indian cinema heritage foundation

Kalpana Mohan

  • Real Name: Archana Mohan
  • Born: 18 July 1946 (Srinagar)
  • Died: 04 January 2012 (Pune)
  • Primary Cinema: Hindi
  • Spouse: Sachin Bhowmick
  • Children: Preeti Mansukhani

A filmography comprising of only 11 films notwithstanding, actress Kalpana Mohan’s journey in Indian cinema was colourful, glittering and melodious in equal part. Though she acted in a number of mega-hit films, Kalpana Mohan was never given due credit for these appearances. 

In 1962, the film Professor, for which the composer duo Shanker-Jaikishan wrote the music, created a huge stir. Songs from this film like “Khuli palak mein jhootha gussa band palak mein pyaar, jeena bhi mushkil, marna bhi mushkil”, and “Aye gulbadan aye gulbadan phoolon ki mehek kaanton ki chubhan”, “main chali main chali, peechhe peechhe jahaan, ye na puchho kidhar ye na puchho kahaan”, or “Aawaaz deke humein tum bulaao mohabbat mein itna na humko” became immensely popular, and remain memorable to this day. At the center of these songs, of course, was the lovely, sweet-faced Kalpana Mohan. 

Professor, however, was the second film Kalpana Mohan appeared in to be released. She debuted in Shakti Samanta’s Naughty Boy (1962), in which Kishore Kumar played the male lead. Kalpana had close ties to Kashmir, where she was born. Her father, Avani Mohan, was a freedom fighter. An active member of the All India Congress Committee, he was also very close to Jawaharlal Nehru. 

Out of her own interest, Kalpana started learning Kathak at a very young age. Once she had completed her training, she often performed at various events held at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. At one of these events, the actor Balraj Sahni and the Urdu writer Ismat Chughtai were impressed with Kalpana’s performance, and suggested that she come to Mumbai. Once she reached Mumbai, she received an offer for the film Picnic (1966), directed by Ismat’s husband, the filmmaker Shaheed Lateef

Shakti Samanta spotted Kalpana Mohan on the sets of Picnic, and immediately signed her for Naughty Boy. Word of the new heroine starring in both Picnic and Naughty Boy reached Lekh Tandon, and he cast her as the lead opposite Shammi Kapoor in his film Professor. The comedy film Naughty Boy did not make waves at the box office, but Professor (1962) was a huge hit, setting a new bar for success. After these, Kalpana acted in films like Pyaar Ki Jeet (1962) and Teen Devian (1965). Again, Teen Devian proved to be a musical hit film. However, the larger share of the triumph did not accrue to Kalpana. 

At the time, Kalpana was in love with the screenwriter Sachin Bhowmick. The two were soon married, only to separate within a short time. A few of Kalpana Mohan’s films were also released after this period, such as Teesra Kaun (1965), Pyaar Kiye Jaa (1966), Hrishikesh Mukherji’s Biwi Aur Makaan(1966), Tasveer (1966) and Nawab Sirajuddaula (1967). By this time, Kalpana had realized that the strict moral code imbued in her by her upright father had prevented her from wholly losing herself to the world of illusions cinema offered. With this in mind, she married an Indian Navy Officer, and withdrew from films completely. In the last few years of her life, Kalpana suffered from cancer, and succumbed to the disease on 4 January, 2012.