Extraordinary it is…

Salute these wonderful womens

on March 4, 2012

We feature the larger than life journeys of the women who have ticked, provoked and inspired us in the last five decades
Maharani Gayatri Devi

There is no need to be puritanical in our approach to beauty. I find dumpiness inexcusable. I think that every woman owes it to herself to look pretty, and it is fundamental toher self-respect Adored by men and women alike, Maharani Gayatri Devi, said this to Femina on December 13, 1968. In 1940, she had married Sawai Man Singh II, whom she had fallen in love with when she was 12. In 1970, she lost her husband when he collapsed while umpiring a polo match. On July 29, 2009, the maharani passed away.


Madhubala-s legend endures because of her wealth of talent and her mesmerising beauty. She was known as a womans woman as much as a mans woman.At the peak of her career, her fame had risen to such a degree that she was featured in American magazines like Theatre Arts. The piece was called-The biggest star in the world (and she s not in Beverly Hills). Madhubala and Dilip Kumar began a relationship in the 1950s, though it didnot last very long due toher fathers disapproval. She marriedher Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi co-star Kishore Kumar in 1960. She died in the year 1969.

Vijayalakshmi Pandit

A woman of many firsts, Vijayalakshmi Pandit was the first Indian woman to hold a cabinet post and the first woman president of the UN General Assembly. She was on the cover of Femina in October 1964. Between 1955 and 1961 she was appointed as Indias ambassador to Ireland. She was also the Indian High Commissioner to UK, and was instrumental in improving relations between UK and India. In the late 70s, she was considered a favourite to be the next president. This was around the same time Emergency was imposed. Though she campaigned against Indira Gandhi, she didnt win.

Amrita Pritam

She was the first woman poet to write primarily in Punjabi. Having won three significant honours in her lifetime – Jnanpith Award, Padma Shri and Padma Vibhushan – and published over 170 books of poems, essays and short stories, she is regarded as an immortal in Indian literature. When she was working for All India Radio in Delhi, she got together with poet Sahir Ludhianvi; the relationship didnot last long due to Sahirs alleged infidelity. She then met Imroz, an artist six years younger, and spent the rest of her life with him.

Nargis Dutt

-The perfect man? Frankly, I do not believe there is one, said the ethereal Nargis who charmed movie goers with her luminescent beauty and effortless acting. For my part, I would want a man to be sincere, truthful, honest and understanding. He still wouldnot be perfect of course, but just right.After she achieved iconic status for her role in Mother India, in March 1958, Nargis married Sunil Dutt, who had played her son the film. The actress, suffering from pancreatic cancer, passed away in 1981.

Pearl Padamsee

Her peers remember her as a theatre visionary,loved for her energy and vindaloo. To the rest, she will always be that sweet old Parsi woman in Khatta Meetha . In the 1960s, she ventured into professional acting, and directed and produced plays. In 1977, she was offered her first major role in the film Khatta Meetha . Pearl said, The role fell in my lap through the telephone. The phone rang and somebody said,Could I speak to Mrs Padamsee? and I said, Speaking and they said, Basu Chatterjee would like to meet you. And I said, Yes, so would Cecil B DeMille I thought it was a joke. Why would Basu Chatterjee want to meet me? But it came true

Indira Gandhi

Indira Gandhi has that rare distinction of being the politician that changed the course ofthe largest democracy in the world, while simultaneously being ruthlessly dictatorial and unconcerned with democratic opinion. But there is no denying thatthe world hasnot seen a female leader worth talking about as much as Mrs G. The July 1964 Femina issuecarried a letter by Rabindranath Tagore to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru about Indira Gandhis days spent in Shantiniketan, which said: She is such an asset to our place. I have watched closely and felt admiration for the way you have brought her up.Mrs Gandhi was assassinated onOctober 31, 1984.

Zeenat Aman

At 19, Zeenat became the first Indian woman to be crowned Miss Asia. But it wasnot until her controversial roles in movies like Hare Rama, Hare Krishna and Satyam Shivam Sundaram that she became the biggest star in Bollywood, and Indias sex symbol. She said in an interview, To me my body is just that, a body… The sex part of me is only incidentalShe ruled the film industry in the late 70s, and worked with all the leading actors. Her personal life though wasnot as successful. After a failed love affair with married actor Sanjay Khan, she married actor Mazhar Khan, who died due to illness.
Mrinalini Sarabhai

The Padma Shri-winning dancer has been responsible for introducing Bharatnatyam and Kathkali not just to her hometown in Gujarat, but theworld over. She was the first woman to receive the Weera Shrinkala for Kathkali, thus quelling any notions of it being a male-dominated dance form. Her dance dramas have illustrated everything; stories from the Ramayana, stories of Meerabai, the works of Tagore, and issues like gender bias and eco concerns. She married Vikram Sarabhai in 1942

Kamala Das

An iconoclast of her generation, the late Kamala Das wrote about the sexual desires of Indian women uninhibitedly. Her work won her a Nobel nomination. She penned her first book Summer In Calcutta, a volume of poetry. She said in one of her interviews, For me, sex has meant a mindless surrender. Each time I submitted to love-making, I prayed that I might conceive. For me sex meant another baby to dandle on my knee. But for my mate it was different. He only wanted the relaxing of his tumescence.At 42, she wrote about her husbands homosexual liaisons and her
affairs in her autobiography

Simi Garewal

Simi is the ageless beauty who refuses to conform. Known today for her chat shows, itseasy to forget she was an actor first,one whose early career spanned some interesting and ambitious films. She made her film debut at the age of 15 with Feroze Khan in Tarzan Goes To India , a Hollywood film. Some of her notable films were Mera Naam Joker and Satyajit Rays Aranyer Din Ratri . In 1972, she starred opposite Shashi Kapoor in Siddhartha, an English-language film, where she did a semi-nude scene that caused controversy.

Smita Patil

From the radically political cinema of the 1970s to the commercial masala films of the 1980s, nothing was out of Smita0„30…4s versatile reach. Her sudden death was a huge loss to the Indian film industry. She debuted in front of thecamera as a television newscaster for Doordarshan. Her news reading skills and beauty impressed Shyam Benegal, who offered her a role in Charandas Chor . At 21, she won the National Award for her performanceBhumika. In 1980, she married actorRaj Babbar amidst much controversy, as he was married already. She died in December 1986,two weeks after giving birth to her only son, Prateik.


A Burmese immigrant who went on to embody the soul of cabaret in Bollywood, Helen was and remains an enigma. After working as a solo dancer in some films, Helen performed Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu in Howrah Bridge . Thesong established Helen0„30…4s credentials as a dancer. Her kittenish face, her eyes and sensuous smile brought her out from the ranks of chorus dancers and made her a queen of cabaret. In the 1960s, Helen had ventured into serious acting. It paid off when she got nominated for theFilmfare Best Supporting Actress Award in 1965 for her role in Gumnaam . She married writer SalimKhan and became his second wife inthe 1980s.

Dimple Kapadia

She was every young boys favourite pin-up, as the 16-year-old nymphet in Bobby . Dimple is still ravishing today, as a grandmother. Discovered by Raj Kapoor, she made her debut in Bobby in the year 1973. The next year she married the superstar Rajesh Khanna. She gave birth to two daughters and returned to filmsalmost a decade later, after separating from her husband. Dimple0„30…4s comeback film Saagar was controversial for one steamy scene, where she almost appears topless. She won the National Award for her role in Rudali .

Sharmila Tagore

From being the first Indian actor to wear a bikini on the screen to her stint as the chief ofthe censor board, Tagore0„30…4s career has been an interesting journey. At 14, Sharmila, great-grandniece of Rabindranath Tagore, acted in Satyajit Rays Apur Sansar . In 1964, she made her debut in Hindi films with Shammi Kapoor in K ashmir Ki Kali . Three years later, in An Evening In Paris , she wore a bikini for a scene. Sharmila married cricketer Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and converted to Islam.

Shabana Azmi

Since her scorching debut in Shyam Benegals Ankur, Shabana has continually dazzled on screen and stage. In 1983, she won three consecutive National awards for Arth, Khandhar and Paar . She married poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar in 1984. Shes also played conscience to the Hindi film industry through her role as a social activist. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 1988. In an interview she said about her identity,If I m asked to put into words my identity, i d say, woman, Indian, actress, Muslim, daughter, wife. Her film Fire where she played a lesbian shocked the country. In 1997, she became a Rajya Sabha MP. She won a National Award for her role in Godmother again.

Protima Bedi

She didnot live her life to please anyone else, but she madeeveryone who mattered to her proud: children, lovers, students anddance gurus. Protima lived a life filled with passion and had a lot to show for it. She started her modelling career in 1969, and started living in with Kabir Bedi. She had dated Pandit Jasraj, Vijaypath Singhania, French artist Jacques Lebel, barrister Rajni Patel and conservationist Rom Whitaker. In 1974, Protima ran naked on Juhu beach in Mumbai to publicise the launch of a film magazine. She started Nrityagram, India’s first free dance school near Bangalore. She died in a landslide in the Himalayas while on a pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar.

Neetu Kapoor

As an actor who left filmdom to marry her co-star and recently made a comeback of sorts, Neetu has courted stardom at her own pace. She made an appearance as a child artiste in Dus Lakh. She played one of her most popular roles as Salma Ali in Amar, Akbar, Anthony . In 1980, she married Rishi Kapoor after a much-publicised engagement. I d been brought up very strictly. I had no boyfriends andhad a very touch-me-not attitude. But when Rishi told me he was in love with me, I started feeling for himIn 2010, she starred in Do Dooni Chaar with him.


One response to “Salute these wonderful womens

  1. Prachi says:

    What about Asha Bhosale? What about Lata Mangeshkar?

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