When BR Chopra was toying with the idea of making a romantic film in the early 60s he was suitably impressed by the real life tragic love story of Bollywood thespian Dilip Kumar. Dilip Kumar’s earliest romance was with Kamini Kaushal who debuted with Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar in 1946. Kamini’s dad was a college professor. That Kamini had reasonable acting talent was not in doubt. She accepted challenging roles proving her mettle in such movies as Nadiya Ke Paar and Shaheed. When rumours of her soft spot for the upcoming hero Dilip Kumar reached her family, alarm bells began to ring.
As providence would have it, Kamini’s elder sister died during child birth and her father decided that Kamini would marry her brother-in-law who was working as a senior officer in Mumbai Port Trust. After marriage, Kamini moved in with her husband to a palatial home in the BPT quarters near Sewri. She learnt how to drive a car. Her husband was broad minded enough to allow her to continue in the movies. Kamini’s path never crossed with Dilip Kumar’s thereafter. Reportedly, when Kamini and Saira Banu were shooting for Aadmi Aur Insaan in 1969, the vibes between them were cold.
Kamini graduated to character roles early in her career. She recalled having a great time shooting with the eccentric Raj Kumar in an eponymous movie based on Premchand’s all-time famous novel – Godaan. Bimal Roy wanted to cast as her the female lead in Biraj Bahu. The female protagonist was a fiery character and Roy felt that only Kamini would suit the role. When Kamini declined the offer (she was pregnant then), Roy decided to postpone the shooting to wait for her. That was the confidence that a seasoned director such as Bimal Roy had in an actress of her calibre. Kamini did not disappoint him and gave an outstanding performance as the woman who has a sharp tongue and a fiery temper.
Unfortunately, Bollywood never gave her her due as an actress. One does not recall whether she received any major awards. She began playing roles as a mother beginning from Shaheed Bhagat Singh in 1965. Only Manoj Kumar kept giving her roles of substance though Kamini did play a wide variety of roles in a number of movies between 1965 and 1990. She was game to accept the role of a beggar woman in a little known movie called Ek Mutthi Aasman (1974) that featured Pran, Vijay Arora and Radha Saluja. As the stern woman in Uphaar (1971) Kamini gave a sterling performance. She was able to complement Jaya Bhaduri’s stellar performance in the film. Uphaar is a must-watch even now. Thanks to You Tube, access to classic movies such as these is easier.
Kamini Kaushal has been seen in recent ads where she was seen driving a car. Kamini likes to narrate stories for children and is an expert at making toys for children. She was also associated with Doordarshan for a while. Interestingly, BR Chopra’s Gumrah (1963) loosely based on Kamini’s life was a thumping success at the box office. She is the only actress who is quite active even now despite an advancing age.
Her last appearance was in a five-second appearance in Shahrukh Khan’s Chennai Express. She also appeared in The Jewel in the Crown (1984), a popular British television serial, as Aunt Shalini. In 2015 she received the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award. Interestingly, Rajshri produced a movie called Nadiya Ke Paar (1984) in which the plot was somewhat similar to Gumrah.
(After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80’s, Bhagyalakshmi had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)