Vyjayanthimala, born August 13, 1936 is an Indian film actress, Bharathnatyam dancer, Carnatic singer, dance choreographer and parliamentarian. She is also regarded as the highest paid actress of her time. Regarded as the “First Female Superstar” of Indian cinema, Vyjayanthimala made her debut in the Tamil film Vazhkai as well as the Telugu film jeevitham in 1050. She later went on to become one of the most prominent actresses of South Indian cinema and in the golden era of Bollywood, was known as one of the iconic leading actresses of all time. Vyjayanthimala was one of the biggest Bollywood stars with her career lasting almost two decades. She was also the first South Indian actress to become a Bollywood star and paved a way for other South Indian actresses to foray into Bollywood. Additionally, she is known as the first star to completely change the standard and style of dancing in Indian cinema. It was because of her that Indian film actresses were later on expected to know classical dance. She became a very accomplished dancer at a young age and was the one who introduced semi-classical dance to Bollywood. Her subsequent dance numbers in her films had earned her the title of “Twinkle Toes”. After making her screen debut at the age of 13, she got her break into Bollywood and acted in movies such as Bahar and Ladki. Following the success of Nagin, Vyjayanthimala established herself as one of Bollywood;s leading actresses while also making appearances in successful Tamil and Telugu films. She then went on to appear in film devdas for which she won her first Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. However, she refused to accept the award citing that hers was not a supporting role. Thus she became the first person to refuse to accept a Filmfare Award. Following that, Vyjayanthimala appeared in a series of blockbuster films such as New Delhi, Naya Daur and Aasha. She reached the peak of her career in 1958, when two of her films Sadhna and Madhumati became huge critical and commercial hits. She subsequently was nominated for two Filmfare Awards for Best Actress for both her films but only won it for her film Sadhna. At this point, she made a comeback to Tamil films, where she received commercial success with Vanjikottai Vaaliban, Irumbu, Thirai, Baghdad, and Then Nilavu. Then, from 1962 onwards, most of her films performed either averagely or poorly at the box office. However, in 1964 with the success of Sangam, her career hit the peak again. Then, she again achieved universal acclaim for her performance in the film Amrapali, however, it was a huge box office failure, which left Vyjayanthimala, who had huge expectations from the film, disenchanted to the point where she decided to quit starring in films. In the end of her career, she was mostly seen in commercial successful films like Suraj, Jewel Thief and Prince. Besides acting, Vyjayanthimala’s main concentration was in Bharatnatyam, which is a form of Indian classical dance. After leaving Bollywood, she continued her dance career and was conferred with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the highest Indian recognition given to practising artists. Moreover, Vyjayanthimala is also an avid golfer and has served as chairperson of the 48th National Film Awards.
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