Happy Birthday Jaya!!!! I’m not doing a full 69 reasons I love you, because I am lazy, but I can’t just leave it at a dozen. So let’s say 15, for the age you were at your first big film role.
1.1. I love you because you came from a class-y but not upperclass family. Daughter of a writer and stage performer, Bengali intellectual types, sent to good schools straight through to FTII.
2. I love you because your first movie wasn’t the big one that made you a star, it was a part in Satyajit Ray’s Mahanagar as the heroine’s teenage daughter (you were 15). How many actresses can say they went from Satyajit Ray as a teenager, to mainstream massive success as an adult? Only you and Sharmila Tagore.
3. I love you because you could have turned acting into a career from then, but instead you chose to leave the Bengali industry and come to study at FTII so that your skills were trained by the time you were launched.
4. I love you because your very first performance was brilliant. 23 years old, playing a teenager, and the leading title role in Guddi. For one of the most demanding directors in the industry, Hrishikesh Mukherjee. You played a film mad girl in love with Dharmendra (as himself), who slowly comes to fall for the nice boy next door instead.
5. I love you because while you were playing the good little girl on screen, off screen you were dating the rising young actor Amitabh Bachchan, not waiting for an arranged marriage.
6. I love you because you made difficult parts look easy, playing the central innocent heroine in film after film, managing to make flirtatious and innocent and intelligent seem natural and fit with your youthful image. Like in my favorite song, from Anamika.
7. I love you because you stuck by your boyfriend through all his flops, believing in his talent and that he would be recognized. Even to the point of signing films opposite him, just so you could be together.
8. I love you because your marriage was as classy as the rest of your life, not a big “filmi” event, but a quiet ceremony in your parents’ apartment.
9. I love you because you didn’t let marriage slow you down. After the honeymoon in London, you went straight to location shooting for Sholay.
10. I love you because after your children Shweta and Abhishek were born, you chose to neither keep working nor fully retire, doing the work you wanted to do and but also spending the time with your children that you really wanted to have.
11. I love you because when you did work, you were just as effortlessly brilliant as a long-married matron who hadn’t worked regularly in years, as you had been as a fresh-faced new acting school graduate. And even more beautiful.
12. I love you because, in your semi-retirement, you also found the time to write a script for your husband. A somewhat ridiculous script, but one that turned into a massive hit.
13. I love you because when you really truly returned from retirement, you were gracefully willing to take mother roles. But you insisted on them being true characters and challenges, not just the saintly parent type. Fiza, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, even Koi Mere Dil Se Pooche didn’t have you playing “just” a mother.
(I won’t spoil the plot for you, but there is a lot going on in this song!)
14. I love you because in Kal Ho Na Ho you justifiably won an Award as best supporting actress. Preity and Shahrukh and Saif may have carried most of the plot, but you were the heart and soul of the film.
15. And finally, I love you because you effortlessly run the most famous household in India, never competing with your husband or son or daughter-in-law for fame and status. But also never stepping back and giving up the place you have rightfully earned.