Kumud Chhugani – A forgotten name from Bollywood 1960s

I was just searching for some Bollywood classics of 1960s, I got stuck with a horror thriller of 1965 – Poonam Ki Raat starring Manoj Kumar. I know, before he started the era of patriotic Bharat movies in the second half of 1960s with Upkar in 1967, the actor was quite known for suspense thrillers, apart from a few romantic hits. Woh Kaun Thi, Anita, Gumnaam, Sajan etc are some of the best suspense thrillers of 1960s with Manoj Kumar playing the male lead. Though I have heard a couple of Salil Chaudhury’s compositions from Poonam Ki Raat including the very haunting – Saathi Re earlier, I never watched it earlier. The movie is not ranked among Manoj Kumar’s best films either.

“Dil Aye Dil” song from Laadla

When I read its Wikipedia page, I felt that Nandini Bhaktavatsala is the female lead of the film. Let me add an interesting trivia about Nandini here, yet another forgotten name from past. I am not sure if Poonam Ki Raat is the debut and only Bollywood film of Nandini, whose character name too is Nandini in this movie. I have never watched her before. She is a National award winning actress, who won the award for 1973 Kannada film, Kaadu. She owns only these two films to her credit, as her Wikipedia page suggests.

Now let us comeback to Kumud Chhugani, who completed the love triangle with Manoj Kumar and Nandini in Poonam Ki Raat. When I watched the movie, I felt it to be familiar face. She has appeared in some popular songs of 1960s, though I have never watched any of her movies before. Dil Aye Dil of 1966 film Laadla and Yeh Parbaton Ke Daayere of Vaasna (1968) are memorable songs filmed on Kumud. Her big eyes are indeed lovely and she owns a beautiful face too.

“Yeh Parbaton Ke Daayere” Song from Vaasna

Poonam Ki Raat also has one duet of Mukesh & Lata Mangeshkar, filmed on Kumud – Tum Kaha Le Chale Ho Sajan Albele. Actually I heard this song most recently only. But I have earlier heard its Malayalam version for one film composed by Chaudhury. Quite interestingly Ee Ganam Marakkumo (1978) is also a suspense horror thriller released in 1970s, and a duet version too. The song Kurumozhi Mullappoove was recorded in the voices of Yesudas and Vani Jayaram (of Guddi fame), quite familiar names in Bollywood.

Extremely beautiful Kumud was introduced to the big screen by director Kishore Sahu

“Tum Kaha Le Chale Ho Sajan Albele” song from Poonam Ki Raat

She was introduced to the film scene as female lead by director Kishore Sahu through the horror suspense thriller, Poonam Ki Raat in 1965. Sahu produced the film, and also played a pivot role of a doctor in the film. The film had a thrilling and strong plot, but spoiled in writing. Many of its scenes looked odd. Manoj Kumar had just begun his journey with suspense thrillers when this movie got released. Success of his previous suspense thrillers – Woh Kaun Thi? (1964) and Gumnaam (1965) also couldn’t support this film belonging to same genre. The movie was given an Adults-Only certificate. That could be one among the reasons why this movie went unnoticed. Though it’s not a good film, it’s not a horrible film too.  

Manoj Kumar romanced Kumud Chhugani in this film, and movie’s parallel lead heroine, Nandini Bhaktavatsala completed this love triangle. Though the movie failed at box office, Kumud got a few film offers, mostly in the lead roles.

Why was she unsuccessful, despite owning good features of an actress?

Yes, she was indeed beautiful and had an innocent face. An honors graduate, she was trained in Bharathnatyam and Kathak. She also owned almost all features of a lead actress of 1960s. She had lovely, extremely beautiful and big eyes. She also got opportunity to work with some of the big stars of her time. Sometimes, I feel she has some kind of resemblance with her contemporaries, Babita and Vimi. Yet why couldn’t she make it big? What went wrong for her? Was she unlucky?

She was launched to film scene by Kishore Sahu, after signing a three-year contract. In those three years she can’t accept any other project. For the same reason, even if she was offered many good roles, she lost the opportunity. She started her career with a fresh beginning in the late 1970s through movies such as Vasana (1968), Shart (1969) etc, where she played parallel/second lead roles. She played main lead in 1970 film, Hamara Adhikar co-starring Dinesh Hingoo, Aruna Irani etc. Yet she couldn’t get one meaty role to propel her career. Luck too never worked in her favour.

With 1970s, she moved to character roles, and was active in film scene till 1986, with last film being Kismatwala in 1986, most probably. She acted in 22 films including one unreleased – Shabash Gangaram. She got opportunity to work with both the superstars in the first half of 1970s. She was seen in Amitabh Bachchan movie, Bandhe Haat. She also acted in Rajesh Khanna’s hit movies, Prem Nagar & Humshakal. Holi Ayee Re, Moojrim, Kismatwala, Bhakti Mein Shakti, Chunaoti, Resham Ki Dori, Karmyudh, Tangewala, Shaitaan, Dhyanu Bhagat etc are a few more movies in which she acted.

“Itni Nasuk Na Bano” song from Vasna

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A freelance writer and blogger by profession since October 2011, interested in writing over a wide range of topics. Hope you enjoy my writings. I belong to one of the beautiful places of the world, Kerala, nicknamed as 'God's own country'.

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