Bina Rai: Bollywood star of the 1950s and 1960s

Bina Rai was a leading Hindi cinema actress of the 1950s and 1960s admired for her elfin charm and versatility. Beautiful and talented but slightly introverted, Rai made fewer films than her contemporaries tended to. "I believe in quality, not quantity," she said, and many of the 30 or so films she made were critically acclaimed and commercially successful.

There was a regal aura about Rai, who is particularly remembered for her performances in classic films such as Anarkali (1953), Ghunghat (1960) and Taj Mahal (1963). Ghunghat, directed by Ramanand Sagar, brought the Filmfare Award for Best Actress despite Asha Parekh's substantial role in the film. "A woman of rare elegance, she was like a queen on and off the screen," Parekh said of her. "She wasn't quite like the average film person. She always appeared to be different and detached. But what an actress!"

Rai acted opposite the handsome Pradeep Kumar in these three blockbusters and a couple of other films; theirs was one of the most popular pairings in the history of Hindi cinema. Rai did not have such good chemistry with the brother-in-law of the actor-director Raj Kapoor, the dashing Prem Nath, with whom she worked in a few films, notably Anarkali, and Aurat (both 1953), the latter a Bollywood version of the Biblical tale of Samson and Delilah. However, the two fell in love during the making of Aurat, and married and set up their own production unit, P.N. Films.

Shagufa (1954), with Rai and Nath in lead roles, was its first offering. The starry-eyed lovers of Aurat had pinned high hopes on their first independent venture, but Shagufa failed at the box office; neither Rai's ethereal beauty nor Nath's touching portrayal of a doctor could save it. Prisoner of Golconda, Samunder and Watan, which followed, were also flops.

Bina Rai was born on 4 June 1936 into a conservative family in Lucknow in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. As a first-year arts student at Isabella Theodore College in Lucknow in 1950, she saw an advertisement for a contest for talented actors. On an impulse she applied and, to her surprise, received a call from the sponsors.

She won the contest, held in Mumbai, and along with a staggering prize (in those years) of $500. The veteran actor and producer Kishore Sahu offered her the lead role in his film Kali Ghata. Though Rai had acted in some plays in college, she had never dreamt of appearing on screen. She was tempted by the offer but her parents did not want to let her act in films. She went on hunger strike until her parents gave in.

Kali Ghata (1951), which launched her film career, was only moderately successful, though her beauty did not go unnoticed. The same was the fate of her next two films, Shole and Aurat with Ashok Kumar and Nath respectively, which came two years later.

Her fourth release, Anarkali, made her a star. It was based on the legend of the Mughal emperor Jahangir, and Rai's eponymous, sensitive portrayal of the ill-fated dancing girl in love with the crown prince Salim had the critics gasping. Anarkali was the top-grossing Hindi film of its year and one of the biggest hits of the 1950s.

Rai was offered what became a celebrated role, the prostitute and dancer Chandramukhi in the 1955 classic Devdas opposite the reigning superstar of that time, Dilip Kumar. But she refused, saying it was beneath her dignity to play what she called an "immoral" character. She stopped acting after her last film Daadi Maa (1966), claiming that "women of a certain age don't get good roles". Her husband, who later emerged as a ferocious and much sought-after Bollywood villain, died in November 1992.

Her son Prem Kishen tried his luck at acting then became a television producer, while her grandson Siddharth Malhotra directed the successful medical television drama Sanjivani in 2004.

Haresh Pandya



Bina Rai, actress: born Lucknow, India 4 June 1936; married Prem Nath (died 1992; two sons); died Mumbai 6 December 2010.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links