MUMTAZ – Hindi Film’s Greatest Actress of all Times
Debut: Stree (1961)
Why we love: Because when it comes to spunk, Mumtaz is up there. Because she is cocky and shy, world weary and naive all at once. Because her saucy appeal, her alluring pout, her pert nose, her mischievous eyes and voluptuous figure are inimitable. Because she proved that hard work and discipline can take you places on showbiz terra firma. Because she succeeded by the dint of her perseverance despite the odds. It isn’t easy to start out as an extra and graduate to playing the heroine. The fact that no one else has been able to do it makes her achievement even more praiseworthy. Movies like Tere Mere Sapne, Aap ki kasam and Khilona slalomed her to the front of the class. Once there, she never looked back.
• Women We Love, Filmfare, April 14, 2010
Mumtaz - She overshadowed Saira with impishness...
Since Saira had to look Saira, we had to work on Mumtaz’s looks to make her character interesting. She was playing a negative role in the film (Aadmi Aur Insaan). We gave her contact lenses and a different hair cut, which made her look very glamorous and attractive. Naturally, she stood out in the film inspite of Saira’s presence. Everybody accused me of being partial to Mumtaz and giving her “special” attention. But whatever happened was incidental.
Mmmm... Mumtaz. The name brings the smile back on your face. Puckish and peppy, hers was a tatters-to-riches story. From a bit player hanging on to Dara Singh’s biceps she went on to become the numero uno star with as many as half-a-dozen films running simultaneously, showing her off as an uninhibited, live-wire performer.
Those vamping days (as in Aadmi Aur Insaan and Mere Sanam) were over. Now, she was the spunky heroine who teamed up with top drawer actors of the time including Dilip Kumar (Ram Aur Shyam), Dev Anand (Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Tere Mere Sapne), Dharmendra (Loafer) and Rajesh Khanna (Sacha Jhutha, Apna Desh to name a few). But one of her most impressive performance was opposite Sanjiv Kumar in Khilona.
Mumu could dance, prance and let the tear-ducts flow, plus do the dramabaazi with felicity. An all-rounder, she quit the great times for marriage and kids. To this day, the void she left behind hasn’t been filled.
50 Great Heroines of Hindi Cinema
“I frankly can’t bear to see any of my films.”
Mumtaz had incredible sex appeal. Pug-nosed and mischievous, she won the heart of an entire generation of movie-goers with her insouciance and rare charm.
It was a classic rags-to-riches tale. She started as just another extra, hanging around the periphery of the industry and hoping to make it. She caught Dara Singh’s eye and graduated to heroine’s roles in B‑grade movies, from where she clawed her way up to the very top.
The heroes and directors loved her. She was the perfect foil for everyone from Rajesh Khanna to Jeetendra. The press adored her, for she was a one-woman scandal-bag.
Then suddenly, she decided to throw it all up–fame, glamour, the works–and married an expatriate millionaire living in East Africa. Sad. But such is life, alas.
Dev Anand on Mumtaz
She’s is good actress who rose from the ranks. She was Dara Singh’s leading lady. But she had a great dream to work with Dev Anand. When I was readying the script of Hare Rama Hare Krishna, she was working with me in Tere Mere Sapne. She said she wouldn’t let me make Hare Rama... if I didn’t cast her in it. I told her, “The romantic role is not important, the sister’s is. But you don’t fit the sister’s role.” So she said, “I’ll do the romantic one.” She’s very friendly and humane. Abhi thodi moti ho gayi hai, kabhi kabhi milti hai (She’s put on a bit of weight, I meet her sometimes).
• Filmfare, September 29, 2010
Dara Singh on Mumtaz
During that time there were only three to four heroines who were known and regarded for their work. I was supposed to start work on my second film Faulad, when the director came to me and said, “I have approached all the top heroines but nobody wants to work. I’ve even approached the second-rung actresses but even they are not available. Do you mind if I take on a new girl?” I was, like, “It’s your film, your money is involved... I’m only concerned about my work, you take whoever you want.” One day when we were shooting for some portions on the sets, Mumtaz along with her elder sister Malika happened to be there. The director came running to me after seeing her and asked if we should take this girl. I was, like, “It’s your wish.” She was around 14-15 then and the movie became a hit and after that we were paired in lot of films together. Nishi and Mumtaz were the only two actresses I worked a lot with. The others were, like, ‘Pehelwan ke saath kaun kaam karega?’
• Cine Blitz, July 2010.
Mumtaz did not lose her gift of straight-speak even after becoming Mrs. Madhvani. In an interview dated March 1982, she says, “The only man I really cared for and was thoroughly infatuated with, was Shammi Kapoor. We had even decided to marry. But he wanted me to give up films and become a housewife. I was 18 years old then, I couldn’t do that. I wanted my career and we parted mutually. He used to genuinely care for me too but I don’t think I could have agreed to his condition of giving up films at that time.”
• Cine Blitz, April 2010
Only Mumtaz could sparkle in those painted-on-her kurtis. No other heroine has dared. Mumu baby may not be conventionally beautiful but she had that element X in her chromosomes that had the nation’s pulse racing every time she came on screen. She was the bindass or shall be say badass bombshell in the era of drama queens. She has featured perhaps in most rain-soaked scenes and makes us fall in love with the monsoon every time we catch a glimpse of her on TV.
Watch her in Do Raaste, Aap ki Kasam, Tere Mere Sapne.
“Tremendous magnetism. When she walked into a room, you had to get up. Mumtaz was also very talented and disciplined.” Shashi Kapoor, November 1983.
• Filmfare November 11, 2009
Jeetendra on Mumtaz
Mumtaz would arrive in a car, whereas I would travel in a bus during Sehra. Later, she went on to do Dara Singh films. When Rajshree got married, Shantaramji took Mumtaz in Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti. Her role got extended from that of a cabaret dancer to a heroine.
• Filmfare, September 30, 2009
Mumtaz was uninhibited co-star. ‘I don’t want to play your sister,’ she said, ‘for I don’t feel like one when you are with me.’ We both laughed.
I was doing a film with Mumtaz for my brother Goldie, called Tere Mere Sapne; together we made a good looking pair. She was friendly, very amiable, an easy-going, uninhibited co-star. We responded to each other exceptionally well on the sets. As soon as she heard of my project to be shot in Nepal, she showed her keenness to participate in it. I gave her a brief narration of the story. ‘It’s a hell of a role for any girl who does it,’ she said, ‘but I don’t think I want to play your sister.’ She was quite emphatic ‘Why not?’ I asked her. ‘For I don’t feel like one, when you are with me,’ she explained. We both laughed. ‘Would you agree to do the smaller and less significant part?’ I asked. ‘Only if it is the romantic one,’ she replied. ‘In that case, let me have the privilege of asking you, “Will you be the romantic leading lady opposite me, Mumsy, in my film Hare Rama Hare Krishna?”‘ I said in great style. She was equally stylish as she answered, ‘Privilege granted!’ We shook hands.
• Dev Anand in India Today, October 1, 2007
Mumtaz was my absolute favourite. We used to listen to the radio at night and this is when all my dancing abilities were best showcased. One had to just tell me that the song on radio was from a Mumtaz film and I would move 20 frames per second, like the way people move in the old Charlie Chaplin films.
I loved the way she moved her hips. I think nobody in this world can be as beautiful a sight as she used to be. She was sensual, innocent, naughty and very energetic, all at the same time. She was the first personality I mimicked. I loved to walk like her and dance like her.
Usually actors have very important personalities and performers as their idols. Mine was Mumtaz. Not to say that she was unimportant or not special. What I mean is that for a guy she was an unconventional role model. To me she was the single most important cause of my tilt towards anything that had vaguely to do with the performing arts.
• Shah Rukh Khan
Fame has favoured many in Hindi Film (HiFi) history, yet very few have wielded that supreme power. Cine Blitz has included Mumtaz in their list of the 31 most compelling personalities whose very names are synonymous with lasting glory.
Oomph personified, Mumtaz’s little upturned nose and saucy pout sent the men into a tizzy. But there was more to her than an electric screen presence. If she sizzled in Aap Ki Kasam and Do Raaste she proved her acting credentials in Khilona. The original patakha (bomb), she rose from B-grade roles to playing vamp to finally becoming the darling of the nation, whose navel-baring, tightly draped saris and uninhibited dancing style were all the rage for years!
• Cine Blitz, March 2005
Mumtaz is a complete professional where her work is concerned. There, she won’t concede any ground to me. Off the sets she’s outspoken, frank and loyal. We’ve made many jubilees together. She’s been my luckiest co-star.
• Reminiscences of Rajesh Khanna from February 1975, Cine Blitz, March 2007
Snub nose and no poetry-inspiring eyes either, yet Mumtaz rocked the nation with her oomph and yes, her pout appeal! She wasn’t slender and delicate looking, yet the way she moved left many a hearts panting for more!
• Femina, March 2007
Bees Saal Baad (After Twenty Years)
The original patakha, Mumtaz had all the trappings of a rags-to-riches superstar in the making. From B-grade roles to being Dara Singh’s heroine in Samson and Rustam-e-Hind to vamp roles in Mere Sanam and Kajal to finally becoming queen-bee of the movies with films like Do Raaste, Sachcha Jhootha, Aap ki Kasam, Mumtaz was the undisputed numero-uno.
And at the age of 26, she chucked it all up to become Mrs. Mayur Madhvani. Her sensitive performance in Khilona snagged her the Filmfare Best Actress trophy. Her songs like Yeh hai reshmi zulfon ka andhera, Bindiya chamkegi, Jai-jai shiv shankar, are the stuff chartbusters are made up of.
Years later, she made a disastrous comeback with David Dhawan’s Aandhiyan. After a near fatal brush with cancer, Mumtaz attempted to reconcile her strained relations with her husband. She has two daughters, Natasha and Tanya, who look after their father’s burgeoning business empire. Mumtaz now divides time between her homes in London and Mumbai.
• Jitesh Pillai, Times News Network
Before HRHK, Dev Anand had directed his Indo-Pakistan war film Prem Pujari which had flopped. Surely he needed to play it safe at the box-office with his next celluloid adventure. Hence, Mumtaz as the Nepali beauty who steals the man with a mission away from his vision just long enough for tantalizing song breaks. And to think that Dev Anand had earlier rejected Mumtaz as his leading lady because of her pug nose!
Mumtaz was the maharani of operatic oomph. Loud, in-your-face earthy and seductive, her big-built charisma saw many films cross the finish line. From the time she was a starlet, Mumtaz had a certain quality that generated hit films. While other sex symbols down the years were reserved, aloof and unattainable, Mumtaz was the voluptuous girl next door getting into beach-wear with Feroz Khan for torrid clinches in Apradh or joining Rajesh Khanna for a romp in the rain in Do Raaste.
If the stars could project any sexuality, it had to be with the kind of flair that only delightful Mumtaz could manage. She was the classic example of an actress who had reached the top, out of sheer pluck and talent. In a given week, six new films featuring Mumtaz were released, an all time record. When she was not the main point of interest in a film, she was the proverbial scene-stealer. When she appeared in the woman-oriented Khilona (1970), she was rated as a supreme actress and received many prestigious awards.
• Filmfare, March 2002
Mumtaz had arrived and with a bang and man, what a bang! With films like Do Raaste (1969), Sachcha Jhootha (1970), Khilona (1970) and Aap Ki Kasam (1974) she established herself. Mumu conveyed a certain bon-homie to the audience; her sunny persona and impish charm did the trick. Whether it was here skin-tight salwar-kameezes or her dancing style, Mumu set many trends. The original jhatka queen, till now actresses are told to dance like Mumtaz! Need we say more…?
Mumtaz provided the oomph. She stood for sauciness and her skin-tight salwars in Roti, Sachcha Jhootha, etc.
Khilona also begins the second, more respectable phase of Mumtaz. Having risen from C grade films, Mumtaz had slowly climbed up. An in-love Yash Chopra had given her more footage in Hamraaz than to the heroine Saira Bano and Mumtaz’s fortunes had started changing for good.
• 3 to 6
The tight and short blouses which proudly flaunted a high bosom and navel and tightly-wrapped saris she wore were imitated in all the Indian cities during the late sixties and seventies. She was among the few lucky ones to escape the industry and marry a London-based tycoon, Mayur Madhvani. However, after 16 years of marriage, now on the rocks, Mumtaz tried making a comeback with Aandhiyan (1990). The hero was a grateful Shatrughan Sinha who she had helped during his struggling days. Unfortunately, neither make-up nor the camera filters could hide her haggard looks. This film was disappointing. Mumtaz went back, away from limelight again.
When V. Shantaram was shooting for Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti, he was once kept waiting for two hours by his own daughter Rajshree who was juggling with several shoots at the time. Not used to such undisciplined behaviour, an angry Shantaram asked his assistant to check out what other shootings were going on at Raj Kamal Kalamandir that day. The man returned with the news that Dara Singh was shooting on the next set.
“Who’s his heroine?” Shantaram enquired. He was told that it was a little-known girl called Mumtaz. “Bring her to me,” he ordered. The assistant rushed to Mumu with the message that Baba wanted to see her. Mumu dropped everything she was doing and followed him back to the set of Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti to be told to her astonished delight by the great man that he wanted her to step into his errant star daughter’s shoes, immediately.
“But you have to promise me that till my film is ready you will not sign a single new film and not complete any of your pending projects,” he told her. “Yeh vaada raha,” his new heroine retorted, unable to believe her luck. And the girl who till then had only graduated from a chorus dancer to Mehmood’s and Dara Singh’s consort, was fitted into Rajshree’s clothes and brought to the sets to rehearse. Half-an-hour later Shantaram came down to can the shot.
When Rajshree finally turned up she was told that she was no longer wanted. Mumtaz was the new gem in the Shantaram camp. And while all this drama was going on, bechara Dara Singh was patiently waiting for his heroine to return. She never did!
Santhali saris were in vogue in late 60s. The sari is draped in such a way that the pleats are avoided and it hugs your figure like second skin. Mumtaz made a scintillating entry to the big-time with her navel-popping glittering orange sari with a very small sleeveless blouse in Brahmchari (1968). Mumu and Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche thus became immortal!
Mumtaz did the trick once again! One more orange sari, complete with dazzling, gold ornaments and a big bindi! This time she stole everybody’s hearts in the Bindiya chamkegi song in Do Raaste (1969).
• 3 to 6
Once Amitabh Bachchan entered Zanjeer, Mumtaz began to have second thoughts about the film. He was not a saleable star like Dharmendra. She waited till the release of Bandhe Haath in which she was paired with him, and when that bombed, she decided it would be foolish to risk another film with Bachchan. As it is, her days in the industry were numbered. Mayur had popped the question and she had accepted. Soon she would be the wife of a non-resident Indian industrialist? Why leave the industry with a debacle? It was wiser to walk out of Zanjeer.
When Dev Anand started working on Hare Rama Hare Krishna he toyed with the idea of casting Mumtaz as his sister, Jasbir or Janice, in the film. Mumtaz was appalled when he approached her with the role. “How can I play your sister?” she argued. “After Tere Mere Sapne, will anyone accept us as brother and sister?” Dev realised that she had a point and cast her as his Nepali sweetheart in the film.
Mumtaz started her film career as an extra and went on to become one of the top actresses of the 70s. She is a living example of patience and endurance, as she had to wait for long before she played the lead heroines role. She was Dara Singh’s heroine in a dozen films such as Rustam-e-hind and Sikandar-e-Azam, where her role was reduced to glamorous nothing. However, that didn’t deter the lovely Mumtaz, and she got her first major break with Ram aur Shyam.
And then as they say, the sky was the limit. She made her way into everybody’s heart, and her pairing with the then superstar Rajesh Khanna gave many blockbusters including Do Raaste, Sachcha Jhootha, Aap ki Kasam and more. She won the precious Best Actress award for her performance in Khilona.
Her cute looks coupled with oodles of sensuality made her the oomph girl of the 70s. She left the film industry in her 20s, and married the London-based tycoon, Mayur Madhvani. She made a rather unsuccessful comeback with Aandhiyan in the 90s.
Recently, she made a brief appearance in the Filmfare awards nights, when she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from her co-star of many films, Rajesh Khanna.
• India Times
Languishing for years, Mumtaz ignited like a firecracker when she met her match in Rajesh Khanna. Do Raaste, Sachcha Jhootha, Apna Desh and Dushman made them the box office duet to die for.
The toast of the early 70s, Mumtaz with her supple youth, luscious sensuality and work(wo)manly shoulders-to-the-wheel attitude was just what the distributors ordered. Her subsequent attempts at respectability — Aap ki Kasam and Prem Kahani — didn’t quite come off and once again Bollywood under-utilised an actress whose forte wasn’t melodrama but whose joie de vivre gave her a direct hotline to the audiences heart-line.
• Cine Blitz
Mumtaz began with non-featured roles (Anpadh), worked her way up to side-roles (Sehra). Then graduated to being the heroine of umpteen B-grade Dara Singh and Feroz Khan starrers and second lead in bigger films (Sawan ki Ghata, Hamraaz). Now finally, Mumtaz makes her first breakthrough and is offered heroine roles — albeit still with new comers like Rajesh Khanna, Jeetendra and Sanjay Khan.
Nobody can say she hasn’t worked for it. In both 1966 and 1967, Mumtaz is easily the heroine with maximum releases (never mind their quality or her roles). The first portent of bigger things come when Dilip Kumar plucks her out to be one of his heroines in Ram aur Shyam. She is publicised as much as Waheeda. So it is a major deal for Mumtaz when veteran V. Shantaram summarily ejects his daughter Rajshree (she is being elusive with dates) from his Boond jo ban gayi Moti and replaces her with Mumu. Mumtaz says that she fainted with joy when she heard the news.
Though Boond… sinks, Mumu rises above it. Her affair with Shammi gives her sheen of respectability. And after Sharmila’s bikini created waves, Mumu is the first starlet to slip into a bikini of her own in Feroz Khan’s starrer Woh koi aur hoga. Energetic, perky, hard working (she always gets good reviews) and willing to pay the dues, there is no stopping Mumu.
• Cine Blitz
Mumtaz started her career by playing many junior artist roles. She should be considered as the luckiest of the lot because none of the junior artists so far have been able to graduate into a top heroine. Her stars were good to her and so were her pin-up good looks.
In her struggling days, she was always mocked for her features, especially her nose? “With a pug nose like yours, you will never ever be a heroine,” was the refrain she was constantly faced. But success changed it all; the same pug nose was considered the sexiest feature of her face after she became a successful heroine!
She was courageous also because she worked with the likes of Mehmood and Dara Singh. In the case of the latter, there were at least a dozen films like Sikander-e-Azam and Khakaan. Some of her movies with Mehmood were Do Dil and Bedaag. Soon the top filmmakers discovered Mumtaz and her future shone brightly for her.
She was oomph personified. Her pert upturned nose and an exaggerated pout sent men into a wild tizzy. She was an electric screen presence. She sizzled particularly with Rajesh Khanna in Aap Ki Kasam and Do Raaste. Her acting talent surfaced in Khilona where she played a nurse to a tragic Sanjeev Kumar.
Some of her major movies were Ram Aur Shyam (1967) with Dilip Kumar, Do Raaste (1969) and Sachcha Jhootha (1970) with Rajesh Khanna, Khilona (1970) with Sanjeev Kumar, and Aap Ki Kasam (1974) with Rajesh Khanna and Sanjeev Kumar.
Many of her ways, like the way she dressed and carried herself, were imitated by all the eve-populace of India. She retired from the industry after she tied the knot but after 16 years tried to make a comeback. Her comeback film Aandhiyan with Shatrughan Sinha was badly accepted by the audiences. She had changed completely and her fans did not accept the changes in the once beautiful Mumtaz. This forced her to retreat her steps from the world of glamour and expectations.
Did you know, for instance, know that Mumtaz, in her struggling days, was always mocked for her features, especially her nose? “With a pug nose like yours, you will never ever be a heroine,” was the refrain she was constantly faced. But success changed it all; the same pug nose was considered the sexiest feature of her face after she became a successful heroine!
The men -- young and old -- were totally fascinated by Mumtaz’s voluptuous personality. Even the old men would sit still intently and stare at all the eroticism and semi-eroticism. In the case of two old men -- definitely over 50 -- it seemed that the song and dance sequence culminated in an orgiastic exhaustion. One of the two men even got up and went out for a while, almost as if the end of the sequence marked the end of one exciting visual and sensory trip --- a catharsis.
Mumtaz is an example of endurance and guts starting as a sidey who played the female leads opposite Mehmood in films like Bedaag and Do Dil (1965) and the heroine of Dara Singh in over a dozen stunt films like Khakaan and Sikandar-e-Azam (1965) she ultimately became the glamorous heroine of Dilip Kumar in Ram Aur Shyam (1967), Rajesh Khanna in Do Raaste (1969) and Sachcha Jhootha (1970). Mumtaz proved her talent in films like Khilona (1970) and Aap Ki Kasam (1974). She was the Oomph girl whose button nose, once considered a defect, became her sex-plus point.
The Artist’s Delight Beauty
If you are a juvenile sketcher, you probably had been advised “Draw the eyes accurately – the right shape and size to make your sketch perfect.” If I were that instructor, I would simply give my students an exercise in drawing the eyes of Mumtaz, one of the most beautiful faces that graced in the late 60s and early 70s. Though her performances never took her to the pinnacle of ‘The Heroine’, she always was the most preferred actress for her dazzling beauty. Aaj kal nahi, hamesha tere mere pyar ke charche har zabaan par honge.