Jaya Bachchan’s debut film as heroine brought us an eminently likable character. Reel and real combined to give us a ‘Guddi’ for the ages.
Her petite frame packs quite a punch. A diminutive bundle of talent, Jaya Bachchan, née Bhaduri, came into the industry like a breath of fresh air. She endeared herself to her fans with her ease in front of the camera, her twinkling eyes and her brilliant smile. A Satyajit Ray discovery when still in her teens (Jaya made her debut in Ray’s Mahanagar), Jaya went on to join FTII. It was here that Hrishikesh Mukherjee would sign her for the role that would forever enshrine her as ‘Guddi’.
Jaya was in her early twenties when she played 15-year-old Kusum, the titular ‘Guddi’ of the film. Her performance as the star-struck teenager who matures into a young woman would take filmdom by storm. Audiences found they could relate to Guddi; she was a personification of their fandom.
‘Guddi’ became so intertwined with Jaya’s personality that her subsequent roles in Upahaar, Parichay, Mili, etc., became extensions of that character. It says much for Jaya’s innate talent that she refused to be stereotyped. Instead, within the constraints of each ‘girlish’ character, Jaya worked hard to etch different personalities. In a world populated by bouffant hairstyles and winged eyeliners, Jaya’s unpretentious simplicity became her USP.
Her effervescent laughter and the girl-next-door vibe were her assets. An instinctive knack of mining the intricacies of her characters made her performances hit all the right notes. Who can forget her turn as the deaf-mute wife and mother in Gulzar’s Koshish? Jaya proved that one doesn’t need dialogue to reach out to an audience. Her expressive face registered every ripple of emotion felt by a disabled person fighting against the odds.