Sanjay Leela Bhansali has always been a huge fan of Padma Vibhushan winner Vyjayanthimala.
Says the epic director, “I can’t think of anyone in our cinema who deserves it more than she. There is nothing Vyjayanthimalaji couldn’t do on screen. She could be the rustic bombshell in Madhumati and Ganga Jamuna, then she could just as well be the sophisticated wife in Sangam.Her dance Main kaa karun Ram mujhe buddha mil gaya in Sangam…My God! It was not a dance, it was an earthquake. I believe she had personally done the dress and the choreography in the Sangam song. If true, then I have one question for Vyjayanthiji: is there anything she couldn’t do?”
Is it true that Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s look in Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam was modelled on Vyjayanthimala?
Responds Bhansali, “Why only Aishwarya? I think all my heroines are consciously or subconsciously modelled on Vyjayanthiji. She has a far more pervasive impact on our cinema and its heroines than we have acknowledged so far. She quit at her pinnacle in 1970, I think, leaving the film industry pining for more. But she was very clear as to what she wanted from her life and career.”
Bhansali’s favourite Vyjayanthimala films ? “I love them all including her lesser known works in Zindagi Rangoli , New Delhi and Dr Vidya. But Sangam is my favourite where she was the epitome of glamour and grace,followed by Ganga Jamuna where she was in complete contrast to Sangam. She spoke to Awadhi dialect without a trace of a Tamilian accent.I also loved her in Naya Daur and Sadhana, again contrasting characters which show her extreme versatility. I think she is exceptionally rare mix of inborn talent , beauty and hard work.The Padma Vibhushan is proof of it.”