Asha Parekh is my favorite heroine in Hindi cinema. There, I’ve said it, and I’m carving it here in blog-stone for posterity. I should also say that in topping that list, she reigns over some of the most beautiful and talented women in film history! I am sure some will disagree with me, but my reasons for picking her are as many and varied as the films she starred in over a very long and distinguished career.
She is, when all is said and done, a woman you could steal horses with.
To begin with, she had great chemistry with every hero she was paired with—which was all the big stars of the 60s and early 70s. She even makes such milquetoasty guys as Biswajeet (Mere Sanam) and Navin Nischol (Nadaan) look good. She sparkles with Dharmendra (Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Shikar, Aaye Din Bahar Ke, Aaye Sawan Jhoom Ke):
Her favorite hero (and mine of course) was Shammi. They made some great films together: Dil Deke Dekho, Teesri Manzil, Pagla Kahin Ka (where is my DVD with subtitles, manufacturing people? where?!?) and a hit-or-miss one (Jawan Mohabbat), and she gained the reputation for being able to handle the rambunctious Rebel Star.
She co-starred too with his brother Shashi (Pyar Ka Mausam, Kanyadaan), with Joy Mukherjee, Sunil Dutt, Manoj Kumar. Not only actors, but directors loved to repeat her in their films too—she was known for her professionalism and dedication.
She could also really act. Equally adept at comedy or drama, she elevates every film she is in with her presence and her performance. I love how feisty her characters inevitably are, how stubborn, and how proud; she endows them with a warmth and charm which prevent them from being shrewish but make you cheer for them instead.
She has a positive gift for looking defiant!
(She gives great Nahiiiiiin! Face too, when she has to, which thankfully isn’t that often.)
She’s just plain fierce!
In real life, she stayed unmarried (like me!) (although there have been many rumors of a long affair with her frequent director Nasir Hussain). I’m sure her star status and her ability to support herself helped in this unconventional lifestyle, but it still can’t have been easy in a country where motherhood and “homely” pursuits are so valued.
She is certainly adept at onscreen flirtation!
She is often surrounded in her movies by a gaggle of loyal girlfriends—which her would-be suitor has to get past in order to woo her. They are fond of picnicking, and teasing and pulling pranks, but always rally around her when her heart is broken or the chips are down.
Today she says she meets her old friends Waheeda Rehman, Nanda, the actress Shammi, Sadhana and Vyjayantimala regularly to catch up. A girl needs her peeps, after all! Wouldn’t it be fun to hang out with these elegant ladies for an afternoon?
She doesn’t have a conventionally beautiful face, but I think she’s just gorgeous nonetheless. Her eyes especially always take center screen.
And kya style hai! She looks beautiful in jewel-colored churidars and chiffon saris.
She can even make hair bobbles (remember those?) and bad wigs look cute.
Many of these screen caps are from Aan Milo Sajna, where I think she absolutely leapt off the screen despite a few sartorial handicaps. I can’t bring myself to write up the film: it was so very dumb, although the songs, scenery, Rajesh and Asha were all stunningly beautiful.
She even looks cute in silly 1960s I’m-in-Kashmir pom-pom-bedecked snow gear.
And she’s a great dancer too! Be it classical, nautch girl, village celebration, or the Indian Twist, Asha did it, and made it look good.
Even if she was tiny, and dancing on an ashtray!
Here she is in Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki, in 1978 after more than two decades as a leading actress. True, Raj Khosla gives her the benefit of soft-focus lighting, but she is magnificent!
(Doesn’t she look a bit like Madhuri Dixit?)
I feel like I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the Awesomeness of Asha, but I hope I’ve at least convinced you that I have good reason to make her my favorite heroine. She’s funny, she’s fierce, she’s independent, she’s beautiful and stylish, and it’s a joy to watch her. Even though she no longer acts, she keeps herself busy—and she doesn’t seem to have changed much at all since she graced the silver screen. Here she is from earlier this year, with Dev Anand (uh…sorry Dev, it’s the only photo I could find!). She’s still got it! (and oh, how I would love to rummage through her sari collection).
Thanks, Asha P, for all the great entertainment you’ve given us.