Friday, 1 June 2007

Vanmala: The ethereal beauty

She was so gorgeous that a 10-year-old kid fell in love with her on the movie sets and would stand for hours, intently watching her.

The child was Raj Kapoor and the actress was Vanmala who was acting along side his father Prithvi Raj Kapoor in the movie Sikandar.

Vanmala, who worked in many Hindi and Marathi movies including 'Sharbati Ankhen', 'Vasantsena' & Marathi movie 'Shyamchi Aai' passed away in Gwalior recently.

She was 92. Few were aware that she was still alive and small obituaries hardly did justice to the actress who stole a million hearts in the 30s and 40s.

Sushiladevi Pawar alias Vanmala was born in 1915 and started her career with Minerva Movietone's blockbuster Sikander with Sohrab Modi and Prithvi Raj Kapoor as lead actors in the film.

Oldies still remember the dreamy eyed Rukhsana whose character she played in the movie. A staunch nationalist who was actively involved in freedom movement along with Aruna Asaf Ali and Achyut Patwardhan, Vanmala is best remembered for her role in Marathi movie Shyamchi Aai. She actively participated in the Quit India movement.

In her old age, she was involved in social causes and even when she was in her early 90s, the former actress ran school to train children in culture and traditional Indian arts. Close friends said that she loved her solitude and enjoyed this sort of life. She was a religious person.

Vanmala was daughter of Sardar Bapurao Pawar, who was related to the ruling family of Gwalior (Scindias). After graduation she had started teaching in a school in Pune and later had an unsuccessful marriage with PK Sawant (who later became a state minister).

She acted in 33 movies including Vasantsena, Gharjavai and Shyamchi Aai. In the last she played the role of a doting mother. She had won the President's award for best actress. Susheeladevi Pawar, like many other actresses of yesteryears was living a quiet life and was remembered only in her death.

The 'sharbati aankhein' are closed for ever.

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