Mala Sinha’s exuberant persona glitters bright amongst the galaxy of stars of Bollywood that once held the audiences spellbound. In the 50s and 60s, Mala Sinha by virtue of her looks and talent created such a persona that, in a man dominated industry she was treated equally with her male partner co-stars, when others of her ilk, had to make do with subordinating roles.
Mala Sinha was born on 11th November 1936 in Nepal. Ardhendu Bose, a noted Bengali film director saw her perform in a school play, and cast her in a Bengali film Roshanara (1952). Yet another Bengali film made her land up in Mumbai and she went into the tutelage of Geeta Dutt . Geeta Dutt further introduced her to her husband, Guru Dutt, and well-known film maker Kedar Sharma. Kedar Sharma cast her as a heroine in a less known film Rangeen Ratein. Badshah(1954), a not so noteworthy film followed.
It was not till the Pyaasa (1957)—the immortal classic of Guru Dutt happened that Mala Sinha finally got a strong foothold in the film city. The immense success of the film made Mala Sinha, a cynosure of many an eye and what followed was a decade and a half of prolific filmmaking. Soon she found herself opposite to the great Raj Kapoor in Parvarish (1958), Phir Subah Hogi (1958) and Main Nashein Mein Hoon (1959). She will be always known for pensive picturisation of song Woh Subah Kabhi to Aegi in Phir Subha Hogi. The same year she performed in Dev Anand’s Love Marriage (1959) and BR Chopra’s Dhool Ka Phool (1959). At this stage, she went full throttle into films and did many small films with big names and big films with small names. Anpadh, Hariyali aur Raasta and Dil Tera Deewana (1962) are said to be her greatest movies. She featured in B R Chopra's super hit Gumraah (1963). In the intervening period she did 10 films with Biswajeet. With Dharmendera in Aankhen (1968) Mala Sinha captivated the world with her ‘chinky looks’ taking on the role of a Japanese girl. Who can forget the tantalising Mala Sinha singing Gairon pe karam apnon pe sitam, in a role that spelled an apotheosis of quintessential Mala Sinha.
By doing Dillagi with Sanjay Khan and Sanjog with Amitabh Bachchan she almost covered the entire spectrum of stalwarts of 50s and 60s but nowhere was she seen playing second fiddle to her male counterparts. At the height of her career she is said to have a refused a role opposite Dileep Kumar in Ram Aur Shyam, just because she had to twist and bend herself to fit the character. Who else could resist such an offer against the doyen of Indian cinema but Mala Sinha. Subsequently, she won rave reviews for her pairing with Rajesh Khanna in Maryada and as the grey-haired wife of Sanjeev Kumar in Zindagi. Khel (1992) was her swan song until and unless she dons the mantle once again for a grandma’s role. Her persona oozed perfect feminine beauty and she had a powerful and domineering feminine presence as of a queen.
1966 happened to be a fateful year for Mala Sinha. She acted in a Nepali film Maiti Ghar opposite C P Lohani. She married Lohani immediately after the film. A girl, Pratibha, was born of the wedlock. Pratibha too dabbled with cinema when in her twenties but could not produce a single perfomance that was pale shadow of her mother’s towering personality.
Mala Sinha leads an intensely private and satisfied life in her sprawling Bandra bungalow avoiding arclights. Being deeply religious her days are spent in chanting Lord’s mantras.