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Lest We Forget

Friday, May 17, 2013
By Deepa Gahlot

While there is the usual red carpet watching at the Cannes Film Festival, and some drum-beating for the centenary of Indian Cinema, one great actress who deserves to be recognized has been ignored.

Kamini Kaushal starred in Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar (1946), the first Indian film to win a Grand Prix at the first Cannes Film Festival, and those entire celebrating Indian cinema, did not even think of inviting her to represent India at the international forum, when she deserves to be there, and not so many models and poseurs.  The actress, whose son has a house in Cannes was rather looking forward to going there and was puzzled by the silence.

Not just that, the actress who remembers gracing the first cover of Filmfare, has not yet been honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the magazine, or any other organization. She wonders if her contribution to cinema is not good enough, or does she lack the requisite PR management.

Kamini Kaushal, now a gracious granny of 85, with a voice as sweet as her memory is sharp, has done many great films like  Aag, Shaheed, Biraj Bahu, Godaan,  Upkaar,  but was not content just acting in films. She wrote for magazines, worked on stories for children, produced and directed TV shows and films for children, was, and is, an expert maker of dolls and puppets.

She is one of the few women of her generation, who started young, doing radio shows in Lahore, and stage plays in Delhi—her family was progressive enough not to thwart her talent, but also gave her as good an education as her brothers. When Chetan Anand cast her in Neecha Nagar, she was a bit hesitant, not being all that keen on a career in films, but she was persuaded by the charismatic filmmaker. She returned to her home in Lahore, but came to Mumbai after Partition and did her next film Jail Yatra only because the director was Gajanan Jahagirdar whose Ram Shastri was one of the few Hindi films she has seen and admired.

She has had a long and varied career, and even though she has no desire to face the camera again—mainly because her home in South Mumbai is too far from the shooting spots in the suburbs—she was persuaded by Shah Rukh Khan to do a cameo in his upcoming Chennai Express.

Never mind that she is not walking the red carpet at Cannes, she has done much more to leave her stamp on Indian cinema.

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