Jaya Bachchan is Another Name for Elan, Stoicism, and Dignity

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The enigmatic female actor, Jaya Bachchan, with the girl-next door turns 69, today. Smriti profiles the female-actor, who epitomised élan, stoicism and dignity. Her charismatic aura makes her the favourite of many. Her stoic silence gives her the quintessential strength. Smriti profiles the ‘Guddi’ of Hindi and joins in wishing her Happy Birthday. An exclusive.

She is the iconic wife who stood by her husband through thick and thin. Always maintained the dignity and privacy of her relationship. She gave up a flourishing acting career to look after her family and children. She made a comeback in the films after 18 years of sabbatical and mingled with such ease in the cine , as if she had never left it. Meet Jaya Bachchan, dignity personified. Born on April 9, 1948, she turns 69 years, today.

Jaya Bachchan started acting in films when she was just a teenager in Satyajit Ray’s Mahanagar. Acting from such a young age was really enjoyable for her, unlike other child , who have volumes to speak of traumatic experiences as child artistes. In an interview to Bhavna Somaiya, she mentioned how she was thoroughly pampered on the sets of Mahanagar and was fed chocolates.

Jaya enrolled at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, and while still studying there, she was offered two films by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Guddi and Uphaar. She was also offered a third film, which she could not accept as the Institute refused to allow her to act in a film before completing her course as it would be demoralising for her fellow students.

The year 1971 was Jaya’s debut year. Her portrayal of a young girl infatuated with a film star connected instantly with the audiences. Here was a girl who was as common as other girls around them, as vulnerable as any fourteen-year-old schoolgirl can be! Her petite looks, simple acting in the movie gave her the girl-next-door image. Down the years, many heroines like Rameshwari, Zarina Wahab tried to mould themselves like Jaya but none had her enigmatic aura and charisma.

Directors like Gulzar, Basu Chatterjee, Hrishikesh Mukherjee gave new dimensions to Jaya’s acting but most were noted for her easy essaying of a middle-class ordinary girl. She did try to break from this image of hers by attempting glamorous roles in movies like Jawani Diwani and even a negative role in Anamika. But success and accolades came to her through movies like Uphaar, Parichay, Koshish, Bawarchi, etc.

While Jaya was gaining new heights of success in Bollywood, a lanky, dark, brooding young boy was trying to make a mark for himself in Hindi Films. He had a string of flops behind him, with this young boy Jaya was offered a film, Bansi Birju. This was her first encounter with Amitabh Bachchan with whom she was going to spend the rest of her life. The movie did not do well, but the two were once again together in Prakash Mehra’s Zanzeer.  Once again

Jaya had agreed to do a movie with Amitabh when several top heroines had refused to work with him. Perhaps it was destiny that was conspiring to keep them together.

Zanzeer was a blockbuster and Amitabh became a superstar overnight. Both of them were paired in many hit movies like Abhiman, Chupke Chupke, Sholay, Mili, etc.

In one of his blogs, Amitabh writes about his marriage to Jaya. According to him, he wanted to go on a holiday to London with Jaya, but his father refused to give him permission to go unless he married Jaya. So a marriage without any fanfare took place and the two left for their holiday, which actually now was their honeymoon.

But this fairytale faced many storms too. Amitabh grew a close friendship with his co-star Rekha during the making of the film, Do Anjaane. Rumours of their torrid affair, their clandestine rendezvous, and secret marriage spread like wildfire. Rekha making public appearances wearing added fuel to the fire and fanned the speculations.

Both Jaya and Amitabh never discussed publicly these rumours. Jaya kept her poise and dignity, whilst going through this emotional turmoil. In an interview to Simi Grewal, she said that she never questioned her husband when his name came up in gossip columns because she finds it cheap. She stood by her husband when he was critically injured during the shooting of Coolie. She also gave Rekha a strong message by refusing to let her meet Amitabh during his illness. Jaya proved loud and clear that actions speak louder than words.

Though both Jaya and Amitabh kept their silence on the issue, Rekha gave statements on this alleged affair to magazines. Rekha was quoted in Stardust, “Jaya did not mind the relationship as long as she thought her husband was only having a fling. It’s when she realised that he was really emotionally involved, that is when it began hurting her. She called me for dinner one evening and though we spoke about everything but him before I left that day, she made sure to tell me, ‘I will never leave Amit, whatever happens’.”

In 1981, Yash Chopra portrayed this most mysterious love triangle in his movie, Silsila. Besides the three of them, it also starred Sanjeev Kapoor. There were always speculations that Sanjeev Kumar had a liking and feelings for Jaya. Rumours also say that he sent feelers to Jaya that he was ready to accept her if she ever left her husband.However, Amitabh stopped working with Rekha and Jaya took a sabbatical from films.

Jaya made her comeback in Govind Nihalini’s Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa and since then has worked in many successful films like Fiza, Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham, Kal Ho Na Ho, which won her critical acclaim as well as several awards and nominations.

Besides acting, Jaya got associated with politics also by joining the Samajwadi Party and served as its Rajya Sabha member also. She also became a target for Shiv Sena when, while giving a at the music launch of Drona, she said, “Hum UP ke log hain, isliye Hindi mein baat karenge, Maharashtra ke log maaf kijiye” (We are from UP, that’s why we will talk in Hindi, apologise to the people of Maharashtra).  MNS leader Raj Thackeray threatened to boycott all Bachchan films unless she rendered a public apology for hurting the feelings of Maharashtrians. Amitabh apologised on her behalf and put the matter to rest.

Leaving behind all the controversies, all the heartbreaks, till date Guddi and her beautiful family rule the Bollywood industry and keep us enchanted by their powerful screen performances.

We, in Different Truths, wish this dignified feisty and spunky lady, Jaya Bachchan, a very Happy Birthday.

©Smriti Maheshwari

Photos from the internet.

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Smriti Maheshwari

Smriti Maheshwari

Smriti Maheshwari loves cooking, reading, mostly fiction and thrillers. She enjoys mythological stories too. She also loves meeting people and making friends, socialising, and is a big movie buff. A homemaker and a dreamer, she stays in Allahabad with her husband.
Smriti Maheshwari