Did she really have an affair with RK or was it just a publicity gimmick?
Also, the tussle between RK and Dilip Kumar for her dates (or dates with her :) )
She was in a professional storm, trapped between her two heroes. In this exclusive excerpt of her new autobiography Bonding...A Memoir, Vyjayantimala Bali reveals how she felt caught between the egos of the two biggest stars of her era
Coming to the unfortunate salacious gossip that was generated during and after the release of Sangam, the fact of the matter was that RK was far too enamoured of getting publicity and grabbing the headlines.
And that included the rumours that I was romantically involved with him. It was all the manipulative doing of RK banner's PR drive and unnecessarily this nonsense spread like wild fire even before one could think of dousing those flames. Nobody from the media bothered to seek my point of view.
This was absolutely baseless and made me very angry. It hurt his family and my family in equal measure. Like others, even his family thought it to be true. And Yagamma and father were naturally very upset. But as far as my clean image and reputation was concerned, it remained untouched.
I had observed during those four years of the making of Sangam that RK was not obsessed about women like he had been made out to be. Of course, he had this creative compulsion to depict passionate scenes.
But this bit about catering to this image to show that he was always involved with the leading lady of his film (not outside, but only in his films) was definitely generated by RK Studio's publicity wing.
Exactly the way he came across as the Indian version of Charlie Chaplin in his acting, so he wanted to be like Chaplin in his own life too, trying to project wife on one side and mistress on the other.
So, a rumour here and there made for juicy stories, which boosted both his image and the prospect of his films. Obviously, this bit about RK being a womanizer and having affairs was all part of professional tactics, purely a stunt and propaganda.
He excelled in the art of publicity through word of mouth. At every step, he would call people to see the rushes, so that everybody only talked of Sangam. Maybe he did flirt a bit, but that was part of his personality.
As far as I was concerned, it was more than exaggerated. I know the truth and it is my conscience that makes me speak the truth. Of course, it affected me because I was very reserved and reclusive in my own way.
I was under the watchful eyes of Yagamma all the time. She censored everything. In fact, in one scene shot in the snow where the sledge slips and we roll down, she was very upset and questioned RK, "What is this?" And he said, "No, no, ammaji..." He was very convincing, touching her feet, and all that.
When I signed up with him, I knew about his glad eye and could make out that he was acting. I would still not say that everything about him was pretence, but yes everything revolved around him. He was very self-centered.
He would go out of the way to hype it to the hilt, which was good for the film, but not good for me. The RK bandwagon even went to the extent of saying that I was somehow related to the Maharaja of Mysore. What nonsense! How could they cast aspersions like this?
It was news to me that I belonged to the Mysore royal family. We only belonged to Mysore and the royal family was a great patron of art and hence this patronage. But once these rumours spread, there's no end to it.
There are plenty of mongrels around, always wanting to rake up something. Nobody at home thought it could be taken lightly, they were all so upset. It not only made my family feel disrespectful, but also brought disrespect to the royal family of Mysore.
They had been so nice to us and Yuvraj was very fond of my father. For no rhyme or reason, the press carried on the tirade without clarifying a single point with me.
Nobody ever bothered checking it out, because such rumours no matter how baseless are so glamorous for the media.
I just wasn't the kind to mix profession and pleasure. And knowing RK, they could easily say that, but what about verifying facts? It takes two to tango, but here it was all one sided. I should have been asked, otherwise I would not have fallen for Dr Bali, if I had anything going with RK.
Now one comes to the real crux of the matter. The genesis of this entire scandal that caused a stir was owing to the misconception that I was from the Dilip Kumar camp (having worked with him in a series of remarkable films), for I was simultaneously shooting for Leader as well.
Sangam took four years in the making between '61 and '64. My father and manager were organising the dates. I didn't know a thing about it. I had to go wherever my dates were. If they had any misunderstanding I did not know, nor was I interested.
The dates for Leader clashed with Sangam, because both wanted massive dates and my manager was chalking them out, and if I gave some dates to one movie, the other unit wanted the same date
I was oblivious to what the undercurrents between Dilip saab and RK were, but I was told it all got down to dates and led to this battle of wits between the two titans.
If I had to stay back late on the sets of Sangam, I would reach late for Leader, though they never started on time. It was a long wait. It was more of professional rivalry and I was caught in the crossfire, though I was giving equal dates to both the films.
It was a big hero here and a big hero there. It was more of an ego tussle. Filmalaya's Leader was the trade union stuff, carrying a very strong anti-communal message. And that particular number, Apni azadi ko hum hargiz mita sakte nahin...hit it off.
All that talk of my being pulled out of the 'Dilip Kumar camp' was news to me. I was blissfully unaware of all these machinations till it got blown up as a scandal. I was told the angle of RK-Vyjayanti team was gaining more importance and that the Dilip-Vyjayanti team was breaking up.
Since people's imagination was running riot, I was being unnecessarily hauled up. I was not privy to any kind of manipulation.
I was merely an artiste, who would work and cooperate with any director. But I was certainly heading for some more strange things happening in my cine career. Right after Leader, I had signed for Ram Aur Shyam with Dilip saab. It was being filmed in Madras.
I had done shooting for about eight days and on the last day of that schedule I went all dressed to the sets, but sensed something was amiss. There was a certain unfriendliness in the air.
As I wrapped up for the day to leave, the production assistant said that he wanted the forthcoming dates in writing. I told him that was not possible and as soon as I got back to Bombay, I would find out from my manager and let him know.
He said, "No, you'll have to sign this paper." I found it very strange and got on to the flight without signing anything.
Even going by pure logic, I was quite justified in doing that. It so happened that Sri Venus Krishnamurthy (with whom I had done Nazrana and Suraj), who was also a great family friend and guide, he too was on the same flight. I confided in him about what had transpired on the sets. He was surprised that I was not aware of the fact that I was being replaced.
"Don't you know, don't you know what has happened? Waheeda Rehman has taken over your role." I was flabbergasted and could not make head or tail of what this conspiracy was all about.
How was I to know that something was going on there? Now it was evident that they had sort of made up their mind regarding the change of guard in the film. They were looking for some lame excuse to pin me down, and then ease me out. No wonder, the atmosphere on the sets was so strange.
Doctor saab was there to receive me at the Bombay airport. By now, we had tied the knot. So I had his shoulder to cry on. He was baffled and taken aback as to why I was crying and not saying anything. It was Sri Krishnamurthy who told him that I had been replaced in Ram Aur Shyam and accused of being non-cooperative and throwing tantrums.
I was in for another shock. What tantrums, nothing had happened on the sets. And this sour episode again provided enough fodder for the media and acquired the dimension of a scandal. I told my husband this was disgraceful, and why should I be replaced, since they were the ones who wanted me to take up this role. I did not go to them, they came to me.
Sri Krishnamurthy also told us that they had not dismantled the sets and were redoing the shoot of those eight days. Meanwhile Dilip saab took Pran, Nirupa Roy, and the other cast into confidence that they were witness to my outbursts on the sets.
How did it matter to Dilip saab as all this was being done at his bidding? And since the owner of Vijaya Studios was the producer too, he could have hired any set any time for as many numbers of days.
So, we made it a professional issue that it was unfair and unethical on their part to throw me out the film. My husband went and spoke to Manmohan Krishan, president of the Cine Artists' Association, about the injustice done to me.
They sought legal redress and got a stay against Ram Aur Shyam. The shooting came to a halt. And the very next day, the producer sent his ambassador, who came running to apologise and literally touched our feet. He requested us to withdraw the suit.
My husband agreed and told me that he did not want to take it any further. I was compensated and paid my dues for the number of days I had put in.
But this sungharsh (struggle) wasn't over yet, for ironically, at the same time I was also shooting for Sungharsh with Dilip saab. It was being shot in Bombay.
I gathered that the idea was to replace me there too with Waheeda, and the rushes were being shown giving the impression that I was the one who was going to quit. This was a very handy tool for them, but I knew I was being falsely charged for no fault of mine. In any case, three- quarters of Sungharsh was over and it was near completion.
Now the press created some more mischief by playing up that there was tension between the two of us during the shoot of Sungharsh. I've never had that kind of pride or ego - never. One always delivered and gave results.
By now, HS Rawail, the director of the film, had panicked and he came with folded hands, "I am not a financier or a studio owner. I cannot afford to change the heroine now.
Please aap meri picture ko mat rokeeyega, nahin to main barbad ho jaoonga." (Please don't stop my film, or I will get ruined). We told him, "Who wants to change the heroine now that Sungharsh is near completion." And then my husband put his foot down and told him categorically, "She did not quit from Ram Aur Shyam.
Nor does she want to give you any trouble. She also wants to complete the film. But she'll not sit through the whole night, or do any extended shootings. You start bang on time and finish on time. She'll finish her work and leave by six." It was a very awkward situation, but I was duty-bound to cooperate with the director and finish his film.
Co-starring Dilip Kumar and Balraj Sahni, Sunghash was a film about family feuds and revenge. It was an engaging subject depicting the thugee cult, and Rawail turned Gulzar's dialogues, each character and each sequence into a solidly made drama.
After all that hoo-ha, on the first day of the resumption of the shoot, the press was in full attendance looking for some real tamasha on the sets. I was in my make-up room when my husband came over and met Dilip saab for a man-to-man chat.
He told him, "You both have made such good pair in such successful films, then why is it that her image is being tarnished now? Don't keep the gun on somebody else's shoulder and fire." And Dilip saab said, "No Doctor saab, she is a wonderful artiste.
We've worked together, and it was great working with her. But of late you know, she's been throwing tantrums and not being cooperative." Doctor saab stood his ground and reacted saying, "That's not true. She's very sincere in her work and most cooperative." And Dilip saab responded saying, "I know, but I am a director's actor, whatever he tells me to do I perform accordingly."
Rawail was walking on needles, panting and sweating. So he got the sets cleared of the journalists, who were there deliberately to watch those scenes, for so much had been blown out of proportion that we had fallen apart. The opening shot was a romantic scene. It was quite embarrassing as the director asked me to sit next to Dilip saab.
He did not know how to face me, but he was very formal and cordial. So was I. It doesn't show in the film because both of us were absolute professionals. The whole thing was funny, as we were not on talking terms, and we had to enact the scene so realistically.
He was supposed to be holding me. Anyway, we both wanted to get it over with. So as soon as the rehearsal got over, the director said, "Malaji, shot karein kya?" and I gave the shot. He was so scared that I might just leave. Rawail saab saw to it that he completed all my solo shots and the combined ones with Dilip saab before 6 pm, and my shooting got over.
You've to be so precise when you are putting on an act, and it was precisely 'film acting' that I was doing. Here was another lesson in core professionalism that one had to remain focused despite any misunderstanding with the co-star.
If I have to do a shot, then I should only think about the shot, and my personal feelings or problems should not come into play. Since we are trained to switch on and switch off, nothing should linger on. Just do your job and not get emotionally involved. That's professionalism! And here was a sterling example. I did my dubbing and the film got over.
I did not talk to Dilip saab during the remaining shoot of the film. In fact, for years, I did not speak to him, even when we met at parties, I wouldn't even look at him, though my husband and Dilip saab would chat away merrily. And later, when I confronted Doctor saab, he told me with a big grin, "You women have the brains of a frog.
" But whenever I met his wife Saira Banu, she was always nice to me. At a Delhi party, she told me, "Yeh kya hai? You both teamed so well, made such great films together.
Even my mother was so fond of you." She took me to Dilip saab and we greeted each other. At the same party, we had some friends in common, and they too advised, "Kya bachpana hai! (How childish!) You should make up."
Then one fine day Saira called me up at Madras, "Oh main aapko yaad kar rahi thee (I was remembering you). We must have dinner together when you're in Bombay." She asked me when I was coming next and then added, "Why carry it on forever?
Now everything is forgotten and forgiven." Well, I don't think of myself that mighty to forgive anybody. It is only God who forgives. I think I have tried to forget. There are certain actions or behaviour patterns, which don't complement your stature. Dilip saab's unprofessional attitude was untenable.
There was no personal problem between us, we shared such good chemistry on the screen. At that time, as a serious artiste, it was not my pride that was hurt, but I protested against the lack of ethics in a person who was such a great legend. There has to be inherent belief in a certain ethos.
At times, even grace and sincerity take a knock - like what happened in Sangam and Ram Aur Shyam. It was really below the caliber of those two giants of Indian cinema. Today, of course, I just laugh it away. One moves on. I still don't know why that misinformation was being circulated and why they did what they did - and now I'm not interested in knowing about it either.