indian cinema heritage foundation

“Uff Ye Beqaraar Dil Kahan Luta Na Poochhiye” - Bela Bose Sengupta

24 Mar, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Bela Bose. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Bela Bose! The minute one utters this name, the first imagery to jump into the mind is of a club dancer & a vamp from the 1960’s decade of Hindi cinema. The Glamorous wicked woman! This image is in vivid contradiction to the real-life Bela Bose who is a very dignified, erudite, soft-spoken, and above all an extremely sincere/candid orator that holds no hidden malevolence in her words. “I had entered films as a group dancer, although I was almost always kicked out of the group” – Bela confesses without any qualms. Any other actress in her stead would have probably tried to conceal her initial struggle days. “Perseverance is a part of life as much as is success & failure…hiding the truth will not change what is or was” Bela’s uninhibited words hold an astounding magnetism. 
 
Bela Bose. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din


Born on 18 April 1941 in Kolkata to a well to do family, Bela was the third child of two brothers & three sisters. Her formative years were capricious. Her father had a well-established prosperous garment business and her mother was a housewife. The Bose family resided comfortably in an affluent bungalow. All of a sudden, both the banks that carried the family savings, declared bankrupt. Bela tells us, “There were only private banks at the time hence once the banks declared bankrupt we became impoverished overnight. My father’s business collapsed. In those days Mumbai was the hub for clothing mills and so my father moved the entire Bose clan to Mumbai. This happened in July 1951.” 
 
Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

The Bose family began to reside at Belvedere Guest House in Mumbai’s Andheri (East) area. Bela’s father wanted to join hands with Kohinoor Clothing Mill and so we're in talks with the management. Bela says, “Father was striving to establish a trade-in Mumbai. But the language barrier was very frustrating for him. He spoke Bangla & English whereas Marathi & some sparse Gujarati were predominant languages in Mumbai. Thus father started preparing to move back to Kolkata within just six months of our arrival in Mumbai. But, all of a sudden, he died in a road accident. He left home on the morning of 1 January, 1952 but never came back. After a tedious two-day search, we finally located his body in a hospital. He was only thirty-six years old.”
“On 5th June 1952, five months after my father passed away, my youngest brother was born. My mother did a three months nursing course and took up a job in a private nursing home. And so, the wellbeing of our youngest sibling fell on us two eldest sisters. We started going to school in shifts. I would go for morning classes and my sister would attend school in the evening shift. My dance lessons were terminated as well.”
After her father’s demise, when Bela’s mother desired to return to Kolkata with her children in tow, it came to light that her husband’s brother had staked his claim over not only their bungalow but over their entire property. Bela’s elder brother was seventeen at that time, her elder sister was fourteen, Bela was eleven and her youngest sister was five. Her mother was expecting. The responsibility of the entire clan fell on her elder brother’s shoulders who had no choice but to take up a job at a factory. 

Bela had a predisposition towards dance from early childhood. She wanted to learn to dance along with her studies. But after her father’s demise, the financial situation of the house was in dire conditions. By the time, Tanmay Master (Tanu Guruji) of a nearby dance school agreed to teach Bela free of cost on the condition that she would have to perform on stage without fiscal compensation. Thus Bela started learning Manipuri dance with him. One day all students of the dance school were taken to Vishnu Studio in Vile Parle at film Jalpari’s shooting. For Bela, it was her first instance of seeing a shooting. 
 
Bela Bose. Image Courtesy: Filmfare, 1970 June 17


Bela says, “On 5th June 1952, five months after my father passed away, my youngest brother was born. My mother did a three months nursing course and took up a job in a private nursing home. And so, the wellbeing of our youngest sibling fell on us, two eldest sisters. We started going to school in shifts. I would go for morning classes and my sister would attend school in the evening shift. My dance lessons were terminated as well.” 

According to Bela one day Tabla player Nawab Ali from the dance school came searching for her. He alleged that he would fetch stage shows for Bela where she would be able to earn some money and that he would also teach her filmy dance. Bela says, “Nawab Ali kept his words. He taught me filmy dance. Truly it was Nawab Ali who made me Bela Bose.” 

After a while, Bela was enrolled in Bipin Sinha Guruji’s dance class in Charni Road. Asha Parekh and Seema Deo were students of the same dance class. Bela says, “One day Bipin Guruji took me to Filmistan Studio where an English film Three-Headed Snake was being shot. I was made to perform some Manipuri Dance for the film. I got paid four hundred rupees for it which was a handsome amount at that time. This instance occurred in 1954 or 1955 when I was either thirteen or fourteen years old.” 
 
I was one of the group dancers in the song Mohe panghat pe nandlal chhed gayo re from Mughal-e-Azam (1960). Maybe it was my height that when we were to bend down during the line Kankari mohe maari gagariya phod daali I would be seen more clearly than my counterparts and that’s why Sitara Devi who was present on the sets was livid at me. I can never forget the scolding that followed. But in the end, it was my height that proved to be a blessing.”
After nearly two years, the Bose family moved from Belvedere Guest House to Sohrab Baug in Andheri (West). There were many studios in Andheri like Mohan, M.N.T., Prakash, Ashok, etc. Bela tells us, “One day we were called to M.N.T. Studio for a group dance for some film. But the film's dance master Badri Prasad immediately ousted me saying that I was a taad (as tall as a palm tree). I surely was quite tall as compared to the other girls. However, I had stood outside the studio from morning 10 am till 4 pm in the evening in the hopes that I might be called back, but that didn’t happen. On enquiring with a few people I realised that everyone had already packed up earlier in the day and that there was no one in the studio. This had upset me so much that I vowed never to associate with films again. But my association with studios was still to be.”
 
Bela Bose in Dil Aur Mohabbat (1968). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din


Truthfully, Bela would often go to studios that were on her way to school in want of coke and pedas (small sweets) that were distributed at the Muhurat of a film. Because of this Bela became a familiar face to the studio employees. Bela says, “One day a Bengali boy called Deepak came to my home and requested me to be part of a group dance. Since I had begun to enjoy the studio environment I started going for group dances again. But my height had become a problem for me. Everyone used to call me Lambu. Dance masters would often throw me out of the dances. I was one of the group dancers in the song Mohe panghat pe nandlal chhed gayo re from Mughal-e-Azam (1960). Maybe it was my height that when we were to bend down during the line Kankari mohe maari gagariya phod daali, I would be seen more clearly than my counterparts and that is why Sitara Devi who was present on the sets was livid at me. I can never forget the scolding that followed. But in the end, it was my height that proved to be a blessing.” 

Once during the shoot of the film Mai Nashe Me Hoon (1959) director, Naresh Sehgal came on sets and saw Bela. She stood out to him amongst the other dancers. He asked her to step away from the group. For Bela, she was accustomed to being thrown out of group dances. But she was definitely taken aback when Naresh Sehgal asked her to perform on Mujhko yaaron maaf karna mai nashe me hoon with Raj Kapoor & to do a solo dance on Ye na thi hamari kismet for the film. This break proved to be a very important one of Bela’s career. 
 
Helen, Sadhana and Bela Bose in Dil Daulat Duniya (1972). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din


Bela says, “This incident took place in 1958 and I was studying in grade 10 at that time. Film Mai Nashe Me Hoon (1959). That year I had applied to the New School of Arts in Grant Road for a diploma in commercial arts. Under this course, I was learning design on cloth. After a four-year diploma course, I would have gotten a job at Kohinoor Mill where I would earn a steady income. But after Mai Nashe Me Hoon’s success, films kept my calendar full. The diploma class would start at six in the evening and so I would try to schedule my shoots in the day. But eventually, my schedule became so packed that I had to leave my course after two and a half years.”

1960 was a decade of immense occupation for Bela. She was seen dancing to the tune of many songs like O dil waalon saaze dil pe jhoom lo (Lootera, 1965), Bambai ka ye babu dil lene dene aaye (Hum Sab Ustaad Hain, 1965), Hai nazar ka ishara sambhal jaiye (Anita, 1967), Chhod gaye bedardi (Apna Ghar Apni Kahani, 1968 ), Jabse laagi tose najariya (Shikaar,1968), Roothe saiyaan hamaare saiyaan kyon roothe (Devar, 1966), Bade khoobsoorat bade hi haseen and Uff ye beqaraar dil (Dil Aur Mohabbat, 1968), Nadi ka kinara ho (C.I.D.909, 1967) and Churaate ho nazrein aji kisliye (The Killers, 1969 ). Made in 1962, Sautela Bhai was Bela’s first film as an actress where she was seen playing a Santhaali girl. Later on, she played comic and villainous roles in many films like Roop Sundari (1964), Dil Daulat Aur Duniya (1972), Chitralekha (1964), Professor (1962), Opera House (1961), Chanda Aur Bijli (1969), Dil Aur Mohabbat (1968), C.I.D.909 (1967), Bhai Ho Toh Aisa (1972) and Rocky Mera Naam (1973). She was especially liked in film Jeene Ki Raah (1969) where she played Jeetendra’s evil stepsister. 
 
Anita Guha, Mahipal and Bela Bose in the film Roop Sundari (1964)
Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din


Bela confides, “I was a fan of Ashish Kumar, a famous actor of Bangla films. When my friends in school would ask me about any boyfriend, I would cheekily show them Ashish Kumar's picture. I just could not believe my eyes when one fine day I met Ashish Kumar at Mala Sinha’s house. When I married the very same Ashish Kumar in 1967, I had about forty films on the floor. Someway I managed to finish all the films and then parted ways from the industry to immerse myself in my domestic life. One day I witnessed my six-year-old daughter trying to imitating a cabaret dancer and from that day I banned all film magazines from my house.” 
 
“Laymen might view the world of films and the people associated with it with suspicion and maybe they find many faults but my experiences with this industry have been a very pleasant one. Naresh Sehgal selflessly picked me from my group and bestowed me with an identity, everyone else behaved with the utmost respect towards me, maybe that is why when I hear unfamiliar words like ‘casting couch’ I begin to question its existence that does such a thing truly exist in our industry? However, I don’t believe in does at all.”
In 1967-68 Bela prepared a ballet show Shyama. This was originally a Bangla Show which was later adapted in Hindi by Uday Khanna. Bela required someone proficient in Rabindra Sangeet for the score. She eventually gave a break to Manas Mukerjee who later on gave music for films like Shayad (1979), Lakhon Ki Baat (1984), and Aao Pyaar Karein (1983). Bela tells us, “After the Ballet shows came to an end, Uday Khanna ventured to make a film on Santoshi Mata, wherein Nargis was to play Santoshi Mata’s role. Ashish was the hero of the same and Mr. Sahay was the financer, husband of actress Zahida - who is niece to Nargis, but for some reason, the film couldn’t be made. And so Ashish bought the story from Uday Khanna. Film Rocky Mera Naam’s director Satram Rohra was a Rakhi-brother to me. He partnered with Ashish and they finally made the film Jai Santoshi Maa (1975). Once the film was declared a hit, Satram Rohra’s intentions sullied. He deceitfully made Ashish sign over the rights of the film. Ashish was the film’s hero. I too had played an important role in the film. We didn’t even come to know when the film celebrated its Jubilee Function. We’ve heard that our trophies are at the film’s hairdresser’s home till date.”
 
Bela Bose with Husband Ashish Kumar. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din


Later on, Bela and her husband made films like Solah Shukrawar (1977), Ganga Sagar (1978), Raja Harishchandra (1979), Badrinath Dham (1980) and Navratri (1983). Bela’s mother, elder brother, and elder sister are no more. Her mother had started as a nurse in a private nursing home. She went on to become a matron in Mumbai’s famous King George Hospital.  Bela’s elder brother Anil Bose was an R.T.O. Inspector but like father he too passed away in a road accident at the age of 36. Bela’s younger sister resides in the USA and her younger brother resides in Canada. Her daughter Manju Shri Nayar is married and is a doctor in a government hospital in Coimbatore.  Bela’s son Abhijit Sengupta had played a very important role in the film Paramveer Chakra (1995). But his heart wasn’t in acting and thus he earned an M.B.A. degree and ventured into business. Today he is the owner of Sengupta Lifespace (S.G.L.) Group of Companies; he is also a builder, has a property business, an event management company and is proficient in making Ad films. He also handles the film distribution of his father’s company Jai Santoshi Mata Pictures. Bela and her husband Ashish Kumar used to reside in Bandra (West) till 3 years ago. But because their son’s company, S.G.L.’s corporate office, and business is in Navi Mumbai, Belapur area, they had to leave Bandra and they shifted to live with their son in Nerul. But Ashish couldn’t stay in Nerul for long.
 
Shishir Krishna Sharma with Bela Bose. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Bela tells us, “Ashish was not keeping well for some time. He had diabetes and he preferred to stay at home. In November 2013, on insistence from her daughter, son-in-law and their ten-year-old son, Ashish, Abhijit and I went to Goa to visit them. Since we had a club membership with Mahindra & Mahindra our stay was organized at the company guest house. On the third day of our trip i.e., 23rd November, Ashish suddenly fell ill and passed away. We completed the final rites in Goa and came back to Mumbai. 

Bela acted in Aruna Irani’s serial Zameen Se Aasmaan Tak for Sahara One Channel in 2002 – 2003 but since then she has bid goodbye to acting altogether. She is still close to yesteryear actresses Shakila, Ameeta, Zeb Rehman and Azra and they make it a point to meet a couple of times in a month. Her link with the film industry had been broken many years back. Despite that she has a lot of love and respect for the film industry. Bela says, “Laymen might view the world of films and the people associated with it with suspicion and maybe they find many faults but my experiences with this industry have been a very pleasant one. Naresh Sehgal selflessly picked me from my group and bestowed me with an identity, everyone else behaved with the utmost respect towards me, maybe that is why when I hear unfamiliar words like ‘casting couch’ I begin to question its existence that does such a thing truly exist in our industry? However, I don’t believe it does at all.” 

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

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