now it’s you

every happiness

you have to die

Life is your…

The lines of Majrooh Sultanpuri poetically depict the enduring bond between the first couple of B-town… Jaya and Amitabh Bachchan. Young Jaya Bhaduri first laid eyes on Amitabh at FTII, where he met with Saat Hindustani (1969) director Khwaja Ahmed Abbas. While most disapproved of her slender appearance, the son of poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan left a lasting impression on Jaya. After some time, Amitabh was signed with Jaya in his first film Guddi (1971), which is the story of a fangar. But on second thought director Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who was also directing Amitabh in Anand (1971), wanted an unseen face in front of his school heroine. Hence Samit Bhanja was included.

Fate, to bring them together, scripted their pairing in 1972 in Prakash Verma’s Bansi Birju and BR Ishara’s Ek Nazar. Bansi Birju was a bland story, while the lyrical one is remembered for a look… especially Patta Patta Buta Buta. Majrooh was built on the couplets of Mir Taqi Mir to create a contemporary favorite ballad. A dramatic change took place in 1973. Zanjeer eventually validates Amitabh, its success enabling Jaya and him to walk the path of the garden. Since then, the two have featured in several films, each time their onscreen spontaneity is unmistakable.

Re-watching their romantic encounter on reel:

Zanjeer (1973)

The story goes that Jaya Bhaduri, who was riding on the crest at the time, accepted the small part in Zanjeer, so that Amitabh Bachchan could await that elusive hit. Prakash Mehra’s action breaks the old mold of Hindi hero and introduces ‘Angry Young Man’. Salim-Javed’s Zanjeer Mein is a tale of anger against the doomsday of a tormented childhood, but has subtle romance at its core. Sepoy Vijay (Amitabh), at first, gets annoyed by Maya’s (Jaya) collusion with the murderous goons. But as soon as she lets down her guard and shows her vulnerability, she melts. Both alone, find solace in each other.

Maya discourages Vijay from choosing violence to counter violence. Later realizing that her dream palace cannot rest on the demons of her past, she urges him to move on and shut up. The film is dotted with tender moments between them. Like when she improves on her jejun personality and acquires an attractive stance that suits her. She says ‘bye’ to Vijay while showing off her newly acquired polish. When she visits him in prison, where he is unjustly imprisoned. When she urges him to avenge his oppression… Zanjeer released in May ’73. Jaya and Amitabh tied the knot in June ’73 at the behest of father/poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan, before they left for London – their first overseas trip.

Pride (1973)

Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s tale of love and estrangement remains an important musical. Originally titled Raagni Ragini, it was said that Abhimaan was based on the real-life story of Pandit Ravi Shankar and his first wife, Annapurna Devi, who was considered a better sitar player. However, film historian Raju Bharatan states that Rishida is based on the proud singer Kishore Kumar and his first wife, the talented Ruma Ghosh. Nonetheless, the film revolves around the male ego and how it can affect the professional and emotional well-being of a more talented partner.

Pop singer Subir (Amitabh) is attracted to the worldly charm and musical talent of Uma (Jaya). After the wedding, Subir, an idealist, vows that they will always sing together… until Uma’s abilities begin to dampen her popularity. Pride takes you through a series of emotions – the first blush of romance, the first flurry of marriage, pride and prejudice and a tearful sect later. The lyrics of Majrooh Sultanpuri and the melody of SD Burman are the catalysts of the story. The growing intimacy between a married couple (Teri Bindiya Re), the initial fickleness (Lute Koi Mann Ka Nagar), devotion and devotion (Ab To Hai Tumse Har Khushi Apni), the echoes of vindictiveness (Piya Bina) and the ‘watershed’ (Tere Mere) Milan Ki Yeh Raina)…Abhimaan soundtrack can make an entire generation nostalgic.

Expressing sorrow with eyes full, a drop of mouth, filled with silence… Jaya was all about skillful underplay. Kanjeevaram (most of them were reportedly gifted to her by Amitabha), mangalsutra and vermilion…the poly-married look for the coming-of-age Jaya. Released on July 27, 1973, shortly after their wedding, the postcard couple’s popularity reached its peak after the pride. Interestingly, the climax scene was shot after their marriage. As Subir rescues Uma protectively through the cheering crowd…

Millie (1975)

Released on June 20, 1975, Miley, was a Hrishikesh Mukherjee family entertainer with a tragic twist. Neighbors Mili (Jaya) and Shekhar (Amitabh) are face to face. He cannot stand her frenzy and she cannot fathom his frost. But when his father (Ashok Kumar) and he rush to help a drunk and injured Shekhar, things start to melt away between them. In his exhortation, “Sit down quietly! Aap koi lad saab hai who will make noise whenever he wants…” worries a misguided Shekhar. He says with his faithful help, “Gopi, bahut din baat baad dant khaye re… fun aaya!” He dropped his head near the lap, which made his eyes moist.

Since then, the equation is built on trust and solidarity. A reticent Shekhar is able to overcome the trauma of his childhood and the controversial deaths of his parents. There are notable scenes, which trace their romance to Shekhar’s gazing at the stars through binoculars. There is love in his stars too. Their romance continues through flowers and notes Shekhar sends when Mili is unwell. The high point is the scene when Shekhar tells an ailing Milli that he is getting married to someone. His eyes are healed, first from sadness and then with joy for him, knowing that she will not be with him for long. When she learns that this is the one she wants to marry, she cried, “I want to live too!” The heartbreaking revelation of a woman who doesn’t want to be given up on the threshold of her dreams.

every moment my mind tells me

You keep getting lost in the tune

Fill her suppression with flowers…

Noticing the lines, Shekhar takes her to Switzerland hoping for sophisticated medical treatment and remains in love for those moments in the twilight of Miley’s life. Lyricist Yogesh and music composer SD Burman created the mood templates for the film. Maine Kaha Phoolan Se is about the vibrancy of Mili, Badi Sooni Soon Hai The gloomy background score of Shekhar’s life feels as Aaye Tum Yaad Mein pre-empts the dark horizon.

Sholay (1975)

Ramesh Sippy’s Marathon Sholay has iconic dialogues to connect it with each character. But Jaya as Radha is remembered for her silence. The extremes of his character have been captured between two Holi in the film. On the one hand, she is vividly colored as an unmarried girl. And second as she stands on the steps of the temple as a widow, watching the village drenched in celebration, her life turns white.

The Jaya-Amitabh track is the shortest yet subliminal track in Ramesh Sippy’s 75 mm canvas. The unspoken love between the law-breaker Jay (Amitabh) and the unlucky Radha (Jaya) betrays eloquence. He paints her bare life – Jai rides a buffalo and brings a hesitant smile to Radha’s sad face. When she lights the lamp in the night, she plays the mouth organ and fills it with love. Breaking protocol to crack down on his death… The Jaya-Amitabh subplot in Sholay deserves a narrative in itself. Sholay is also special because during its shooting, Jaya was carrying her firstborn Shweta in her lap.

Silsila (1981)

The alleged real-life extramarital story was a casting coup. For director Yash Chopra, it promised unprecedented steps. For Amitabh, it probably meant a career recharge. For Rekha, a platform to poetize the ‘second lady’. And for Jaya, a confirmation that commitment beats passion, that marriage is a bond, not a bond.

Though her marriage to poet Amit (Amitabh) in the film is an emotional pact, Sudha (Jaya) falls in love with him. His bisexual onscreen relationship is in stark contrast to his red-hot chemistry with muse Chandni (Rekha). While Jaya, known for her simple saris and casual look, was at her glamorous best (it was a Yash Chopra film) in select saris and blow-dry tresses, Therav was unmistakable in her take.

While Amit justifies moving away from her with these lines, “every relationship loses its potency with time,” he only has faith. Believe in his promise. When Amit says during the climax, “Sudha I have come… you are my wife… this is true, everything else is a lie!” It resonates a homecoming. It is said that the reluctant Jaya signed on the dotted line only because the resolution of the film hit home… literally.

Sometimes Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001)

For the role, Jaya had to wear a Manish Malhotra saree, designer jewelery and even hazel lenses. But she will be remembered more for playing the obedient Nandini Raichand, who eventually stands up for her son with her monopoly husband.

The Jaya-Amitabh reel equation unfolded with a spontaneity that comes with coming together of years. That extravagance becomes apparent when she betrays him for his uncontrollable flirting. When she pulls a stool and stands on it to tie her tie. When at last he has the last words, “Jo kehdiya so kahdiya!” It is not surprising that she won the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Foot Note:

R. Life comes full circle for the life partner in Balki Ki Ki & Ka (2016), where Jaya and Amitabh play themselves. The debate on gender equality and career choices between the superstar and his wife sheds light on their domestic equation with mutual respect, individuality and identity.

Read also: Abhishek Bachchan reveals Jaya Bachchan’s ‘honest’ reaction after watching Daswick

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