No, I am not asking other bloggers to participate in a week for Ragini (I don’t do that sort of thing); rather, I just wanted to mention that from my little blogging corner, this has turned out to be a week for Ragini, mostly unplanned.

It started out with the conclusion of somebody else’s Shashi week, because while Shashi doesn’t really stand out in my mind that much, when I think of Shashi, I always think of a great song clip from a movie that starred Shashi and Ragini.  I’ve shown this one before, but I can never tire of posting it, so here it is again (unfortunately, with embedding disabled, so just click on the YouTube screen):

 

With this song and scene running through my mind, I decided to try my luck at Ragini research again, though it doesn’t usually yield much, with Ragini info being relatively scarce, mostly confined to side mentions in biographies about Padmini.  (It’s kind of like looking for info on Minoo Mumtaz - you’ll find it only in side comments to bios of Mehmood.)  But this time, I did turn up a few facts that I hadn’t known before…

One, which startled me, was that Ragini had died in 1976, at the age of 39.   I noticed this the other day when I posted the Travancore Family Tree (and by the way, if I ever find the source for that again, I’ll note it – sorry about sloppy research methods there…)  I had read before that Ragini died in “midlife” and died “young,” but that could easily mean ’50s, and it made me very sad to learn that Ragini was in the same club with Madhubala, Geeta Bali, and Meena Kumari, never getting a chance to see her 40s.   (I have read somewhere that she died of cancer, but I haven’t gotten more info than that.)  Now, it seems, from what I can tell, that Ragini did not have a tragic life; it was very charmed for the most part, but it really put some tears in my eyes to think that this woman whose dances I’ve enjoyed so much, and who had such a vivacious screen presence, had her life cut so short.  (Ragini was particularly good in comedies and often played the cheerful type, as opposed to Padmini, who did the most weeping over the years.  Ragini was actually pretty good as a comic actress, which brings out the sad comparison to Madhubala even more.)

In my stint of research, I also learned that Ragini had married a man who was part of a famous aristocratic family, who lived in a famous house.  But Ragini’s husband died at an even younger age, in his early ’30s.  In this case, since he was about a decade younger than Ragini, this meant that he had lived through Ragini’s death.  Piecing things together from the comments, I saw that he provided another example of how wealth does not always bring happiness, as he probably died from illness resulting from alcoholoism and was not a happy sort at all.  (Now that brings us to other tragic examples from classic Bollywood – one mentioned already, above, and let’s leave it at that.)

Onto cheerier matters, it was fun discovering the site of the “Travancore Cousin” Sukumari (who is still active as an actress even today, after literally thousands of films)…  That site actually has some fantastic photos, including one great picture of Sukumari with Ragini…

I also discovered some good information on Ragini at a Rediff Movies post, which was more of a memorial to Padmini but contained some interesting tidbits about Ragini too.  (Assuming it’s all accurate.  I noticed that it gave 1952 as the year that Padmini debuted in Kalpana, which is way off.  But the rest seems to be OK.)  One thing I didn’t know which this site mentions is that the Travancore Sisters were friends with Raj Kapoor and Nargis around the time of Chori Chori.  And according to this article, Nargis was particularly good friends with Ragini…

I looked at all of that information on about March 20 to 21.  Then on March 21, I digressed from my week for Ragini because I discovered that March 21 was the birthday of Ragini’s niece Shobana.  (I might have known this sometime before, but if I did, I’d definitely forgotten it.)  Given the unlikelihood of learning about Shobana’s birthday on Shobana’s birthday, I felt at that point that I was just fated to do a Shobana birthday post – which was fine with me because, as I’ve said before, she has proven to be a great dancer in her own right, enough to make her aunts proud.  (Well, enough to have made Padmini proud, I know; the other aunts didn’t really live to see Shobana’s film success.)

But then the next day, I got some good comments under a couple of old posts, from Manu J. Krishnan, who apparently knows about Ragini more than most of us.  I was glad to read one comment in particular, in which Manu informed me that he is organizing a photo exhibition of the Travancore Sisters in Kerala for the death anniversary of Ragini, in December of 2010.  And this, I know, is a perfect time to visit Kerala, as an Indian friend of mine (presently living in Edison, NJ) tried to organize a trip for me to go there around this time last year.  But even with contacts, etc., there was no way I could find to afford it.  Maybe things will somehow be different this year.  Or maybe I’ll find a way to earn my way while in India – e.g., by joining a gypsy song-and-dance troupe…

By the way, that clip and the screen cap at the top are from Amar Deep (1958), one of the best Hindi films starring both Padmini and Ragini (and Vyjayanthimala and Dev Anand and Johnny Walker…).

I think most of the Hindi films from the 1950s that featured Ragini were Padmini starrers, but Ragini did branch off on her own a few times, especially as the ’60s rolled along.  Reportedly, she had a nice rapport with Ashok Kumar, and she starred with him in 1965 movie called Adhi Raat Ke Baad.   And just last night, I was able to enjoy a very good and detailed writeup of that movie by Sunheriyaadein - I couldn’t think of a nicer way to close out this great unplanned Ragini week.

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