9 April 1948: Jaya Bachchan, Indian actress and politician, was born

Jaya Bhaduri Bachchan, an accomplished Indian actress who is equally comfortable doing mainstream and more serious roles, was born on 9 April 1948 in Calcutta to Indira Bhaduri and Taroon Bhaduri.

She did her schooling from Loreto Convent (Shillong), Loreto House (Calcutta) and St. Joseph’s Convent school (Bhopal). She acted in a few Bengali films as a child, including Satyajit Ray’s film Mahanagar, where she played a supporting role.

Later she enrolled at the Pune’s Film and Television Institute of India.

Her first Hindi film role was as Guddi in director Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s comedy Guddi. In the movie, Guddi is a schoolgirl who is infatuated by the filmstar Dharmendra (played by the actor himself).

A simple, sweet tale, and in many ways a film about films, it was a great start to the young Jaya Bhaduri’s Hindi film career, fetching her a nomination for Best Actress in the the Filmfare Awards. Several famous actors also make an appearance in the film, playing themselves. One of them was Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya’s future husband.

As the film critic Dinesh Raheja wrote in rediff.com: “Fresh-faced, scrubbed-clean Jaya Bhaduri was a gale of fresh air when she appeared on the scene in the 1970s. Her first film Guddi (1971) was courageously built around this persona. And as a film, refreshingly reflected her endearing unpretentiousness. . . . Jaya fits right into the rhythms of her character. When she fires up that smile, she looks every inch a wet-behind-the-ears schoolgirl. It is hard to think of any other actress in this part.”

A sensitive actress

She followed this with films like Uphaar, Piya Ka Ghar, Koshish and Bawarchi, and began to be recognised as a sensitive actress.

One of her much applauded performances was in the 1973 film Abhimaan. Directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, it’s a story of Subir (played by Amitabh Bachchan), a singer, and his wife Uma (played by Jaya) who turns out to be a more popular singer than him, which makes Subir resent her success.

Reviewing the film in November 2012, Gargi Parsai wrote in The Hindu: “Whether it is in the rendering of the songs or while conveying an expression of helpless despair while watching her drunk husband being helped out of the car or the gentle but firm reminder to Chitra [played by Bindu] that Subir was hers, the deep sense of sorrow at losing her pregnancy or while crying out her pain through the last song, she is absolutely riveting. In this film Jaya shed her image of the girl-next-door and became a woman of substance.”

Another landmark film released in 1973 starring Amitabh and Jaya was Zanjeer, which marked the beginning of the ‘angry young man’ phase of Indian cinema.

That year proved to be a particularly good one for Jaya. She also played a mysterious role in Anamika, opposite Sanjeev Kumar.

Amitabh and Jaya married in June 1973. Their son, Abhishek Bachchan, and daughter-in-law, Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan, are also actors in the Hindi film industry.

Jaya was also part of the 1975 blockbuster Sholay, which had a multi-star cast. The 1981 film Silsila that also starred Amitabh and Rekha, was the last film Jaya did as a young actress.

The next phase

She returned to acting in the 1998 film Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa.

This was followed by films such as Fiza, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, and Kal Ho Naa Ho, in which she had a supporting role.

She later joined politics and got elected to the Rajya Sabha as a member of the Samajwadi Party.

Reminiscing about her and Amitabh’s long and fruitful acting careers, she said in an interview to Filmfare magazine 2012: “In the film industry, 60 per cent is luck and 40 per cent is availing the right opportunities. Today I hear the younger generation talking about casting and who’s good and who’s bad. I belong to a generation when casting the right person for the role was most important. . . . Today I realise that talent is the least important. It’s all about lobbying. I didn’t do it and haven’t seen my husband do it.”

Also on this day:

1954 — Jairam Ramesh, Congress leader and union minister, was born 


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