Asha Parekh

For Asha Parekh, dance was her first love. And it was through dance that she got her first film assignment both as a child artist and later on as lead actress. Asha was born in a middle class family. Her father was a Gujarati and her mother, a Muslim. Her mother was her inspiration and Asha was motivated to be a dancer right from her childhood days.

Once while Asha was dancing on stage, veteran director Bimal Roy saw her performance and liked it very much. He offered her a child's role in his Baap Beti (1954). She did a few films as a child actor, including Dhobi Doctor and Ayodhyapati. The renowned director of yesteryears, Vijay Bhatt offered Asha a leading role in his film, Gunj Uthi Shehnai. Asha was barely sixteen years of age at that time. But later she was thrown out of the cast because the producer was of the view that she wasn't a star material. Asha was very disappointed and she went abroad on a world tour with her dance troupe.

But within months, Sashadhar Mukherji cast her in Dil Deke Dekho (1959). This youth-oriented Nasir Hussain musical was a smash hit and 17-year-old Asha became a star. She was soon cast opposite Dev Anand (Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai), Rajendra Kumar (Gharana) and Joy Mukherji (Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon). With Ziddi (1964) Asha established herself as a powerful actress. Asha played a characteristic no-nonsense tomboy who cavorts around with a cute baby elephant for company. She surprised many in her emotional scenes, which captured her painful passage to adulthood.

The year 1966 was a super-hit year for her since Asha gave four successful films: Vijay Anand's suspenseful musical Teesri Manzil, Love In Tokyo gave her a chance to dance and emote in picturesque Japan, Aaye Din Bahaar Ke with Dharmendra and Raj Khosla's rather maudlin Do Badan offered her the opportunity to play tragedienne. After Do Badan Asha started getting more meaningful, author-backed roles and did movies with Kanyadan, Chiraag, Pagla Kahin Ka, Kati Patang and Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki. Almost all of these films did a remarkable job at the box office and got critics' appreciation as well, excepting Raj Khosla's Chiraag opposite Sunil Dutt. The film did not raise the spirits of the audience and led her to disappointment.

Asha finally got the much coveted Best Actress Award in Kati Patang (1970). Kati Patang was followed by hits like Aan Milo Sajna, Nasir Hussain's Caravan and Raj Khosla's Mera Gaon Mera Desh in the early seventies. At the peak of her career Asha cut down on her work and went on an extended trip abroad for her dance shows. When she returned in 1973, her career had lost its early heat. She basically focused on her dance troupe.

When Raj Khosla offered her Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki, Asha's film career was almost over as a leading actress. Nevertheless she agreed to do it along with the renowned late actress Nutan. The film was a major success and it also fetched Nutan the Best actress Award. She decided to retire and started focusing on her dance troupe. Asha concentrated on charity work and opened a hospital for poor and needy at Santa Cruz (Bombay). Asha also set up a dance academy, Kala Bhavan, where the students learn various dance forms. She has also been the chairperson of the Film Censor Board and the president of the Cine Artistes' Association.

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