The girl next door
P. K. AJITH KUMAR
Although Vidhubala chose to retire as an actor when she was at the peak of her career, she has not severed her links with tinsel town.
Yes, there have been many offers to act, but I am not interested. Acting is a closed chapter for me, but cinema is not.Vidhubala
IN LOVE WITH CINEMA: Stills from her movies during her heyday as an actor.
The face of Malayalam cinema in the 1970's was quite interesting.
A galaxy of stars like Sheela, Sharada, Jayabharathi, Sri Vidya, Unni Mary, Sridevi, Lakshmi, K.R. Vijaya and so on made their presence felt on the silver screen. Then there was Vidhubala, who made a splash with Hariharan's `College Girl' in 1974 (10 years after making her debut as an eight-year-old in `School Master').
She had something about her that the heroines then lacked: the girl-next-door look. She acted in over 100 Malayalam films. Then, in 1981, while still at her peak, she quit tinsel town. She has been keeping a low profile since her last film `Abhinayam,' was released, some 25 years ago.
"I still love films but will never act again and have had to reject many offers," said Vidhubala, in a rare interview at her home in Kozhikode.
"I have never missed the limelight. Yes, there have been many offers to act, but I am not interested. Acting is a closed chapter for me, but cinema is not."
She is working with her elder brother and leading cinematographer Madhu Ambat on a few projects, including a documentary on Lalgudi Jayaraman.
"I helped with the post-production work of Sharada Ramanathan's Tamil film, `Sringaram,' for which I also dubbed for one of the main characters. I'm also working on the script of Sharada's next film along with her," she says.
She is now writing a book on her father, Professor Bhagyanath, the famous magician.
"He played a crucial role in my career. He, and my mother, Sulochana, both of whom were freedom fighters, wanted me to be a dancer. I was a reluctant actress; I began acting only to oblige some relatives or friends of our relatives," says the great-granddaughter of poet Kundoor Narayana Menon.
She may have been reluctant to take up acting as a profession, but she proved that she was more than a competent actor in films such as `Aswathama,' `Rappadikalude Gatha,' `Agni,' `Veedu Oru Swargam,' `Njaval Pazhangal' and `Ormakal Marikkumo.'
"I enjoyed working in films such as `Aswathma' and `Agni,' as much as I liked working in box office hits like `Theekkanal.' "
She says she enjoyed working with all her co-stars like Prem Nazeer, Madhu, Vincent and Mohan.
"I must have worked with Nazeer in around 30 films; he was a remarkable human being and a underrated actor. One film in which we played the lead roles was a disaster at the box office, leaving the producer a pauper. But Nazeer took me along to the producer and told him that we would do another film for him and that he should pay us only if the film made money. We did act in that film, which went on to become a hit. Can you imagine any other star doing that?"
Popular on - screen duo
She has also fond memories of working with Madhu, with whom she made a popular pair on the screen.
"I don't know why we clicked as a pair. Maybe because both of us were tall or perhaps our names sounded similar. Madhu has a good sense of humour."
Vidhubala ended her acting career with `Abhinayam.'
"I was getting bored. Besides, that was the time Malayalam films used to be dubbed into other languages and shown as pornographic films. In a Tamil poster, they had shown me posing me in an indecent way, which wasn't there in the film. I was upset by it, and didn't want to associate myself with such films. By then, I had already met Murali Kumar, who was the producer of some of my hits like `Sarpam.' I married him a few years after I quit the industry." She is now not so sure about her timing when it came to retiring.
"In the Eighties, the quality of Malayalam cinema improved dramatically as young and talented directors like Bharathan and Padmarajan did excellent work. I could have done some good films with them. My other regret is that I never could do the role of a dancer; I had been learning Bharatanatyam from the age of three."
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