The last Valentine’s Day has been definitely memorable for movie lovers and especially lovers of eternal classic beauties like Meena Kumari, Nutan and others. The Indian Postal Department paid tribute to six late legendary actresses of the Indian cinema by releasing a set of six postal stamps in their honour. India Post paid tribute to Meena Kumar, Nutan, Savitri Devi, Devika Rani, Leela Naidu and Kanan Devi in the capital city. Minister of State for Communication and Information Technology, Gurudas Kamat released the set of six stamps last Monday at the world philatelic exhibition in New Delhi.
Though these six actresses were part of the golden classical era, they are still remembered for their acting prowess as well as their contribution to the film industry still stands out. Devika Rani, one of the earliest actresses dominated the golden era of the early talkies that were made. Other then for her acting, she also courted controversies often and yet stood tall. Her film production studio, Bombay Talkies often rubbed people the wrong way by making films that challenged caste system in the pre-independent India. One of the most notable of her films was Achhut Kanya in 1936 opposite the versatile actor Ashok Kumar, a film that potrayed a love story between a Brahmin boy and an untouchable girl. Devika Rani was also instrumental in enacting the longest kissing scene with the hero, in this case, her husband Himanshu Rai, in the film Karma in 1933, a very bold step at that time that caused a lot of controversies in an orthodox country in the pre-independence era.
Meena Kumari is synonym with Pakeeza, a film she made (and acted in) along with her husband Kamal Amrohi. Pakeeza was her last film before she died in 1972. It went on to become a huge hit. Though her family was involved in the film industry, her parents did little to send her to school. Instead Meena Kumari was forced to join the Hindi film industry at a tender age of seven. Few would have predicted then that Baby Meena would go on to become one of the finest actresses that Indian cinema has ever produced. Till her last film Pakeeza, Meena Kumari had acted in nearly 100 films, most of which today are regarded as priceless gems. She is also regarded as the first actress to win the Filmfare Best Actress Award for her film Baiju Bawra in 1953. Her most notable films are Mere Apne (1971), Phool Aur Patthar (1966), Dil Ek Mandir (1963), Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam (1962), Dil Apna Preet Parai (1960) and Bandhan (1956). She’s won the Filmfare Best Actress Award four times.
Nutan Samarth, daughter of Shobhna Samarth, followed her mother’s footstep into acting. She was one of the highly successful actresses of the 50s and 60s era. Winner of 5 Filmfare Best Actress Award and one Filmfare Supporting Actress Award, a record in its own way, Nutan has acted in nearly 70 films till early 1990s. Her most notable films of the 80s are Subhash Ghai’s Karma and Meri Jung. Her earlier films that are still regarded as timeless classics are films like Seema (1956), Sujata (1959), Bandini (1963), Milan (1967) and Main Tulsi Teri Angan Ki (1978).
Kanan Devi, one of the earliest actresses who sang her own songs on the silver screen is also recognized as one of the first superstar of the Bengali Cinema. Like Meena Kumari, Kanan Devi too started her acting career as a child artiste at the age of 10 and went on to do countless number of Bengali and Hindi films across her two decade career. Her last film as an actress was Chandrashekhar opposite Ashok Kumar in 1948. Thereafter, she directed her career on a different path, turning producer with Ananya in 1949. In 1976, the government of India conferred the Dadasaheb Phalke Award on Kanan Devi towards her contribution to Indian cinema. She breathed her last in 1992 in the very city of Calcutta where she ruled as a star for so long.
Leela Naidu was an epitome of grace and beauty. She was a part of Hindi and English cinema, a role which she juggled successfully. Though she didn’t act in that many films like the other actresses of her time, yet some of her films have left a clear imprint on the minds of the audience. Her beauty was so powerful that even the international Vogue magazine rated her as one of the world’s ten most beautiful women in 1954 soon after Leela Naidu won the Femina Miss India crown. Her first feature film was Anuradha opposite refined actor Balraj Sahni in 1960. The film went on to win the National Award for the Best Film and brought critical acclaim for Leela Naidu. Her first English feature film The Householder was directed by James Ivory of the Merchant Ivory team. Her last film was Electric Moon. It’s said that she refused Raj Kapoor’s films four times!
Savithri Devi was another of those classical beautifies that graced the southern film industry as well as Hindi film industry and did a record number of films in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada languages. She has acted in more then 300 films and as a child, used to perform classical dance on stage. Her first film came at the age of 13 and later in her career, she opted to direct films. She won a National Award for Best Actress for her portrayal in the film Chivaraku Migiledi in 1960.
Though a little belated, the postal department rightly paid tribute to these timeless classics by releasing the stamps featuring them. These actresses join a list of other cinema dignitaries like Madhubala, Nargis, Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor, K.L. Saigal, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi, Hemant Kumar, Begum Akhtar, Dadasaheb Phalke, Satyajit Ray and Bimal Roy who have stamps issued in their names. These stars have been truly immortalized for ever.