Unique and gifted beyond compare, Jaya Bachchan is truly special. Throwback
at 1973, Jaya Bhaduri had a string of hits with films including Anamika, Zanjeer, Phagun, Abhimaan, Gaai Aur Gori (Bollywood’s first film on a gai-bhakt), and Sholay, all of which were showing at every cinema in Patna. During her brief period as a celebrity, she was more well-known than her husband was. To become Mrs. Amitabh Bachchan, she sacrificed it.
It’s a tough call to make. There has never been any performer like Jaya Bachchan… er, Bhaduri. She paved the way for the modern heroine, who doesn’t have to be a porcelain doll all the time. Jaya was a natural in a time when pretence was at an all-time high. Moreover, a famous celebrity.
In 1971, she released not one but two movies as her first. And while her role as a schoolgirl with a crush on Dharmendra in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Guddi brought her instant stardom, it was her completely unaffected portrayal of a child bride in Rajshri’s Uphaar that finally convinced everyone that they were witnessing a once-in-a-generation talent. Jaya and her boyfriend talked about her roles in Guddi and Uphaar. In Uphaar, she outdid herself, as even Mr. Bachchan admits. Indian cinema has never before featured the role of a naive young woman coming into her emotional and sexual maturity.
Jaya Bhaduri’s breakout year was 1972, when she starred in no less than eleven films, the most notable of which were the blockbuster Jawani Diwani (in which her attempts to glam up were rather bad) and the comedy Bansi Birju. (where her efforts to dance were embarrassing). However, this was the year that her deaf and mute performance in Gulzar’s Koshish astounded audiences, following her performances in Parichay and Piya Ka Ghar. Substituting Jaya for Moushumi Chatterjee at the eleventh hour. Gulzar’s unofficial ripoff of the Japanese film Happiness Of Us Alone included an outstanding performance from Jaya and Sanjeev Kumar, but the original was superior. Then why was Sanjeev the only one to receive the National Award?
Jaya had another exceptionally fruitful year in 1973. This was the year that she starred in several terrible movies, including Gaai Aur Gori and Zanjeer. (which she did only because no other major heroine was willing to work with a flop actor named Amitabh Bachchan). Abhimaan stood out from the crowd. Jaya’s face was a delicate mirror of the heart, reflecting the pain she felt as a simple-hearted wife who had out-sung her husband in front of the microphone. Piya piya bina basiya baje na, an excellent tune.