Happy Birthday Sharmila! Sorry You Had To Go After Dharmendra!

Well, it’s only fair, right?  Age before beauty and all that.  But now Dharmendra is done and it’s Sharmila’s turn to get a post all to herself!  Let’s see, how many reasons do I have to love her?  How about 13, for the age you were when you made your debut?

1.1. Yes, a debut at age 13!  In a Satyajit Ray picture no less, the second Apu movie.  You played Apu’s young wife.  Supposedly Ray was excited about the idea of casting Rabindrinath Tagore’s real life niece, but nervous about her age and and inexperience.  And then she was just luminous.

Image result for sharmila apu

2. I love you because you didn’t let a fancy Bengali art film debut hold you back, you made the jump to Hindi films a few years later, age 20, with a big blockbuster crowd pleasing Shammi Kapoor release.


3. And then you jumped right into Yash Chopra’s first real “Yash Chopra” film, the first of the movies he would keep making for years and years, including the terrible terrible film that later launched your son.


4. I love you because you started your career young and got married late!  Well, “late”.  25, which seems normal-to-young to me, but in 1969 India was probably on the haggish side of things.  Actually, you started your career “young” too!  Sridevi was 9 years ahead of you, so was Meena Kumari.

5. I love you because you married someone who sounds like a romance novel hero.  A one-eyed young king and beloved national sports hero?  He even looks like a romance novel hero!  The Mr. Rochester kind, with the strong features and deepset eyes and all that.  Oh, and he was nicknamed “Tiger”.

Image result for tiger pataudi

6. I love you because one of the commentators on some post said that rumor had it back in the cay, Tiger used to hit sixers into your lap in the stands during Cricket matches, which is just about the most dashing and romantic thing I have ever heard in my life.

7. I love you because post-marriage your career continued without a hiccup.  Even post-children, you kept your Bombay apartment and your thriving movie career.  It wasn’t until after your 3rd child, and your late 30s, that you stopped cranking out the fun sexy clever heroine roles.

8. Speaking of kids, I love you because you gave us Saif,

(I will never not use an excuse to post this video)

And Soha,

And I suppose, through marriage, you can also take some credit for Amrita,

And Kareena,


And Kunal Khemu,


9. I love you because even post “retirement”, you still kept working, you just slowed down a little.  Everything from Bengali art films to mainstream Hindi hits all the way from your 40s through today.

10.  I love you because you graciously straddle the social scenes of political Delhi and filmi Bombay, while still remaining tied to your home-by-marriage, the tiny area of Pataudi.

11. I love you because you are still stunningly beautiful and light up the screen even in small roles such as Aamir’s grandmother in Mann, or Saif’s mother in Eklavya (how you somehow aged down from a grandmother to a mother in 7 years, I do not know)

12. I love you because you solved the casting problem that has bothered me for years, suggesting Ranbir and Alia to play you and Tiger in a biopic.  Which is kind of perfect!

13.  And finally, I love you because this is the biggest thing you did in your career so far as Indian history is concerned, and you OWN it!  Most recently saying, “My claim to fame was that I wore a bikini, I thought I was young and looked very nice.”

Image result for sharmila bikini

6 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Sharmila! Sorry You Had To Go After Dharmendra!

  1. Sharmila is grand niece to Rabindranath Tagore, not niece.

    While Sharmila certainly carried on with her career post marriage and motherhood, she was not unique in that for her times. This is why I get so annoyed when people talk as if actresses retiring after marriage was always the norm, when actually it is a fairly recent aberration, and more the case in Hindi films than in all Indian films.


    • Someday if I feel up to it, I should really do a post on the changing expectations of actresses. From something close to courtesans, to respected middle-class housewives. Sometimes both in the same person, like Nargis! Because you’re right, the “you can’t work after marriage” thing isn’t as simple as it is usually said, it depends on the industry and the kind of work they were doing and the kind of husband they have and so on and so on.

      In this case, I love that it doesn’t sound like it even occurred to Sharmila as a conversation to have. She had 3 kids and a husband, and she was still cranking out 3-4 films a year. And she had the kind of husband where she could have easily made a whole career out of being his wife if she wanted to. It wasn’t even choosing between anonymity and fame, it was specifically choosing to continue acting.


      • You know there was a very famous Telugu actress — Anjali Devi — who died just a few weeks before ANR. I was reading a biography of her once, and I was very surprised to read that, by the time she entered films, she was already the mother of two children! She was also still under 20, that being the era of very early marriages, and she was actually a member of a stage acting troupe before films. Well, what’s funny about her is that she came into films as a “glamour” girl, even the “vamp”, and she was supposedly very upset about this sexy image she had onscreen, which wasn’t the way she wanted to be viewed by the public. Even during the early part of her career, she played a whole slew of the “pativrata” type of roles (I means she played the roles in very famous legends about these women), but, since she also played the glamorous roles at the same time, that’s the image that stuck. Till finally, she played Sita in a version of the Ramayana, the film became a huge hit, and she was from then on known as “Sita” to all and sundry, and finally lost her sexy image, to be replaced by one of piety and devotion. At least that was closer to her real life personality, from what I understand. But the point I wanted to make was that nobody had any problem thinking of a married woman, and a mother to boot, as sex icon. And her status was known — her husband was also in the industry, they started their own production company after a bit, etc.

        Similarly, many of Sharmila’s contemporaries were married women, with children, and those children were known to the public. Nargis, as you said, Nutan, and others from an even earlier era. Not only were they acting after marriage, they were considered the leading stars of their day. I’m going to go out on a limb and voice a hypothesis that I formulated some time ago, that this whole “married actresses can’t be heroines” thing really started after the underworld funding of Hindi films became the norm, and they brought in a lot of their cultural mores into films as well as money. Because I only really started to hear about this kind of thing after the 1980’s. And again, it was mainly in Hindi films.


        • Oh that is an interesting theory!

          I just started the new Rekha bio, and I was really interested in the first few chapters about her family background. How her mother was a well-known actress, and an unmarried mother. And how her father was able to get away with having serial families. And it was all sort of known and accepted! Very different then how it would be treated today. Of course, the media is also different and the relationship between actors and fans, and all of that. But still, interesting!


  2. I want a Tiger and Sharmila biopic too.There were some rumors that the British were behind his ‘accident’.I was recently going through some old magazines in my parents’ attic and I came across a story about Sharmila and Tiger coming together after a separation.There was a mention of Saif Ali Khan jumping all over the place while the interview was going on pretending to be Batman.His costume involved wearing his underwear over his pants and a bed-sheet for a cape.Wish they had taken his photo.


    • My only problem with a Tiger and Sharmila biopic is that there is no way they could cover everything in just 3 hours. Ideally, it would be a Marvel universe multifilm kind of thing. A Young tiger movie, and a separate Young Sharmila movie, and then a third movie when they come together.


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