Nepali beauty Mala Sinha was often teased, called 'Dalda'; here's why

Farhana Farook
·Contributor
·6-min read
Nausherwan-E-Adil
Nausherwan-E-Adil

On Mala Sinha’s 84th birthday, here are some interesting facts about the veteran.

Madan Mohan and Lata Mangeshkar’s melodic Aap ki nazron ne samjha (Anpadh) owes its timelessness as much to the ethereal Mala Sinha on which it was filmed. Just as the vibrant Hum aapki aankhon mein in Pyaasa, in an otherwise plaintive album, derives its mojo from heroine Mala.

Dhool Ka Phool
Dhool Ka Phool

Later, Yash Chopra’s Dhool Ka Phool had her play an unwed mother, while B. R. Chopra’s Gumrah cast her as a married woman, who pines for her ex-lover. Both films debunked the ‘Sati Savitri’ model, heralding Mala as an actor unapologetic about playing a flawed heroine.

With Dharmendra in Aankhen
With Dharmendra in Aankhen

She blended as beautifully into the colour era. The much-married Mala wowed as the Indo-Japanese spy in Aankhen (1968), sashaying in a glamorous gown in Gairon pe karam apnon pe sitam.

Matching superstar Rajesh Khanna’s gestures with her own brand of coquetry in Chupke se dil de de (Maryada), she reworked sexy in chiffon sarees and butterfly blouses… long before Yash Chopra took his heroines to the Alps.

From Ashok Kumar to Amitabh Bachchan, Mala’s two-decade career saw her team up with the best. And much like the dignity she lent to her career; the phase-out was as graceful…

We celebrate the legendary Mala Sinha’s birthday by bringing you some facts about her…

With Bharat Bhushan in Jahanara
With Bharat Bhushan in Jahanara

Of Nepali origin, Mala Sinha was born and brought up in Kolkata. Hence, she’s often mistaken for a Bengali. Called Alda Sinha in school, it irked her when friends teased her as ‘Dalda’ (a ghee brand).

Her name was changed to Mala Sinha when she became a child artiste in Bengali films like Jai Vaishno Devi, Roshanara and Dhooli in the 50s.

Mala also sang for All India Radio. Much later in her career, she sang the Mere mehboob number in Ramanand Sagar’s Lalkar (1972).

When filmmaker Amiya Chakravarty came across a photograph of young Mala in Filmfare, he signed the pretty girl for a three-film contract. But after Badshah (1954) flopped, he cancelled the contract.

With Waheeda Rehman in Pyaasa
With Waheeda Rehman in Pyaasa

Things changed thanks to Geeta Dutt’s benevolence. Those days, filmmaker S Mukerji used to hold a huge Durga ustav. Geeta asked Mala to act in a play there. An impressed Guru Dutt, signed her up for Pyaasa (1957).

Balraj Sahni’s directorial Lai Batti (1957), Sohrab Modi’s Nausherwan-E-Adil (1957) and Ramesh Saigal’s adaptation of Dosteovsky’s Crime And Punishment, Phir Subah Hogi (1958), established Mala as an avant garde actor. But it was Yash Chopra’s directorial debut, Dhool Ka Phool, (1959), the story of an unwed mother, which made her a star.

A trio of hits in 1962, Anpadh, Hariyali Aur Raasta and Dil Tera Deewana was followed by the iconic Gumraah (1963), a tale of infidelity. Sahir Ludhianvi’s Chalo ek baar phir se from the film, having autobiographical overtones, has become the hymn of unfulfilled love.

Mala was offered producer-actor Om Prakash Jahan Ara (1964) on Meena Kumari’s behest, who believed Mala had all the adas of a Muslim girl.

Between the ’60s and ’70s, Mala gave hits like Phool Bane Angaare with Raaj Kumar, Hariyali Aur Rasta and Himalaya Ki God Mein with Manoj Kumar and Geet and Lalkar with Rajendra Kumar. With Biswajeet, she enjoyed an iconic pairing in 10 films including Aasra, Night In London, Do Kaliyaan, Paisa Ya Pyaar and Phir Kab Milogi.

Biswajeet and Mala Sinha in Night In London
Biswajeet and Mala Sinha in Night In London

“I couldn’t be over friendly with my heroes. It was only kaam se matlab… I wouldn’t share my number with anyone. It was switch on and switch off…. No one dared to crack naughty jokes in my presence. They’d say Gurkhan aagayee!” she once said.

She played a double role with newcomer Rajesh Khanna in Maryada (1971). For the song Gussa itna haseen hai with Rajesh, she had worn a backless choli. Mala once revealed that when she stepped out of the make-up room, she heard someone whistle. It was Rajesh, who complimented her good-naturedly saying, “Kya patakha lag rahi ho!”

With Amitabh Bachchan in Sanjog
With Amitabh Bachchan in Sanjog

Her co-star in Sanjog (1971), a remake of K Balachender’s Iru Kodugal, was the extremely punctual Amitabh Bachchan. Fearing his sense of discipline, Mala would begin her make-up at 6 am. Then she’d rush to the studio only to find him sitting on the stool with the studio guard waiting for the unit!

Mala regrets not being able to work with thespian Dilip Kumar though she was offered Mumtaz’s role in Ram Aur Shyam (1967). She was busy with South films then.

While shooting for her only Nepali film, B S Thapa’s Maitighar (1966), she got to know her co-star Chidambar Prasad Lohani. Though in the customs, Chidambar was asked to act in the film given his good-looks.

Her father, Albert Sinha, wanted a pahadi, a Nepali like them for a groom. Mala and Chidambar got married in 1966. A long-distance marriage worked for them, with Chidambar looking after his business in Kathmandu and Mala in Mumbai with their daughter Pratibha.

“My husband understood my passion for work. I couldn’t be confined to the kitchen. I was not the club going type either. I’d have gone crazy. There would have been friction. So, he let me work,” she was quoted saying.

Mala graduated to character roles between the late ’70s -’80s in films like 36 Ghante, Zindagi, and Karmayogi. She was last seen in Zid (1994). She was extremely attached to her father.

“After every shot, I’d look at Baba for approval. He’d sleep in the same bedroom as mine on outdoors. He’d wait outside, when I used the washroom,” she once confided. After he passed away in 1987, Mala lost the enthusiasm to act.

The veteran lives in a bungalow at Turner Road in Bandra. Today, the expansive residence is home to countless strays and pets, which daughter/actor Pratibha is passionate about. Mala often visits Nepal, where her husband Chidambar Prasad Lohani has a resort-like home.

With a strong faith in Jesus Christ and Mother Mary, Mala’s turned deeply spiritual. Not a regular church-goer, she believes prayer is ‘conversation’ rather than rituals.