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"Wo Bhooli Dastaan Lo Phir Yaad Aa Gayi" - Anita Guha

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

The famous Linking Road in Mumbai’s western suburb of Bandra (West). Adjacent to the National College on Linking Road is Mirabell Building where Anita Guha, renowned actress of the bygone era of Hindi Cinema lived in a spacious 2nd floor flat. I met Anita ji at her residence during the 3rd week of February in 2004. She had already bid adieu to cinema years ago and was living all alone after her husband’s death 15 years earlier. It took me some time to persuade her for the interview as she wasn’t ready to be photographed. After some initial hesitation, she gave her consent for the interview. But, she got so comfortable during the conversation, that her hesitation in getting photographed completely vanished!  

Anita ji’s father was a forest officer who was posted in the jungles of North-East near the Burmese border. According to Anita ji, she was born on 17th January 1939 in the area adjacent to Burmese border and she spent her childhood in the jungles of North-East, Darjeeling and the Sundarbans. She was youngest among one brother and two sisters. Her family settled in Kolkata after partition where Anita ji completed her schooling.
 

Anita Guha. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
Anita ji recalled, “I won the crown of Miss Kolkata in early 1950s. In the year 1952, I came to Mumbai to participate in Kardar-Kolynos Talent Contest which was jointly organized by Mumbai’s Kardar Studio and Hollywood’s Lee Kamarin. I got first position in all the rounds of the competition"
Anita ji recalled, “I won the crown of Miss Kolkata in early 1950s. In the year 1952, I came to Mumbai to participate in Kardar-Kolynos Talent Contest which was jointly organized by Mumbai’s Kardar Studio and Hollywood’s Lee Kamarin. I got first position in all the rounds of the competition but the main hindrance was my language as I didn’t know even the basics of Hindi. Kardar Studio signed a contract with me at Rs.300/- per month salary but with a condition that I would learn Hindi in 6 months’ time. Another contestant to be selected in the same competition was actress Chand Usmani. I signed the contract and then returned to Kolkata”. 

(Since no other person associated with that contest is alive today, it’s not possible to confirm the truth. But one thing is for sure that all the three actresses viz. Peace Kanwal, Anita Guha and Chand Usmani, entered the filmdom through Kardar-Kolynos Talent Contest only.)  
 
Bansher Kella. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Anita ji said, “As soon as the makers of Bangla films got wind of my winning of Kardar-Kolynos Talent Contest, I started getting offers from them. "
Anita ji said, “As soon as the makers of Bangla films got wind of my winning of Kardar-Kolynos Talent Contest, I started getting offers from them. My father had passed away by that time and my mother wasn’t ready to send me to Mumbai. I had no other option then but to get my contract with the Kardar Studio cancelled, which I did.  My debut Bangla movie Bansher Kella released in the year 1953 opposite Anup Kumar as my hero. But I was impatient to go to Mumbai”.

One day, actor Om Prakash came to Kolkata for the release of his film (either Lehrein or Jhaanjhar according to Anita ji), which was produced by Om Prakash only. Anita ji met Om Prakash who immediately signed her for the film Dunia Gol Hai and called her to Mumbai. Thus Anita Guha debuted in Hindi Cinema with the 1955 release Dunia Gol Hai with Karan Dewan opposite her as hero. Anita ji was a mere 16 years old at that time.
 
Anita Guha made her Hindi debut in Beete Hue Din
 
Anita Guha debuted in Hindi Cinema with the 1955 release Dunia Gol Hai with Karan Dewan opposite her as hero. Anita ji was a mere 16 years old at that time.
{In fact Lehrein, Jhaanjhar (both 1953) and Dunia Gol Hai (1955) were produced by composer C. Ramachandra under the banner New Sai Productions. Actor Om Prakash and C. Ramachandra were close friends and being a partner in this banner, Om Prakash was the co-producer of these films. He was also director of Dunia Gol Hai.}   

Om Prakash helped Anita ji in settling in Mumbai. Anita ji’s next film Tangawali with Shammi Kapoor, Nirupa Roy and Balraj Sahni as her co-artistes released in the same year i.e. 1955. Anita ji remembered, “I was a stranger in the city of Mumbai. Also, I was unaware of the ways and norms of the film industry. Above all considering my age, I wasn’t mature enough to plan my career in an appropriate manner. Therefore, whatever work I was offered, I blindly accepted. I did Chhoomantar as the side-heroine and Aankh Ka Nasha, Laal-E-Yaman and Yahudi Ki Beti kind of B-grade movies in main lead. All these movies released in the year 1956”.
Anita ji remembered, “I was a stranger in the city of Mumbai. Also, I was unaware of the ways and norms of the film industry. Above all considering my age, I wasn’t mature enough to plan my career in an appropriate manner. Therefore, whatever work I was offered, I blindly accepted."
Such kind of roles in the initial phase itself adversely affected Anita ji’s career. She played second lead roles in Ek Jhalak, Dekh Kabira Roya, Sharda, Ustaad (all 1957) and did Bhala Aadmi, Kal Kya Hoga, Maya Bazar and Taxi Stand (all 1958) kind of B-grade movies as the main lead. According to Anita ji, “It was very painful for me that I was not being offered A-Grade mainstream films but the circumstances were beyond my control. Once again, Om Prakash ji came forward and tried to support my career. He gave me the main lead roles in Chacha Zindabad (1959) and Sanjog (1961) which were made under his own banner Light & Shade. But, by that time I had already been branded as a heroine of mythological cinema”.
 
Sanjog. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
According to Anita ji, “It was very painful for me that I was not being offered A-Grade mainstream films but the circumstances were beyond my control. Once again, Om Prakash ji came forward and tried to support my career."
In fact, producer-director Homi Wadia, who was the owner of Basant Pictures, a banner famous for its production of mythological movies, offered Anita ji the role of Seeta in his film Pawan Putra Hanuman (1957). Anita ji was hesitant initially as she was afraid of being typecast as the heroine of the mythological films but eventually accepted the offer. 
This movie proved to be the biggest hit of its time resulting in Anita ji getting lots of offers for such mythological characters. Later she played Seeta in Sampoorna Ramayan (1961), Shri Ram Bharat Milap and Shankar Seeta Anusuya (both 1965) too. She also played main lead in a couple of historical films like Samrat Prithviraj Chauhan, Tipu Sultan (both 1959), Sangeet Samrat Tansen(1962), Maharani Padmini (1964), and Sant Tukaram (1965).  
 
Samrat Prithviraj Chauhan. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Anita ji was hesitant initially as she was afraid of being typecast as the heroine of the mythological films but eventually accepted the offer.  Pawan Putra Hanuman proved to be the biggest hit of its time resulting in Anita ji getting lots of offers for such mythological characters.
Anita ji got married in the year 1961. Her husband Manik Dutt was a character artist who acted in approximately 30 movies including Sambandh (1969), Adhikar (1971), Amanush (1975), Do Anjane (1976), Anand Ashram (1977), Griha Pravesh (1979), Barsaat Ki Ek Raat (1981) and Dushman Devta (1991). Anita ji said, I kept myself away from movies for 4 years between 1965 and 1968. Then, the second phase of my acting career as a character artist started with Shakti Samanta's Aradhana (1969). 

 Later I acted in many films including Sambandh (1969), Sharmili (1971), Anurag (1972), Jhoom Utha Akash (1973), Naagin (1976), Anand Ashram (1977), Tumhare Liye (1978), Fifty Fifty (1981) and Krishna Krishna (1986). I played Santoshi Mata in the 1975 release Jai Santoshi Maa which is documented as one of the most successful movies in the history of Hindi cinema”.
 
Anita Guha. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
"I played Santoshi Mata in the 1975 release Jai Santoshi Maa which is documented as one of the most successful movies in the history of Hindi cinema”.
According to Anita ji, “Even after my husband’s death, my close friends Mala Sinha, Bela Bose and Smriti Biswas as well as my elder sister’s daughter and actress Prema Narayan never let me feel the loneliness. All of them stood by me at every step and are my pillars of support”.

Anita ji was nominated for the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress award for the movies Sharda and Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959) but with no luck. During a career spanning 40 years she acted in a total of 100 films which, apart from Hindi, also includes those made in Bangla, Rajasthani and Bhojpuri languages. Her last release was the Hindi movie Lakhpati (1991). 

 Anita Guha passed away at the age of 68 on 20th June 2007 in Mumbai.  

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

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