indian cinema heritage foundation

"Mera Sunder Sapna Beet Gaya" - Kamini Kaushal

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

English translation edited by : Maitri Manthan

It is well known that in early days working in films was looked down upon and people from respectable families seldom took up this profession. Yet actresses like Durga Khote, Leela Chitnis, Shobhna Samarth, Vanmala, Nalini Jaywant and Shanta Apte carved a name for themselves through their sheer talent, diligence and hard work despite all the opposition from their family and society. Actress Kamini Kaushal took this tradition forward. She hailed from an elite and learned family in Lahore though she neither had any inclination towards joining the film industry nor did she face any opposition from her family or society.

Kamini Kaushal spoke in detail about her professional and personal life during our meeting at her Nepean Sea Road residence. Kamini Kaushal was born in Lahore on 25th February 1927. Her father Professor S.R.Kashyap was an internationally famed botanist who taught in Lahore’s Government College. Apart from being the founder of Lahore’s famous Botanical Garden, he was the President of The Science Congress. Kamini Kaushal was the youngest among 2 brothers and 3 sisters. Her elder brother Doctor K.N.Kashyap was associated with the P.G.I., Chandigarh as a surgeon for a very long period. Her younger brother Colonel A.N.Kashyap had been captured as a war prisoner in Japan during the WWII, who suddenly returned home after 4 years when the family had lost all hope. 
 

Kamini Kaushal. Image Courtesy:  Beete Hue Din
Her younger brother Colonel A.N.Kashyap had been captured as a war prisoner in Japan during the WWII, who suddenly returned home after 4 years when the family had lost all hope. 
Kamini Kaushal says, “We lived in Lahore’s Chauburji area. After completing my schooling from Lady Mc Clagan Girls High School, I did B.A. Honors from the Kinnaird College. It was a very open atmosphere at our home. Since my childhood I participated in radio plays and was very good in horse riding, swimming and cycling. But to work in films was a taboo in those days. Chetan Anand, who was a close friend of my elder brother, was busy with the preparations of his first film Neecha Nagar at that time. One day after he heard me in a radio play, offered to me the main lead of his film which I refused to accept”. 
Neecha Nagar. Image Courtesy:  Beete Hue Din
"It was a very open atmosphere at our home. Since my childhood I participated in radio plays and was very good in horse riding, swimming and cycling. But to work in films was a taboo in those days."
According to Kamini Kaushal, Chetan Anand met her again in Mumbai when she had come down to visit her elder sister who resided in Mumbai after marriage. Chetan Anand insisted that she should reconsider the offer. She eventually agreed to do the film on being persuaded by her brother. Chetan Anand’s wife Uma was also playing an important character in Neecha Nagar thus she was given a new screen name “Kamini Kaushal” instead of her real name “Uma Kashyap”.
 
She eventually agreed to do the film Neecha Nagar on being persuaded by her brother. Chetan Anand’s wife Uma was also playing an important character in Neecha Nagar thus she was given a new screen name “Kamini Kaushal” instead of her real name “Uma Kashyap”.
Neecha Nagar was a 1946 release with Pandit Ravi Shankar as composer. It was the first Indian film to be sent to the Cannes Film Festival and to receive the Best Film Award in the festival. Kamini Kaushal says, “Initially despite all the appreciation, no buyer showed any interest in the film. It made its way to the theaters only after I got some recognition and two songs were added to it. Later I refused all the offers for other films and returned to Lahore. I had hardly seen 4-5 films till then including Prabhat Film Company – Pune’s Ramshastri which was directed by Gajanan Jagirdar. I really liked that film. Hence I couldn’t say no to Gajanan Jagirdar when he offered me the leading role in his own production Jail Yatra. I had to shift to Mumbai permanently”. 
Aag. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Kamini Kaushal says, “Initially despite all the appreciation, no buyer showed any interest in the film. It made its way to the theaters only after I got some recognition and two songs were added to it. "
(During our conversation Kamini Kaushal didn’t mention the reason for her permanent shift to Mumbai. According to sources, Kamini Kaushal married her brother-in-law Mr. B.S. Sood after the sudden death of her sister in 1947 to look after his two little daughters. Mr. B.S. Sood was an officer in the Port Trust of India and he retired from the post of Chief Engineer.) 

In the film Jail Yatra, made in 1947, Kamini Kaushal’s hero was Raj Kapoor. Kamini Kaushal played an important character in Raj Kapoor’s debut film as producer-director Aag too, which was made in 1948. Kamini Kaushal's hero in Filmistan’s Do Bhai (1947) was Ulhas whereas in Shaheed and Nadiya Ke Paar (both 1948) the hero was Dilip Kumar. Shamshad Begum, Geeta Dutt, Lalita Deulkar and Surinder Kaur were the singers who gave playback for Kamini Kaushal in these films. Lata Mangeshkar sang for her for the first time in Bombay Talkies’s Ziddi (1948) which was composed by Khemchand Prakash. Kishore Kumar also made his debut with this film, not only as singer but he also played a small role of a gardener in it. 
Jail Yatra. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Kamini Kaushal says, “As per tradition of those times, instead of Lata Mangeshkar, my character’s name Asha was given on the gramophone records of Ziddi as the singer of the songs pictured on me. Lata Mangeshkars voice suited me so much that people couldnt believe that those songs were not sung by me."
Kamini Kaushal says, “As per tradition of those times, instead of Lata Mangeshkar, my character’s name Asha was given on the gramophone records of Ziddi as the singer of the songs pictured on me. Lata Mangeshkars voice suited me so much that people couldnt believe that those songs were not sung by me. In the next 10 years I played the main lead in a total of 33 films including Namoona, Shabnam, Shair (all 1949), Arzoo (1950), Bikhre Moti (1951), Poonam (1952), Ansoo, Aas, Shahenshah (all 1953), Biraj Bahu, Chalis Baba Ek Chor, Sangam (all 1954), Aabroo (1956), Bada Bhai, Bade Sarkar (both 1957), Jailor, Night Club (both 1958), and Bank Manager (1959). 
Aas. Image Coutesy: S M M Ausuja

Poonam and Chalis Baba Ek Chor were produced by Kamini Kaushal only under the banner of K-Arts. She won Filmfare’s Best Actress Award for the film Biraj Bahu.
Poonam and Chalis Baba Ek Chor were produced by Kamini Kaushal only under the banner of K-Arts. She won Filmfare’s Best Actress Award for the film Biraj Bahu. After the film Bank Manager she took a career break for a few years. She returned on the silver screen as the leading lady opposite Raj Kumar in producer-director Trilok Jaitley's Godaan (1963). The music for this film was again composed by Pandit Ravi Shankar and this was Kamini Kaushal’s last release as heroine. 

(Kamini Kaushals hero in the films like Nadiya Ke Paar, Shaheed, Shabnam and Arzoo was Dilip Kumar. It is said that, they were emotionally inclined towards each other and she faced severe opposition from husband and brothers for the same. Hence she was forced to take a career break for a few years.) 
Arzoo. Image Coutesy: S M M Ausuja

Second phase of Kamini Kaushals career in character roles started with the 1965 release Shaheed. She played Sardar Bhagat Singh's mother in this film, the character played by the actor Manoj Kumar. After the grand success of Shaheed she played Manoj Kumar's mother in all his forthcoming films.
Second phase of Kamini Kaushals career in character roles started with the 1965 release Shaheed. She played Sardar Bhagat Singh's mother in this film, the character played by the actor Manoj Kumar. After the grand success of Shaheed she played Manoj Kumar's mother in all his forthcoming films. As character artist Kamini Kaushal remained active for more than 40 years and acted in more than 60 films, an English T.V. serial Jewel in The Crown made in mid-1980s and a couple of Hindi T.V. serials including Waqt Ki Raftaar, Ooparwali Gharwali, Sanjeevni and Shanno Ki Shaadi. Laaga Chunri Me Daag (2007) is Kamini Kaushal's last Hindi film so far. Her English film The Square Root 2 made in London was released 2008. 
 
Godaan. Image Coutesy: S M M Ausuja


Kamini Kaushal says, “I love the children and regularly wrote for them in the child-magazine Paraag. Based on my stories published in Paraag I produced a serial titled Chaand Sitaare in 1980s which was telecast on DD National. Now many years have passed since my husband passed away. Both my daughters are married and two younger sons are settled abroad. I stay here with my eldest son. Reading and dolls & puppets making is my passion since very beginning and I often stage puppet shows for the children. In totality, I’m living a very peaceful life. 

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


 

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