Jaya Bachchan – tinsel town’s eternal Guddi
Look at old photographs of a young Jaya Bachchan ( nee Bhaduri) and you will be struck by her ethereal beauty. Large eyes tinted with kohl, set in a heart shaped face framed by tendrils of jet black hair that falls in a waterfall down her back – it is easy to see why the Shahenshah of Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan, would have chosen her to be his wife ( they were married on June 3rd, 1973).
Jaya was born on 9th April, 1948 to a Jabalpur based Bengali couple – Tarun and Indira Bhaduri. Her father was a writer, stage artist and journalist who was based over there. She went to school in Bhopal – attending the St. Joseph’s Convent school and later attended the Film and Television Institute in Pune, where she completed her graduation as a gold medallist.
Her film career started very early in life with short roles in Bengali films like ‘Suman’ and ‘Dhanni Meye’ – where she played famous Bengali actor Uttam Kumar’s sister in law. She starred in Satyajit Ray’s Bengali film ‘Mahanagar’ when she was only 15 years old which inspired her to join FTI in Pune. In 1971 she was picked to play the role of a schoolgirl obsessed with the famous actor Dharmendra. This role was a huge success – her petite frame, fresh faced innocence and eager personality ensured that the movie was a hit and she became a star overnight. However, this role also categorised her as the girl-next-door and she tried hard to break out of this image, albeit unsuccessfully, in other movies. She was able to portray the humble yet noble sensibilities of the middle class very well in films by Gulzar, Hrishikesh Mukherjee etc. such as Uphaar, Parichay, Koshish etc. She did try and essay glamourous roles as well in films such as Jawani Diwani, and tried to play the evil vamp in films such as Anamika – where she acted out the negative role of the heroine pretending to have amnesia.
Considering that her husband Amitabh Bachchan is such a towering presence in the film industry today and they are unanimously called Bollywood’s First Family despite strong competition in the form of Shahrukh Khan etc. it is perhaps ironical to note that when Jaya Bhaduri entered the film industry and rose to great heights, Amitabh was a non-entity who was delivering flops one after another.
Because of his unimpressive performance where the TRPs were concerned, many heroines refused to work with Amitabh. Jaya acted with him in two films – Bansi Birju and Ek Nazar, following the success of her performance in Guddi. When other leading ladies rejected a role opposite him for the now famous film Zanjeer, Jaya stepped in. The film was a hit and their coupledom was assured. Other films together such as Chupke Chupke, Abhimaan and Sholay happened soon after.
After Sholay, during which she was carrying her daughter Shweta, Jaya largely retired from cinema, preferring to nurture her family. She did however, act in Silsila, in 1981, her last role as a leading lady, and perhaps most famous for the controversy that surrounded it. The film starred Jaya and her husband Amitabh, along with southern siren Rekha, and it was rumoured that the love triangle between them that was portrayed on screen was a reflection of the actual affair Amitabh was having with Rekha at that time. The Bachchans maintained a strict silence over this, with Amitabh denying all allegations and till date, the family and Rekha continue to avoid and snub each other. The controversy gained popularity all the more because it was denied vehemently. Recently, at a book launch, Rekha went up to Jaya and hugged her unexpectedly, an action that was rendered void as Jaya turned away from her and resumed her conversation, giving off extremely cold vibes. At this function, she also pointedly ignored Rekha and didn’t mention her while naming the leading ladies of Indian cinemas while on stage, even though Rekha was in the audience!
Jaya returned to films after a gap of almost 18 years with the film Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, about the Naxal movement after which she starred in Fiza, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham with Amitabh, Kal Ho Na Ho and Laaga Chunari Mein Daag.
She is an active member of the Samajwadi Party and has courted controversy by announcing her family is from UP and she will only speak in Hindi, not Marathi, which Maharastrians should forgive, during the music launch of the film Drona. Angered by this, Raj Thackeray threatened to ban all Bachchan movies unless she apologised in public and some protesters ran riot till Amitabh Bachchan issued a public apology on her behalf.
She has won many awards for her acting, lifetime achievement awards and also recognised with a Padma Shri, in 1992. Her family is complete with both her children Abhishek and Sweta having families of their own and she dotes on her grandchildren Navya Naveli and Agastya – her daughter Shweta's children and Aaradhya, daughter of her son Abhishek and his wife, former beauty queen and Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai.
She refuses to deck up even on public outings and prefers to maintain a low profile, preserving her innocent charm even today – and thus she remains an embodiment of her famous character, Guddi.