indian cinema heritage foundation

"Aan Aan Milo Shyam Sanware" - Dulari

25 Mar, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Dulari. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

The second a mother is mentioned in Hindi cinema one immediately thinks of actresses like Durga Khote, Lalita Pawar, Leela Chitnis, Nirupa Roy, Kamini Kaushal and Sulochana. Maybe today the image of these actresses is that of an onscreen mother but patrons of the golden years of Hindi cinema are well aware that all of these actresses had started their career as heroines and some of these actresses were even counted among the top most heroines of their era. This list includes one more name, Dulari, who audiences generally identify as the simple and downtrodden reel mother. But they are hardly aware of the fact that initially Dulari had also played a heroine and side heroine in a couple of films and chartbusters like Aana meri jaan meri jaan Sunday ke Sunday and Jawaani ki rail chali jaaye re had in fact been filmed on Dulari herself. 
 
Having said goodbye many years back to not only acting but also to Mumbai, I met Dulari ji at her close friend actress Poornima’s Pali Hill residence. I had been searching for Dulari ji for the past few months for my Sahara Samay column Kya Bhooloon Kya Yaad Karoon but when I went to her Seven Bungalows (Andheri-west) address registered in Cine & T.V. Artistes Associations records I was told that she had sold her flat long time back and had left Mumbai. After many efforts I tracked down one of her family member staying in Dadar who informed me that Dulari ji is expected to visit Mumbai very soon. And just because of him, I was finally able to meet Dulari ji.  

Dulari. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
Her father Vitthal Rao Gautam used to work in the Post & Telegraph Department but he was so fond of acting that when Aruna Irani’s maternal grandfather’s theatrical company came to Nagpur, he left his job and went to Mumbai with the theater company.
According to Dulari ji, her ancestors had migrated from Uttar Pradesh’s Awadh area to Nagpur where Dulari ji was born on 18th April 1928. She was the first child of her parents and had two younger brothers. Although Dulari ji’s real name was Ambika she was often called Rajdulari by her loved ones of which, later on, only Dulari remained. Her father Vitthal Rao Gautam used to work in the Post & Telegraph Department but he was so fond of acting that when Aruna Irani’s maternal grandfather’s theatrical company came to Nagpur, he left his job and went to Mumbai with the theater company. This incident took place in early 1930s. 
 
After a few years Vitthal Rao Gautam called his entire family to Mumbai as well. According to Dulari ji when she came to Mumbai in the year 1939 she was around 12 years old. Her initial education was done in Nagpur and when she came to Mumbai she continued her education. According to Dulari ji her father couldn’t earn much from theater and hence there was always an economic crisis at home. In such circumstances to lend a helping hand to her father she also enrolled herself in Aruna Irani’s father's theatrical company Alfred-Khatau. Shortly thereafter she also participated in Gujarati plays of two other companies named Desi Natak Samaj and Aryanaitik. This was the beginning of her acting career. 
 
Jhoola. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
To lend a helping hand to her father she also enrolled herself in Aruna Irani’s father's theatrical company Alfred-Khatau. Shortly thereafter she also participated in Gujarati plays of two other companies named Desi Natak Samaj and Aryanaitik. This was the beginning of her acting career. 
 
Dulari ji's first film was Bombay Talkies’s famous movie Jhoola (1941) where she was seen playing a small one scene role of a girl staying in a hermitage. She had been employed by Seth Yusuf Fazalbhoy’s National Studio at a salary of 100 rupees per month. Dulari ji did small roles under this banner’s movies Roti, Apna Paraya, and Jawani (all 1942). According to Dulari ji, “In the movie Jawani, I was playing the heroine Husn Bano’s friend with whom I had to dance in a particular song. But I didn’t know how to dance! This was one thing that never left my side till the end.”
 
When Sohrab Modi’s company Minerva Movietone bought National Studio they wanted to retain Dulari ji for the next 7 years. But as some conditions of the contract were not acceptable to Dulari ji she had to reject that offer. While she was seen playing hero Jairaj’s younger sister in Bombay Talkies’s film Hamari Baat she was also seen as as the second lead in Amar Pictures’s film Adaab Arz where her leading man was the famous singer Mukesh. Both the films were made in 1943. 
Shehnai. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
She was also seen as as the second lead in Amar Pictures’s film Adaab Arz where her leading man was the famous singer Mukesh.
 
Dulari ji did many small roles in films like Ghar, Kulkalank (both 1945), Ahinsa, Black Market, Namak, Pati Sewa, Rangeen Kahani (all 1947) but these films did not create any magic at the box office. She also did some Gujarati films at this time. Dulari ji got her real due with Filmistan’s 1947 film Shehnai. She had played Rehana’s elder sister in the movie and her leading man was Mehmood’s father Mumtaz Ali. This movie Shehnai is also known to have used western music in Hindi cinema for the first time. 
 
Dulari ji got her real due with Filmistan’s 1947 film Shehnai. She had played Rehana’s elder sister in the movie and her leading man was Mehmood’s father Mumtaz Ali. This movie Shehnai is also known to have used western music in Hindi cinema for the first time.
 
According to Dulari ji, “Dancing on C. Ramachandra’s music to songs like Aana meri jaan meri jaan Sunday ke Sunday and Jawaani ki rail chali jaaye re was quite a task for me and I vowed to never do a dance based role ever again. After doing films like Gunsundari, Mitti Ke Khilone, Naav (all 1948), Nanad Bhaujai, Shair (both 1949), Apni Chhaya, Man Ka Meet (both 1950), Albela (1951), Anjaam, Bhoole Bhatke, Veer Arjun (all 1952), Dulari ji was seen in an important role in the movie Paapi which was made in 1953. Made under the banner of Ranjit Movietone, Paapi was Raj Kapoor’s only movie where he was seen in a double role. Of the film’s two heroines one was Nargis and the other was Dulari ji. Dulari ji’s performance in the 1953 release Jeewan Jyoti was also much appreciated. 
Papi.  Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
Dulari ji was seen in an important role in the movie Papi which was made in 1953. Made under the banner of Ranjit Movietone, Papi was Raj Kapoor’s only movie where he was seen in a double role. Of the film’s two heroines one was Nargis and the other was Dulari ji. Dulari ji’s performance in the 1953 release Jeewan Jyoti was also much appreciated
 
Dulari ji says, “I was of marriageable age but in our Kanyakubj Brahman society there was a high demand of dowry and the financial situation at home was still not very good. Hence in these circumstances my parents had to accept a proposal which was outside our society. My husband Jagannath Bhikhaji Jagtap was from a Maratha (Marathi Kshatriya) family and was a known sound recordist in the film world. After my marriage in 1951, I did very little work for the next 10 years. During that time only 13-14 films of mine were released like Devdas (1955), Zindagi Ke Mele (1956), Ek Gaon Ki Kahani, Johny Walker, Paying Guest (all 1957), Kavi Kalidas, Santaan (1959). And then with the 1961’s Gujarati film Chundari Ane Chokha I started my careers second innings. 
 
Devdas. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
For the next 35 years, Dulari ji was seen playing many big and small roles in almost 135 films like Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai (1961), Mujhe Jeene Do (1963), Apne Hue Paraye (1964), Aap Aaye Bahaar Ayee (1971), Aaye Din Bahaar Ke (1966), Anupama (1966), Teesri Kasam (1966), Padosan (1968), Aradhana (1969), Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke (1969), Chirag (1969), Inteqam (1969), Aan Milo Sajna (1970), Heer Ranjha (1970), Johny Mera Naam (1971), Caravan (1971), Lal Patthar (1971), Be-Imaan (1972), Seeta Aur Geeta (1972), Raja Rani (1973), Ameer Gareeb (1974), Haath Ki Safai (1974), Deewar (1975), Do Jasoos (1975), Aahuti (1978), Ganga Ki Saugandh (1978), Biwi O Biwi (1981), Naseeb (1981), Prem Rog (1982), Agar Tum Na Hote (1983) and Dharm Adhikari (1986). And then one day she quietly retired from the world of movies.  
 
Suryaa. Image Courtesy: S M M Ausaja
 
Dulari ji says, “With increasing age, my failing health had started affecting my work. In one of the scenes of the 1989 film Surya I had to run with a crowd of 200 junior artists. As soon as director Ismail Shroff said action, I started to run. But because I had arthritis I fell after running only a short distance. The crowd of junior artists were still running behind me. Actor Salim Gaus, who was playing my son in the film, saved me from being crushed under the crowd of the junior artists and in his efforts he sustained some minor injuries as well. And hence I thought it wise to take retirement. And then after many years on director Guddu Dhanoa’s request I essayed a role in his film Ziddi. And in this way film Ziddi released in 1997 proved to be my last film. 
 
Ziddi. Image Courtesy: S M M Ausaja

 
Dulari ji’s husband passed away in the year 1972. Her only daughter is married. After retiring from acting she stayed in Mumbai for some time and then in 2002 she went to stay with her daughter in Indore. She used to visit Mumbai quite frequently as some of her husband’s close relatives and her friend actress Poornima stay in Mumbai. But we came to know recently that after a career spanning 65 years where in she did 171 Hindi, 35 Gujarati, 3 Marathi and 1 Rajasthani film and also acted in a Shri Adhikari Brothers serial called Waqt Ki Raftaar, the 85 years old Dulari ji has been suffering from Alzheimer’s for the past few years and is staying in an old age home in some city in Maharashtra.  

(85 years old Dulari ji was admitted to ICU in a hospital in PUNE in the last week of December '12 where she breathed her last on 18th January 2013 around 10 a.m. She was cremated on 19th January 2013 in the noon in Pune.) 

Part of Shishir Krishna Sharma's Beete Hue Din blog series. 

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