as a dancer (?!)… I can’t imagine ever saying she’s “no good” (maybe you know more about this than I do), but I have always felt that her dancing skills were not quite as good as the Travancore Sisters’ and definitely not as good as Kamala Lakshman’s (I’ve become more definite in that thought in more recent months :) . But many people out there will strongly disagree with me unless I say that she is the best cinema dancer ever. So, in response to those people, it would have been appropriate to leave your comment as “no god” :)… She does have charisma!

    It’s funny to hear you say Hema Malini is “awful.” :) I liked some of her dances at first, but I lost my enthusiasm for her dancing fairly quickly.

    Meenakshi…yes, impressive, from what I’ve seen.

    And I love Ragini and Lalitha! Actually, I have seen Lalitha in only a few film scenes; I’ve seen Ragini in many. In dancing skills, Ragini probably was as good as her sister Padmni; it’s just that I find Padmini so beautiful. :)

    By the way, that is great that you actually saw Kamala way-back-when! I’ve posted a couple of clips of her as Kirshna in Meera; I think there are a few to be found here: http://cinemacorridor.blogspot.com/2009/12/m-s-subbulakshmis-hindi-meera-1947.html

    Kamala seems to be well, at least as of a few months ago. I found this article in The Hindu:

    http://www.hindu.com/ms/2009/12/16/stories/2009121650130800.htm

    ——————
    P.S. Though she and R.K. Lakshman divorced, I’ve gotten used to seeing her referred to as Kamala Lakshman, maybe because that was her name when she reached her peak in films, etc.?

  6. Kamala Lakshman was a great dancer and also had a certain vulnerability that appealed to most men. She appealed to our heart as well as to our sense of art. Vyjayantimala was excellent with wonderful grace and natural beauty. She is more famous because she was also a successful actress for many years. But she had a certain aloofness and haughtiness that did not appeal to our heart. Padmini was good but I always found her a little rigid, not as graceful a Kamala, Vyjaynthi or even Lalitha or Ragini for that matter.

    Kamala Lakshman’s ‘Andhi Mayangudadi’ from Partiban Kanavu (sung by MLV) is still my favourite. The romance with the bhakti rasa is unforgettable. It tugs at our hearts even today. Its on Youtube for those who may be interested.

  7. Sriram, thanks for the interesting comments… Actually, I have read comments elsewhere that Kamala was not considered to be as beautiful or attractive by Bollywood standards as many of the actresses who were more successful, including Vyjayanthimala. I don’t think Kamala lacked charm by any means, but I do think Vyjayanthimala was prettier than Kamala (and, as I’ve said before, Padmini was much more beautiful than Vyjayanthimala)… On the other hand, I think that you are right, at least from what I’ve seen, that Kamala seemed more personable. I agree about Vyjayanthimala’s haughtiness (both on screen and off). It’s one reason she never was my absolute favorite dancer and has sort of gone down in the list in my mind…

    Re. your comment about Padmini… Hmm, I never saw her as being “more rigid” than all those other dancers. Admittedly, her sisters probably were just as good in body movements and Kamala was even better in that regard. But Padmini had the most wonderful abhinaya – i.e., I’m thinking of her facial expressions, with those wonderful Padmini eyes. Well, that’s my perspective, anyway. :)

    Re. Kamala’s “Andhi Mayangudadi”… Yes, I know that’s on YouTube… It was posted by one of Minai Minai’s YouTube alter-egos and I’ve also put it in my Kamala playlist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye8ewYxP15o&playnext=1&list=PL931A65E760D5807C

    And it is a pleasure to watch! I can’t say it’s my favorite, though, since there are a number of others that I think are at least just as good. :)

  8. Hi Richard,

    Speaking for myself, I consider Vyjayanthi as the most beautiful of the three. She was also tall, graceful and very proportionate. I saw her dance performance live when she was 65+ and her grace and suppleness were unbelievable. She flitted around on her toes as though she was 15! Saw her on TV recently, and she still looks the same. Amazing!

    Padmini is next in terms of beauty, though a bit broad shouldered. Kamala was taller, better proportioned and more graceful than Padmini.

    As dancers, I think Vyjayanthi and Kamala were excellent. Padmini was very good in the early days when she danced with her sisters. (Lalitha was very graceful by the way). I’ve never seen Padmini live, but in her later films, I find her dancing jumpy and abrupt. She also lost her slimness very early.

    Coming to Kamala, I happened to see one of her 1960 Tamil films on TV recently, in which she plays a small role, but is very attractive and memorable never the less. That gave me a bout of nostalgia and I’ve since been looking up all her films on Youtube. She always makes my heart go out to her, for some reason.

    Cheers.

    Sriram

  9. Hi Richard,

    Further to the above, yes….you’re right that the song ‘Andhi Mayanguthadi’ isn’t really Kamala’s best dance piece. Its more the song, MLV’s voice, the raga, lyrics and Kamala’s persona that appeal. In fact, if I had been the choreographer of that song, I would have used less of body movements and used more close ups and focused on her eyes and facial expressions. Its good, never the less.

    Cheers.

    Sriram

  10. The best would be the Sayee Subbulakshmi sisters, Kamala Lakshman, Tranvancore sisters, Lalita, Padmini & Ragini (Padmini the most popular among the three of them), Vyjayanthimala. The List can be added with L.Vijayalakshmi, EV Saroja, Asha Parekh, Hema Malini, Meenakshi Seshadri. Waheeda Rehman also (although not as skillful as the rest of the women up here) Sridevi deserves to be mentioned as well although not trained. Madhuri Dixit definitely. Padmini’s neice Shobana is an accomplshed dancer as well. What about Gracy Singh? she is a good dancer as well.

  11. Sorry..have left out Minoo Mumtaz, and Madhumati ( they were both not famous actresses but good classical dancers) Helen is also an accomplished dancer but always did cabaret so no one actually knew she was actually a good classical dancer.

  12. ok i am writing too much here..the picture above before the comments..is actually Madhumati if i am not mistaken!

  13. Tony, thank you for your lists of dancers, and also for reviving the discussion about this post (especially considering that the last comment was six months ago and the post is more than two and a half years old :) . ) And I agree, all of these dancers are very good. (By the way, I used to post more of Shobana back when this blog wasn’t so focused on older films, but I still give a nod to her once in a while.) But there were enough great dancers in the black-and-whites that any list of 10 or 20 is going to leave some out. I think Kumkum could probably go up there with the dancers in your second sentence. One of the greatest of all was Sitara Devi, though she was/is mainly a Kathak dancer, while most of the ones you listed did South Indian style. And then there was her nephew, the great dancer and choreographer, Gopi Krishna. We shouldn’t forget the men entirely – there were some good male dancers! So, maybe add to that list Kamal Haasan as well.

    But getting back to the women, one of my own favorites, though not maybe so great formally and very controversial (apparently), is Sandhya. Oh, and there was also Zohrabai’s daughter, Roshan Kumari, who was fantastic (but strictly as a Kathak dancer). And I could probably name quite a few more.

    But I was wondering, what are you referring to when you say “the picture above the comments”? There is one picture at the top of the entire page, but that is the image header, which appears at the top of all pages on this blog. I change that header every so often, but the one that is up there currently is a picture of Noor Jehan!

  14. Thank you Richard..for the additional info on Sitara Devi and Gopi Krishna, Sandhya ( ok dancer although i find her movements a little stiff) etc..I also seem to have forgotten Jayapradha, another good dancer as well. And yes, Kamalahasan is definitely up there too. Infact the other cousin of Shobana, Vineeth is also a trained dancer. But i guess the tops of tops and will always remain there will be Kamala, Padmini & Vyjayanthimala.

  15. Kamala has danced in more than hundred films, not only in Tamil but in other languages also.
    Padmini acted and danced in more than 250 movies of different languages. The Trivancore sisters are a well established names known even to the level of laymen.
    Compared to both above senior highly popular dancers of international repute, Vyjayanthimala made a later entry in films. She acted and danced in about sixty films, much less than that the other two. She terminated her film career very much earlier than Kamala and Padmini. How come she become so dear and could earn the respect and dignity of an uncomparably larger audience. I think it is people at large who keeps her in memory orr is it a black magic?

  16. Ganesha, thank you for your comment on this post that I wrote three-and-a-quarter years ago. (It is always good to see that people still reading my old posts – thanks, in part, to search engines, I suspect. :) )

    I share your opinion that it is puzzling why Vyjayanthimala was able to “earn the respect and dignity of an uncomparably larger audience.” If it is the result of “people at large,” that is ironic, since both Padmini and Kamala moved to the U.S. (to places within New York State and New Jersey, to be precise). During the several years that I have been obsessed with these matters :) , my thoughts about Vyjayanthimala have drifted further from the oft-expressed public opinion that she was the greatest of the dancer-actresses. (Which is certainly not to say that she wasn’t good…)

    But I am not sure that I agree with you regarding your claim about Kamala and Padmini’s much greater seniority in the film world, nor about the much-greater number of films they made, at least if we’re talking about Hindi films/Bollywood…

    And that’s where Vyjayanthimala got her advantage. I think that she might have actually made more Hindi/Bollywood films than Kamala or Padmini. I don’t think Kamala was in nearly as many Hindi/Bollywood films. And I suspect that Vyjayanthimala was in more Bollywood films than Padmini, and if not, certainly, she must have starred in more. Vyjayanthimala owes her fame to Bollywood.

    Regarding the idea that “Vyjayanthimala made a later entry into films,” well, that is somewhat true of Vyjayanthimala vs. Kamala, because Kamala started in films as a very small child prodigy. So, there was a decade or more between their debuts. But Vyjayanthimala debuted between one and two years after Padmini, no later than that. The first film that Padmini and the Travancore Sisters were asked to perform in was Uday Shankar’s Kalpana, released in 1948. And I have learned more recently that there was a Tamil movie that they were in that was released in 1947 (although Kalplana can still be considered the earlier film because it went into production years earlier). But Vyjayanthimala began starring in movies in 1949, with the Tamil film Vazhkai. So, how much of a difference is that, really? And although Kalpana was a Hindi film, I don’t think that Padmini starred in a mainstream Hindi/Bollywood films until Mr. Sampat, made in 1952 (a year after Vyjayanthimala starred in her first Bollywood film, Bahar, the Hindi remake of Vazhkai).

  17. Richard : Good to encounter so much Vyjayanthimala material here on your blog.
    I’ve discovered this actress very recently and seen some 9 films of hers over the past month or so.

    She’s seriously underwatched in India today. Possibly the most accomplished commercial Bollywood star-actress ever? I cannot readily recall anybody else who has starred in as many memorable films. And I think she acted better in the 60s when she moved out of her early 20s. Films like Zindagi, Nazrana, Aas ka Panchhi. Terribly underwatched melodramas in my book.

  18. Thank you, Shrikanth. Although I have noticed that the video here is just a black box now (at least on my browser).

    As you get back into 2009, there are going to be a number of problems with the videos. Because of a formatting glitch (i.e., the program(s) no longer read a format spec that I used back then), there are still a number of posts that don’t even show a box; they just have nothing at all. That problem can be easily fixed (if the videos are still on YouTube), but it takes a lot of time to go through them all. Originally, the change affected several years’ worth of material, but I got to most of them. Anyway, I hope that the videos do show – and play – in most of the ones you found.

    I probably had a lot more Vyjayanthimala posts in the past than I do now. When I started devoting this blog entirely to classic Indian films (around the beginning of 2008), Vyjayanthimala and Padmini were my favorite actresses, based on their dancing (of course). But I don’t favor Vyjayanthimala as much anymore. I think that part of the reason is I saw too many interviews with her and got weary of the person. Alas, politics got in the way here, too, because of her involvement in the BJP. (Yuck. A few of these stars became politicians in that party. I’d already known about Hema Malini and Dharmendra, but that doesn’t matter as much, because I would not be such big fans of them anyway. And Jamuna, which is a shame. But anyway…many would say I should not let that stuff affect my judgement, of course.)

    I also really am not as impressed by Vyjayanthimala’s dancing as by a handful of others’, including the Travancore Sisters, Kamala, etc. (There is some conversation about that earlier in this comments section.) But she certainly was good! (A handful might have been better, but she was much better than most.)

    I am surprised that she is so “underwatched” in India. As some people were saying above, she is probably the most recognized internationally. It seems to me that most people in the U.S. or other places outside of India who know about these matters at all will say that Vyjayanthimala was the best dancer from the Golden Age.

    I have also noticed that she developed a good rep. as a Bharatanatyam dancer long after she left films. Looking at some conversations in YouTube comments, I was surprised to see there are people out there who know her only as a dancer on stage or as a teacher and don’t know anything about her films!

    I agree that she probably was a better actress in the ’60s, and nicer to look at, too. But I tend to like the ’50s films more, and I definitely watch films from the ’50s (and ’40s) more, so that is why those ’50s films are featured more here.

    But I will have to check out some of the others that you mentioned, sometime.

  19. Richard: I am not into dance in a big way.
    I was judging her primarily based on her body of work in films. Given that she was the biggest female star of her time, it is a shame that her films are underwatched today when compared with the works of contemporaries like Meena Kumari, Waheeda Rehman, Saira Banu, Madhubala

    A typical youngster today has probably seen more Nargis/Madhubala/meena kumari films than Vyjayanthimala films. Which is a shame.

    I think Vyjayanthi is a more well rounded actress who holds her own in a wider range of roles – be it as a village belle or a city-bred sophisticate. Also her ascent is more startling when you consider her background. A south indian middle class girl with no exposure to Hindi while growing up!

  20. Looking at some conversations in YouTube comments, I was surprised to see there are people out there who know her only as a dancer on stage or as a teacher and don’t know anything about her films!

    That’s precisely what I meant when I said “underwatched”.
    We’re talking about a major, major star of yesteryear here. Arguably the most distinguished Hindi star-actress ever. And many youngsters have hardly heard of her.

    In fact I’d say her oeuvre is more impressive than that of even the much celebrated Nargis

  21. its funny when we see sites on beautiful actresses of all time, Padmini and Vyjayanthimala are never included in that list whereas Waheeda Rehman is always there..i know this is out of topic, but just wondering because i consider Padmini and Vyjaynthimala anytime more beautiful than Waheeda Rehman. I do think Waheeda was really pretty and graceful and quite a good dancer not as accomplished as Pads and Vyjaynthi though..their techniques were awesome. Bollywood seems to have actually forgotten Padmini and Vyjayanthimala..Sad!

  22. Hi, Tony. I don’t think you’ve been to this blog in a while – welcome back! But I hope you realize that you’re commenting on a post that is nearly five years old. :)

    I agree with you regarding Waheeda. I’ve gotten strong disagreements from others based on exactly the opinions that we share. :) Waheeda is good, but not on the same level as a dancer as Vyjayanthimala or, especially, Padmini. And she wasn’t as attractive as Vyjayanthimala or, especially, Pamini. (Now she might be as attractive as Vyjayanthimala or more so – she aged very well, even better than Vyjayanthimala, who has stood up to time fairly well also. Poor Padmini, RIP…) Anyway…

    I should do another “Bollywood Beauties” post. You won’t like one thing, though – Vyjayanthimala might have fallen to the bottom of the list. It’ just that I discovered more beauties and there are too many! But for me, Padmini is still at the top. :)

  23. Ha ha ha..well Richard u are entitled to your opinion and i respect that. Agreed Waheeda aged well and Vjyanthi looks terrible. Too much heavy make up on the eyes n that silly bindi on her forehead..hmmm..could it be some religious thingy? i always wondered why she had to cake herself up especially at this age nearing 80 right? The only thing is she still performs in the temples and fine arts and charity shows which of course amazes me for her to do it at this age still, then the art must be her passion. I am sure Pads would have done the same thing having her dancing school in New Jersey and all. Kamala K..have no info on her..she lives in USA thats about all i know..think she has a dancing school as well. Sayee from the Sayee Subbu sisters passed away recently. Madhumati and Helen still around. L Vijayalakshmi is in USA also. Rajshree another good dancer is settled in US also.I would still say both Pads and Vjy will be in the top ten best dancers and beautiful heroines in my opinion. Of course not on top cause Madhubala, Saira Banu and Hema Malini n Aishwarya Rai would take first spots followed by Madhuri, Sridevi then Pads, Vjy, Waheeda..that would account to my listing..Vjy was beautiful at her hey day and i think she never looked more gorgeous as she did in Sangam and Ganga Jamna. She had good chemistry with Dilip Kumar on screen. But she also suffered the same problem as Pads, the weight issues..she too became bigger towards the end of the 60′s. South Indian heroines always have weight issues. As usual i am out of topic..ha ha ha

  24. Sorry Richard, just wanted to add in Meenaksi Seshadri, a very talented dancer who was so underrated..u should see her tandav in Damini..marvelous dancer. She too has settled in USA..

  25. Hi, Tony. Thanks for all the extra info! Yes, I know about Meenakshi; I thought she might even have been mentioned on this blog sometime before (but the search engine isn’t calling her up – oh, well).

    I guess you’re right that Vyjayanthimala is looking a bit too painted these days. Though she didn’t look bad until very recently.

    By the way, I like those nicknames Vyj and Pads! And did they have weight issues? I think they both look nice in those late ’60s films. If you want to see women with weight issues, look at some of the anorexic actresses of the present day.

    You mentioned Rajshree… Well, on this blog, I have a pic of her aunt (and stepmother?), Sandhya, taken at the end of 2009 – pretty cute, also probably about 80 here:

    http://roughinhere.wordpress.com/2009/12/27/congratulations-sandhya/

    I believe and hope that she’s still around…

    The most amazing of all is Sitara Devi, still spotted happily mingling at film debuts very recently… She’ll be 94 within 10 days.

    And you wondered about Kamala… Minai has a nice clip of her giving some dance demonstrations at an awards concert in 2010:

    http://cinemanrityagharana.blogspot.com/2010/12/kamala-dancing-at-national-heritage.html

  26. Wow..thanks Richard for sharing that beautiful piece with Kamala K..once a dancer, always a dancer I guess when it comes to these amazing women. Kamala still has the charisma and energy even at this age. Once again thank you so much for sharing. God bless. (are u on facebook?) what is your name there?

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