Star of the week - MALA SINHA


Name: Alda Sinha
DOB: 1936
Occupation: Actress


• Mala Sinha is a former Bollywood actress who has worked in Hindi, Bengali and Nepali films. Recognised for her talent and beauty, she went on to become a top leading actress in Hindi cinema in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, starring in over a 100 film productions. Popular ones include Pyaasa (1957), Anpadh, Dil Tera Deewana(1962), Gumrah, Bahurani (1963), Gehra Daag, Apne Huye Paraye, Jahan Ara, Himalaya Ki God Mein (1965), Nai Roshni (1967), Aankhen (1968), Maryada (1971), her most successful film commercially, and Babu (1985).

• She was constantly paired in roles opposite Pradeep Kumar, Dharmendra, Raaj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Biswajit, Kishore Kumar, Manoj Kumar and Rajesh Khanna. She was the highest paid actress from 1958-65 with Vyjanthimala, and second with Vyjanthimala from 1966–67, and then shared the second spot with Sharmila Tagore from 1968-1971, and third position with Sadhana and Nanda in 1972-73. In most of her films from the 1960s, she got first billing in the credits.

• She did 10 films with Biswajit. In 2007, they won the Star Screen Lifetime Achievement Award and were called on stage together to receive a tribute to their popularity as a pair who tasted box office success.

Interesting facts:

• Mala Sinha was born into a family of Nepali origin to Madhesi parents, after they emigrated to West Bengal, India from the Madhesh plains. Her father's name was Albert Sinha who was a Nepali Christian.

• Mala's initial name was Alda and her friends at school in Calcutta used to tease her by calling her Dalda (a brand of vegetable oil), so she changed her name to Baby Nazma on getting her first assignment as a child artiste. As an adult actor, she changed her name to Mala.

• As a child she learnt dancing and singing. She used to sing for All India Radio but was not allowed to sing playback (even for herself) in the movies with the lone exception being 1972's Lalkar. But as a singer she has done stage shows in many languages from 1947-1975.

• Sinha started her career as child artist in Bengali films. Noted Bengali director Ardhendu Bose saw her acting in a school play and took permission from her father to cast her as a heroine in his Bengali film Roshanara (1952), her cinematic debut.

• After acting in a couple of films in Calcutta, Sinha went to Bombay for a Bengali film where she received offers for Hindi movies, too.

• Films such as Lai Batti (actor Balraj Sahni’s only directorial venture), Nausherwan-E-Adil, where she starred as the fair maiden Marcia in Sohrab Modi’s romance about forbidden love, and Phir Subah Hogi, which was an adaptation of Dosteovsky’s Crime and Punishment, established Mala Sinha's reputation as a versatile actress who took the maximum career risks by accepting unconventional roles.

• Guru Dutt cast Mala in Pyaasa in a role originally intended for Madhubala. Sinha performed in the relatively unsympathetic part of an ambitious woman who chooses to marry a rich man (played by actor Rehman) and have a loveless marriage, rather than a poor, unsuccessful poet; her impoverished lover (played by Dutt) whom she ditches. Pyaasa remains to this day a classic in the history of Indian cinema and a turning point for Sinha.

• Phir Subah Hogi (1958) and Yash Chopra's directorial debut Dhool Ka Phool (1959) elevated her into a major dramatic star. Mala also consistently did lead roles in Bengali films throughout 1950's to 1970's.

• In the latter and B.R. Chopra's Gumrah, she played the first unwed mother and adulterous wife respectively in Hindi cinema. Mala is noted for her strong women-oriented roles in films, too. As she grew older, she gracefully moved on to doing character roles that befitted her age until she retired in the 90s.