Saturday, May 26, 2001

The Himachali who shone in Bollywood
Anjali Mahajan

THIS is the story of a talented handsome actor of yesteryear from the remote village of Shageen in Taradevi, a suburb of Shimla. Late Pt Vijay Kumar has held the distinction of being the first Bollywood actor from Shimla to have played the leading roles with famous actresses like Lalita Pawar, Leela Chitnis, Kumari Kamlesh and Devika Rani. Incidentally, his wife, Kumari Tara, hailing from the Chail area, also worked as the leading lady with Pandit Vijay in the film Sajeev Moorti.

Vijay Kumar with his wife Tara in Sajeev MoortiOne of the top artistes of All-India Radio, Shimla, and the film world, Vijay Kumar was born on March 10, 1905, in Shageen village. His father Kanshi Ram was a prominent person of the village.

A brilliant student, Vijay Kumar did matriculation from Shimla and F.A. from Mahindra College, Patiala. He graduated in 1930 from S.D. College, Lahore, and passed his M.A.M.O.L. from Oriental College, Lahore, in 1932.

While studying in Lahore, the owner of the well-known premier Film Company was impressed by his towering personality and cast him as the leading actor for his film Dukhtarey Zamana, which was to be directed by famous director Gopal Krishan Mehta. Although this film did not do well at the box office, Vijay Kumarís talent was noticed and he got offers to work in other movies.

After completing his studies, he shifted to Mumbai and since then there was no looking back for this young and talented actor who did not have to struggle to make an entry into the film world.


In Mumbai, his first movie in the era of the talkies was Sajeev Moorti. In it, his wife, Kumari Tara, got a break and was cast opposite him. This is the first and the last movie in which the beautiful, shy and demure wife of Vijay acted. Vijayís role in Sajeev Moorti was greatly appreciated by the public.

The story of Kumari Tara is also very interesting. The fair, slim and beautiful Tara was born and brought up at Janerghat, near the princely state of Chail. She had four sisters. The Maharaja of Patiala, a lover of beauty, was charmed by the beauty of Taraís eldest sister and married her. The eldest sister took all her sisters, including Tara, to her palace in Patiala. At that time, Vijay Kumar was working as ADC to the Maharaja. It was in Patiala that the marriage of Vijay Kumar and Kumari Tara was solemnised.

In his next film Azadi produced by New Theatres, Vijay Kumar got an opportunity to write the script of the film and direct its music in addition to playing the lead role. The famous actress of yesteryear, Lalita Pawar, was the heroine. Under the banner of the famous New Theatres, Vijay acted as hero in many movies such as Sajeev Moorti and Abhagin. In Abhagin, Vijay Kumar worked with Kamlesh Kumari and Prithvi Raj Kapoor. He again acted as a hero in the film Shaadi ki Raat produced by Bhawani Productions.

In 1936, Devki Kumar Bose, director of the East India Film Company, noticed his talent and urged him to try his luck in Tollywood in Calcutta. There, Vijay Kumar acted in a number of films like Sunehra Sansar, Hari Kirtan and Meri Asha, which became box-office hits. His last film Meri Asha was produced by the East India Film Company.

In 1940, his film career came to an abrupt end when he got intimation about the serious illness of his father. He rushed to his home the same day. The protracted illness of his father kept him back in his native place and he could not return to Calcutta. His father expired in 1947 and the entire responsibility of looking after the ancestral property fell upon his shoulders. Thus he got absorbed in the handling of family affairs and the agricultural property.

The All-India Radio station at Shimla, which was set up in 1955, asked him to exhibit his talent there. Thus, a famous hero of Hindi movies remained associated with All-India Radio for a long time. During his stint with AIR, he wrote and directed many plays. At the same time he also acted in many plays at the famous Gaiety Theatre in Shimla.

The memories of the actor couple are still alive in the minds of Vijay Kumarís family members, who reside in the Nabha area of Shimla. Bimla, daughter of Vijay Kumar, says she still remembers the scene she had witnessed as a child when famous Bollywood actor Raj Kapoor had played Holi with her father and smeared his face with black colour. "It took three months for the black colour to fade away", happily recounts his daughter. She says Raj Kapoor had offered her father a role in Jagte Raho. But her father had expressed his inability to work in the film due to grave family circumstances, she adds.