When Mere Sanam became an unexpected box-office success in 1965, most people were talking about a “new girl” who was swaying seductively to Ye Hai Reshmi Zulfon Ka Andhera. This girl wasn’t exactly new though. She had played some minor roles in A-grade films but it was this vintage item number that got her noticed. This girl was Mumtaz, who later went on to become one of the most successful and sought-after actresses of the 1960s and 70s.
Once super popular, this versatile actress has today become next to unknown. On Mumtaz’s birthday today, we at BC will do our bit to try and make her mainstream again by pointing out why the generation of today (and all generations to come) should know about this lady.
She was Bollywood’s Original Trendsetter
Onscreen fashion for actresses back in the 60s was pretty standard – colourful saris, big joodas, glittery jewellery and tons of make-up. With Mumtaz, trends started to change (for the better!).
Does this sari style look familiar?
Thanks to Mumtaz, this became a rage that still hasn’t died down.
She let her hair down, quite literally
And started going light on make-up. In fact, she was among the first Bollywood actresses to focus all her attention on eye make-up and kept everything else minimal
She was A Feminist Before it was Cool
Yes, Mumtaz was (is) a feminist, and a true feminist at that. She didn’t march with slogans or make controversial statements but it was always clear that in her life, she called the shots.
She decided to give up on the love of her life (Shammi Kapoor) because she did not want to stop working (that’s how much she loved being independent)
And she acted in what can easily be called one of Bollywood’s earliest female-centric films. We’re talking about Aaina, which was later remade as Laga Chunari Mein Daag with Rani Mukerji in the lead role.
She Experimented and Loved Challenges
Essential “leading lady” roles in the 60s and 70s Bollywood were pretty standard. Mumtaz was one of the first actresses to challenge that and opt for roles that portrayed her as more than just a standard PYT.
Most mainstream actresses wouldn’t touch a grey character with a 10-foot pole, but Mumtaz was no ordinary actress. She played semi-negative characters with absolute grace and panache, like she did in Mere Sanam
Loafer (opposite Dharmendra)
Khilona, arguably Mumtaz’s best film, saw her play a multi-dimensional character that was extremely complex. She took home a very well-deserved Filmfare Best Actress Award that year. If you ever (ever!) doubt the genius of Mumtaz, just watch Khilona.
She was Unapologetic About Her Choices
Whenever Mumtaz spoke to the media, one thing that shone through was her confidence and absolute belief in whatever she was doing. Whether it was her decision to don a bikini when her contemporaries where sari-clad
Or her decision to play a bidi-smoking, loud-mouth, tomboy
Mumtaz stood by her choices.
She was open about her relationships, well relationship, and never shied away from being candid about her co-stars.
It is no secret that almost all leading men of those days wanted to marry Mumtaz (we’re talking big stars like Dharmendra and Jeetendra) but the lady decided to marry outside of the film fraternity. Were there problems in her marriage? Lots! Did she ever step back or express regret? Not for a second!
Kudos to Mumtaz for being a true heroine, not just an actress.