indian cinema heritage foundation

‘Dil Se Bhula Do Tum Hamein’- Purnima

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

Mumbai's western suburb Khar's posh Pali Hill area is known because of the big guns of the film industry that reside there. Other than bungalows of the likes of Dilip Kumar, Saira Bano, Gulzar, Rakhi, Rishi Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Aamir Khan, etc. Late Dev Anand's Navketan Studio is also situated at Pali Hill itself. At the very same Pali Hills Nargis Dutt Road is a posh high-rise building called Reshma Apartments and on its 6th floor is a large but beautifully decorated apartment that resides Hindi cinema's golden year's famous actress Purnima. For the past many years she has been away from films, shy of even meeting anyone associated with the media. 
 
Some years back when at Poornima's house I was taking her close friend actress Dulari's interview I also happened to meet her and during that meeting when I humbly requested Poornima for an interview at a later date she replied, “Our yesteryear image that is there in the minds of the people, it is better that it stays that way.  What's the need to show them our today and to paint a picture of our present just to shatter their image of us?” But at my insistence not only did she agree to an interview, but she also gave me some old pictures of her of that golden era which can be seen here with this write-up. 
 
Born on 2nd March 1932 in Mumbai, Poornima's father Ram Sheshadri Ayangar was a Tamil Brahmin who used to handle accounts at Manmohan Desai's film distributor father Kiku Bhai Desai's office. Poornima's mother was from a Muslim family of Lucknow. At home other than her parents there were 5 daughters (including Poornima) and 1 son. In the 1930s decade, Poornima's eldest sister Shirin had also worked in films like Bambai Ki Sethani (1935), Passing Show (1936), Khwab Ki Duniya (1937), State Express (1938) and Bijli(1939).  Shirin was Producer-Director Nanabhai Bhatt's second wife and the famous filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt is the same Shirin's son and Poornima's nephew. 
 

"For the film, her elder sister Shirin gave her the alias Poornima in place of her real name Meher Bano."
According to Poornima that eras well-known director Raman B. Desai, who was also their neighbour, had offered Poornima Radha's role in his Gujarati film Radheshyam (1948). Poornima was still in school at that time. For the film, her elder sister Shirin gave her the alias Poornima in place of her real name Meher Bano. The film Radheshyam was released in the year 1948 and at that time Poornima was merely 16 years old. According to Poornima, “My first Hindi film was Kidar Sharma's Thes (1949) where I was playing the second lead.” Featuring Bharat Bhushan and Shashikala in the main roles, this film was released in the year 1948. 
 
(According to the senior film historian Shri Harish Raghuwanshi, in the year 1947 i.e. a year before Thes, Poornima had acted in two Hindi films Manager and Tum Aur Main and in 1948 other than Radheshyam she had also worked in Director Raja Yagnik's Gujrati film Saavaki Maa.
 
Poster of Badal. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

 
After Thes Poornima saw 2 more releases in 1949 viz. Narad Muni, and Patanga where she was seen playing the second lead in both the films. While Raman B.Desai's Gujarati and Hindi bilingual film Narad Muni and Kidar Sharma's Thes could not create much box office magic, Producer Bhagwan Das Varma's film Patanga proved to be very successful. Composed by C Ramchandra, 2 songs of this musical hit film Dil se bhula do tum hamein and O jaane waale tone armanon ki duniya loot li were filmed on Poornima and after the films were released Poornima's schedule became very hectic. 
 
"Then in the year 1954, I married producer-director Bhagwan Dass Varma and said my goodbyes to acting."
Poornima says, “I worked as a heroine and second lead in about 20 successful films of our time like director Kidar Sharma's Jogan (1950), Ameya Chakravarty's Gauna (1950) and Badal(1951), Bhagwan Hajele's Bebus (1950), H.S. Rawail's Sagai (1951) and Shagoofa (1953), O.P. Dutta's Parbat (1952), Guru Dutt's Jaal (1952),B.R. Chopra's Shole (1953), Ramanand Sagar's Mehmaan (1953) and  Bhagwan Dass  Varma's Aurat (1953) and Pooja (1954) and then in the year 1954 I married Producer-Director Bhagwan Dass Varma and said my goodbyes to acting. But then suddenly times changed and our financial condition deteriorated. Our condition was such that I had to even sell my own bungalow. This was the same place where today Vijay Anand's Ketnav Studio stands.”
 
(Industry sources say that it was both Poornima and Bhagwan Dass Varma's second marriages. Poornima's first marriage was with film journalist Shauqat Hashmi who went to Pakistan after separating from Poornima. Poornima also has a son by Shauqat Hashmi. Bhagwan Dass Varma was also a married family man.)
 
Having stayed away from acting for 3 years, Poornima decided to return to acting just so that she could stabilize the financial situation at home.
Having stayed away from acting for 3 years, Poornima decided to return to acting just so that she could stabilize the financial situation at home. She says, “The second innings of my career started with the 1957 film Chamak Chandni which was a costume drama. Because my main aim was to earn money, I did whatever work that came my way. I did many good-bad films like Baghi Sipahi, Jang Bahadur, Post Box 999, Son Of Sindbad (all 1958), Jawani Ki Hawa, Kangan, Madam XYZ (all 1959), College Girl, Gambler (all 1960) as the main or second lead and then slowly and steadily I just didn't realize how I had become a character artist.”
 
Poster of Thes. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din


In dozens of films like Badtameez (1966), Humjoli, (1970), Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971), Bairaag (1976), Zanjeer (1973), Khoon Pasina (1977), Main Tulsi Teri Aangan Ki (1978), Dharam Kanta (1982), Inqalaab (1984) etc. Poornima was seen as a character artist. According to her, “with my increasing age as I began to tire out while working, with the 1986 film Sadaa Suhagan, where Jeetendra, Rekha and Govinda were playing the lead roles, I said my farewell to acting forever.”
 
According to her, “with my increasing age as I began to tire out while working, with the 1986 film Sadaa Suhagan, where Jeetendra, Rekha, and Govinda were playing the lead roles, I said my farewell to acting forever.”
Poornima's husband Bhagwan Das Varma was a famous producer-director of his time who had many successful films like Patanga, Sagai, Badal, Aurat, Parvat and Pooja under his banner of Varma Films. Bhagwan Dass Varma passed away in 1962. According to Poornima, she acted in almost 200 films in a career spanning 38 years. Her only son worked in Air India. Shakeela, Saira Bano and Dulari are her close friends. Since Shaqeela and Saira Bano stay close to Poornima's house they keep meeting quite regularly. An 80-year-old Poornima says, “I am most proud of the fact that today my grandson has become a star in front of my eyes and nothing makes me prouder than the fact that now people don't know me as Poornima but instead they know me as Star Emraan Hashmi's grandmother.”  

(Last time I spoke to Poornima Ji was around 3 years back but all my efforts to contact her again to gather updates failed this as her contact numbers have changed. Even the Cine & TV Artists Association-CINTAA doesn't have her new contact numbers.)  

Poornima Ji passed away at Hinduja Hospital, Khar (West) Mumbai on Wednesday 14th August 2013 at 10.50 PM. Burial took place at Rehmatabad Shiite Cemetery, Mazgon on 15th August. 
Team BHD's heartfelt condolences.

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

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