Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Kalpana Kartik : Luck By Chance

In the recent past I have made an interesting observation. The greatest truths of life dawn upon me when I am indulging in my favourite guilty pleasure - you Tubing. The last time it was the discovery of the phenomenal talent called Dr Chaudhury, this time it is the realisation of the phenomenal luck of Kalpana Kartik.
For those who have been weaned on the trivia of Indian cinema it is a known fact that Kalpana Kartik was a one-time actress who ended up as screen legend Dev Anand's wife. For those who are tuned in to me and my preferences it is a known fact that I was a one-time fan of the same screen legend Dev Anand (before you put two and two together, that is not the luck factor that I allude to here). For those who are not tuned in to either to my whims or to the bylines of Indian cinema, this will not be making much sense, so to un-complicate matters I shall start at the very beginning.

We can start in the 1949-50 frame. Mona Singha was a student of the prestigious St Bedes college in Shimla. In her graduation year, she participated in the Ms Shimla contest, and as luck would have it she bagged the trophy and also the attention of a struggling film-maker from Bombay . The director was an erudite man and he managed to convince her otherwise elitist family to allow her to accept his offer of joining his fledgling film company as a leading lady. Thus, Mona Singha was re-christened Kalpana Kartik and she moved to Bombay. Film history tells us Kalpana Kartik was the wrong person, in the right place at the right time. It was Chetan Anand who brought her to Bombay to join his film company Navketan, that he ran along with Dev Anand, his younger brother. Her first film 'Baazi' was a huge success and went on to become a landmark in Indian cinema. 'Baazi' was a gamble that defined the destinies of many luminaries all of whom got a career boost from the film. All this was about the 'right place' and 'right time' part of it. The 'wrong person' part of it is that Ms Kartik's contribution to the success or legendary status of the film would probably count at #50, (after spot boy #5).
Anyway, the year was 1951. Six years, six films, a marriage and a baby later, Kalpana Kartik had retired from limelight forever. She settled into her role as Mrs Dev Anand and her only contact with films was in being credited as 'Associate Producer' for all Navketan Films (which, I think was a good excuse to keep an eye on her husband). In the later years she completely disappeared from public life and became a recluse. It was rumoured that the Anand marriage ran through many problems driving her towards religion with the zeal of a fanatic. She is still married to Dev Anand but keeps a strong distance from his public life.

So that is her story. Now you would ask, where is the luck there? Surely being the most forgettable component in some of the most unforgettable films is not 'lucky'. And however much the smitten grandmother might disagree, being Mrs Dev Anand is not really a piece of fantastic luck either (a woman who has a husband who wears orange trousers and a yellow shirt cannot possibly consider herself lucky - look left).

So then where is the luck? This is where a little musical bent of mind comes handy.
Kalpana Kartik, became a part of Navketan when it was beginning to spread it's wings. She was associated with the film company during it's most momentous years. She started with 'Baazi', the debut of Guru Dutt and ended with 'Nau Do Gyarah', the debut film of Vijay Anand! Between these two films came 'Taxi Driver', which was the 'coming of age' film of the Navketan banner. It was Navketan's first super-success and also the film on whose sets Dev Anand secretly said 'I do' to Ms Kartik making them Man and Wife (an event that apparently still haunts her, see 'Taxi Driver still haunts Kalpana Kartik' ). Her time in Navketan saw four different directors take reign - Guru Dutt, Chetan Anand, Mandi Burman and Vijay Anand. Musically it was the period of the mighty SD Burman and his memorable partnership with Sahir and Majrooh. She was also the heroine of the only two films for which the sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan composed music. If one sets out to make a list of songs picturized on Kalpana Kartik, it is likely that the count would stop before fifteen. The wonder is that the top ten of those fifteen songs could give any legendary song a run for it's money.

That is what makes Kalpana Kartik extremely lucky. For an actress whose acting skills were less than adequate, screen charisma quite limited and filmography a mere six films, her visibility from a musical perspective is extremely high. Unwittingly she has landed up with a bite-size of musical history that is not backed with justifiable talent or charisma. There have been other lesser actresses down the ages who gained a lot of visibility because they became the muse of a great director. Sandhya of 'Jal Bin Machhili Nritya Bin Bijli' fame is one such case, Priya Rajvansh is another such case (Actually Sandhya and Priya Rajvansh had a genius of their own, that only a priviledged few, such as yours truly, can spot, but that is a topic for another day). For now, lets be content to cite them as examples of not so popular actresses getting a large bite of cinematic history thanks to the over-active hormones of some otherwise legendary directors. Sandhya was V Shantaram's muse and Priya Rajvansh, as we know, Chetan Anand's. But Kalpana Kartik is different. She was not the muse of any of the great directors she worked with, Dev Anand gives no indication of her even being his 'produceral' muse . (the only real muse Dev Anand has ever had as a producer-director is himself), talent she lacked in great quantities, yet she managed to garner such an enviable booty!
To prove my point I showcase ten gems that will ensure Kalpana Kartik a permanent place under the sun. If this is not 'Luck by Chance' what else is?
Click on the links to view the songs on youTube
1. Phaili Hui Hain Sapno Ki Baahen (House # 44) - This song arguably is the finest effort from the SDB-Lata team. If I were Ms Kartik I would be honored to be within sniffing distance of this song. And she actually had the song created for her!. Though most people who have watched this song wish they had never seen it. Her PT exercises tell you that some people stretch their luck too far. In his auto-biography Dev Anand mentions of hallucinating about his wife singing this song in a far away meadow long after the romance had gone out of their life.
2. Aakhon Mein Kya Ji (Nau Do Gyarah) : A fine Asha-Kishore duet from the pen of Majrooh Sultanpuri, this is a sizzler. The chemistry between Dev Anand - Kalpana Kartik on screen and Kishore - Asha off screen sizzles as does the chemistry between Dada Burman and Majrooh Saab in the music room.
3. Aaja Panchhi Akela Hai (Nau Do Gyarah): When it comes to Nau Do Gyarah, the choice between the duets is always a difficult one. If we have a vibrant Kishore-Asha in one end we have this extremely cute Rafi-Asha duet on the other side. Dada Burman shows another ace up his sleeve.
4. Kali Ke Roop Mein (Nau Do Gyarah) : Even though this duet is lesser known, it is not any less of a delight. With a deft picturisation by Vijay Anand and spirited performance by Dev Anand and Kalpana Kartik, the duet is a joy to watch. Majrooh saab is cheeky and classy all at the same time.
5. Dhalki Jaaye Chundariya (Nau Do Gyarah) : Even though this song does not get that much air-time, it is a good candidate for the best songs that Dada Burman ever composed for Asha. With beautiful sitar interludes interspersed with whistling, the song is breezy and extremely romantic. Vijay Anand’s picturisation plays on the romance between the newly married Dev Anand and Kalpana Kartik making the song extremely endearing.
6. Peeche Peeche Aake (House # 44): A lovely and breezy Hemant-Lata duet that is a quiet winner.
7. Teri Duniya Mein Jeene Se (House #44) : No Hemant Kumar list could be complete without this song. Hemantda at his swoony best, the little humming by Asha in the beginning is picturized on Kalpana Kartik
8. Jaayen to Jaayen Kahan (Taxi Driver): The crowning glory of the Taxi Driver score that got SD Burman his first Filmfare award. The Talat version is the more famous one, but the Lata one endures (in my opinion ofcourse). Ms Kartik, does an adequate job with the on-screen depiction. 'Adequate' was actually her keyword. It worked well for Dev Saab as well, since it did not take the focus off him.
9. Aaj Ki Raat Piya (Baazi) : Tender and romantic, sung by a young Geeta Roy. This song is from Baazi a film that not only launched many faces, but also launched many romances. Guru Dutt and Geeta Roy behind the screen and Dev Anand and Kalpana Kartik in front.

10. Ghanshyam ke hain ghanshyam nayan (Aandhiyan) : Even though this song and the film have disappeared from public memory, the vintage film buff still holds the soundtrack in very high regard. One of the two forays of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan in film music (the other being Humsafar, also featuring Kalpana Kartik) the music befits the legendary status of the ustaad. This song is sung by Lakshmi Shankar and the beautiful lyrics are by Pandit Narendra Sharma. Ghanshyam ke hain ghansyam nayan, man mora bana man mor sakhi - only Narendra Sharma could write lyrics like these.

See Also


  1. I am glad you clarified because I was beginning to think that Kalpana Karthik's luck-by-chance was marriage to Dev A! I looooooove Phaili hui hain (and all other songs from House #44) though its picturisation just didnt match up to the sheer beauty of the song. She certainly landed some of the most beautiful songs ever, but had she not been Mrs. Dev A, I doubt that anybody would've recognised the actress those songs were picturised on!

    And Sandhya and Priya Rajvansh had some hidden genius? Like - they couldnt deliver dialogues to save their lives or even look pretty (only in Sandhya's case)?

  2. @ Bollyviewer:

    :). You are right, actually people remember KK's name because of her status as Mrs Dev A. I cannot think anyone would remember her for any of her own skills. Given the opportunities she got, she could have been really big had she the right qualities. That's why I said, 'wrong person' and right place and right time!

    As far as Sandhya and Priya Rajvansh are concerned... sigh, the two most underrated actresses in India cinema. It's just that people assess them using the wrong parameters. One has to look at them from the unintentional comedy angle. It takes a genius to be like them :)

  3. Undiscovered geniuses, were they? rofl what a hilarious idea!

  4. There are so many who fit the bill 'wrong person, right place and right time'. Downright bad actors/actresses and/or ugliness personified. And substantial number of them were able to get a foot in the door on account of rampant nepotism - Baap Bete/Beti, Mama Bhanja/Bhanji, Chacha Bhatija/Bhatiji, Bhai Bahen and what have you.

  5. Interesting well written article. You might find it interesting that both the Anand brothers Chetan & Dev were in love with Kalpana at the same time. Dev & Kalpana reportedly 'eloped' from the sets of "Taxi Driver", got married and came back to the set to continue the shoot (all in a days work!). Raj Khosla actually encouraged the couple to get married asap since he was aware of Chetan's interest in Kalpana. What attracted both Dev & Chetan to Kalpana at the same time is a mystery i have never been able to fathom.

    Personally i never found anything remotely interesting about Kalpana. Her movies with Dev and her 'associate producer' status with Navketan are the only reminders of her existence (to me).


  6. Anand (Tiwari, I assume!). While, the midnight marriage on the sets of Taxi Driver is a well documented fact, this tidbit of Chetan Anand having a soft corner for KK is certainly news! I have never come across that anywhere. Where did you pick that up from? CA was ofcourse much married and father of two to the boot at that time, but when did that stop directors from falling in love with their muse?. Another interesting angle then would be, is that why Chetan Anand left Navketan soon after Taxi Driver?

    As far Kalpana Kartik is concerned, she is the heroine of Nau Do Gyarah, one of my favourite Dev Anand films and I think Vijay Anand did get a charming performance out of her. The rest of her performances are quite forgettable. From the interest she generated in the Anand family, it is obvious that her real charms are not apparent on screen :)

    Have you read Dev Anand's auto-biography?

  7. Ritu,

    I came across the Chetan-Dev-Kalpana love triangle in an issue of 'Sushma' which i still have in India (maybe the next trip should be dedicated to get all the old mags here). The same article also mentions considerable tension between Chetan and Dev on the sets. A particular scene was also mentioned as an example wherein Dev wanted the scene to be shot in a certain way and Chetan could not artistically agree to it. The altercation led to Chetan requesting Goldie to take the shot. I do not at this time remember which scene it was in the movie.

    Dev had a falling out with his good friend Raj Khosla too although they made up after several years. I believe the fight happened after "Bombai ka Babu". Raj narrates his problems with Suchitra and her husband as well and how threatend to beat Mr Sen up with his chappals!

    I did read Dev's autobiography. I was not satisfied. I felt he did not do ample justice to the '40s- early '70s period but maybe it was the fact that my expectation was too high. That said i would never want to meet Dev in person. I find it very convinient to keep my adulation restricted to his on screen persona. I know i would be terribly disappointed if i met him. For some reason, i do not want him to end up in the same category as Amitabh (as far as i am concerned).

    BTW great blog! I picked Roger Moore as my favorite Bond only for sentimental reasons. However, i believe the best Bond movie ever is 'On her Majesty's secret service' with George L as Bond.

    Looking forward to more great articles from you.

    anand (you guessed it right) t

  8. Hi Ritu

    This comment has nothing to do with your article above - I just couldn't find an appropriate place to put it. I came across some of your comments on Suchitra K's blog, and I agree with you completely. Just wanted to take time to let you know that at least one person in Bangalore has her priorities straight! We're not ALL blinded by celebrity - or in this case, wannabe-celebrity.

  9. Hi Ritu

    This article made me smile, laugh, smile and again laugh. Wonderful effort in putting together a nice write-up on this "actress". A lot has been written and said about so called non-actors like Bharat Bhushan and Pradeep Kumar for example. Rarely one finds a nice writeup on the non-actresses. And truly how lucky she was!

    In comparison, my mind of course went to my favorite actress Geeta Bali (who of course shares more than her first name with my beloved singer). In spite of great talent, IMHO, she never got her due. May be she wasn't that lucky!

    Thanks and Best Regards


  10. I was pleasantly surprised to read about my Lata Father Pandit Narendra Sharma's song mentioned here -- & read the report .
    Its a pity that song is not found on
    youtube though - thanx & warm rgds,

  11. Lavanyaji,

    Thanks for writing in. That song is a beautiful song. I have it on VCD. Hopefully I should be able to rip it and upload on youTube. It was one of the masterpieces written by your father.

  12. Kalpana Kartik sure was a non-actress. But she must have had a great personality or else how would she have been able to hold Mr. Dev anand's interest. And now I am told even Chetan Anand was interested in her. May she is the type of person to be met off screen.....

  13. Don't know of others, but I liked KK's performances very much! May be I was too young at the time and was besotted with the idea that I should rip her of this guy called Dev A! However, to be honest, even today, married,with uni going kids to , I would still vouch for her! Perhaps I her luck would rub on me too!In still have some of her paper cuttings in my leather bag of old. Good luck to her and to you to bring it all across.

  14. While I was watching the melodious song, "Ankhom Meim Kya Jee" yesterday, I wanted to know more and more about Kalpana Karthik and where is she now. I typed her name in Google and came across your blog and read this article Luck by Chance. It is good and puts a lot of light on Kalpana Karthik...Where is she today by the way?

  15. Rituji,
    A good and well written article on Kalpana.
    Reading Dev Anand's autobiography, it appears KK was in command before marriage, as far as Dev was concerned.
    In Black & White movies, we can't judge her looks. Even if she was beautiful, good acting is an art which does not come with looks.
    I would say one thing in her defence, she has remained out of controversies eventhough Dev has accepted extra marital affairs in his book.
    Moti Lalwani

  16. hi rituji
    i want to ask kalpnaji ab kahan hai ?

  17. I suspect the name is Mona Singh and not Mona Singha. :)

  18. Hey you have a lovely blog there. I simply like her in Aaja Panchi Akhela hai.. she is charming, she is energetic and she is different. No wonder Dev said the Y to her!! Sheer nostalgia and sheer romance Nau Do Gyarah..Thanks... i have bookmarked this blog.

  19. Lovely piece... just the kind I was looking for, will share this with my father who s also a keen follower of vintage Bollywood.

  20. I watched Kalpna Kartik in Nau Do Giarah when I was a teenager and she made a great impression on me especially the two duets.
    I also watched her in Taxi Driver and it was also very delightful experience. Perhaps if she did not become Mrs Dev Anand she would have made a name for herself.

  21. KK never made any great claims. just vanisheed from public eye and was content to remain so. so what's the big deal?

  22. KK was a good actress.She could have become a superstar but chose to be a good wife and mother.


  23. One minor error. Ustad Ali Akbar Khan also composed music for Satyajit Ray's "Devi".

  24. ......Obviously the credit goes to the banner *Navketan* which is the cause to remember the KK or Mona Singh as the golden days heroin in the film history....and of coarse she is Mrs.Dev Anand......it's great......
    --------------------MUKESH DOBHAL

  25. Screen presence is not everything in life. I am sure Kalpana kartik has a great personality off screen for two men, like Chetan and Dev to vie for her. Do agree though on screen she wasnt the greatest.

  26. Rituji,

    First of all please accept my compliments on such a nice blog. Never had a good impression of blogs. This one changed all that. Lot of effort must have gone into your article. Well presented.

    Very informatory, nostalgic and indulging experience.


  27. For those who care to know...KK's name was Mona Singha not Singh....The Singha family was known to mine. They are Punjabi but not Sikh.

    Also, some of you are correct. She chose to be a mother and wife and not continue to be an actress. Although I have never seen any of her films, I may try to see them now and make up my own mind about her skills or lack thereof.

    The fact remains how can any woman be happy when her husband has a wandering eye? I don't think I would consider her "lucky" from that point.

  28. most people carry an impression that Dev Anand and Kalpana Kartik separated long ago. Good to find this article showing that they were together.

  29. dev shab very good actor and beautiful look ,smart

  30. dev shab very good actor and beautiful look ,smart

  31. My deepest condolences to Kalpana ji,Suneil and Devina


  32. Hi! Ritu,

    I have read so many articles and blogs on different topics but never left any comment... I feel like doing so here... It is amazing that how life of Kalpana Kartik caught your attention and you decided to pen it down.. your research is pretty good.. Have interesting style of writing...I also liked the inputs from other readers...

    I agree with you that Luck played a huge role in Kalpana Kartik and Dev Anand's life that they landed together and she got innumerable opportunities to grow in life.. However, it is also intriguing to note that despite all the opportunities she decided to live her life in recluse and never in lime light. She created her own niche despite being Mrs. Anand. It speaks volumes about her and Dev Anand who independently followed their interests in life while still staying together under same roof.. I have heard both the kids are very close to their parents...

    Dev Anand's life is full of stories and will continue to interest generations to come... I hope your article makes it to a chapter in the books that will be written on his life...

    And I also hope you continue writing interesting articles.....

  33. Kalpana is a most dignified lady

  34. Why do those black and white films give me so much nostalgia. These frames and song picturizations bring on a sense of dejavu and i was not even born before 1960s.. so how does the dejavu come on

    Ah yes, its becoz we remember our past births until we are 6 years of age.. havent you heard children talk to each other thus: "When i was a doctor>"... when were they docs? So there maybe thats what brings the sense of dejavu coz when i was a child, these songs were hit and the past birth memories got reaffirmed? Kalpana is so bubbly.. FULL MARKS TO HER.

  35. I want to know about the Parents of Mona Singh nee Kalpana Kartik wife of Dev Sahib.I doubt the name is Mona Singh Not Mona Singha... if she does n't belong to a Sikh Family background then she might be from Rajput background before adopting christanity...... please answer.........

  36. I choose to respect all .
    I read the article, and would like to cast a different look on the “ luck“ and chance factor in the success of movie stars.

    Currently the age that we are in, in the new millennium ,I believe that this is the first time that we as Indian Hindi movie-goers, are now finally able to see all the old and timeless movies from all eras.

    With the advent of technology cable, broadband and NBN internet and dvds, we can now see all the old movies from the beginning of the Hindi movie era. I have watched Dilip Kumar’s Aan and Amar, Rishi Kapoor in Bobby and many more. We can now see the 3 movie versions of Rabindra Naths famous book “ Nauka Dubi’ filmed as “ Milan” “ Ghunghat’ and the recent “ Naukadubi”
    This also now gives us a window into the past and we can admire the beauty of Madhubala, the youthful intensity of Dilip Kumar and also enjoy seeing some the actors and actresses who shone brightly in their time and eventually left the silver screen .
    As many of them never returned for various reasons, and family life commitments, we would have never seen them again on the silver screen had it not been for the current technology. On Youtube , Dvds and movies on cable we can see the likes of Geeta Bali, who has passed away before I was born, or the beauty of Nadira who was no longer a major heroine during the time I was growing up in the 80’s. Some heroes like Vinod Khanna had left India , Jaya had family commitments , Kamini Kaushal got married, and the list is endless,
    Out of these are some actresses namely : Ameeta, Shakeela, Suraiyya, and Kalpana Kartik.
    Kalpana was one of the stars who shot to fame and chose to give it all up for her family and children. I know someone who knows the Anand family closely, and has told us of her immense grace and beauty. She was slim and graceful and had a very fair complexion. Her face was framed with thick black wavy and glossy hair and her eyes were luminous and very captivating. Her eyes were her most outstanding feature and people could not help stopping and looking at her.
    This is in respect of her talent, a star that shone bright and rose high , and then changed direction. .
    As she is now in her 80’s who are we to decide what caused her to rise to stardom ?? If she was chosen by the Navketan camp, that was great ! Dev Anand gave a break to many stars and musicians.
    There are major Bollywood stars who are now what they are because of a lucky break. The now most famous and multitalented Mr Amitabh Bachchan was once struggling and cast in a movie across Jaya Bhaduri who was already a major star . ( Ek Nazar) Many would like to say that she gave him a helping hand in his early movies. Major stars have their chosen few directors and continue to rule the Hindi movie scene WITH luck, and association and talent.
    All I will say is that who ever got a lucky break or a leg - up, also had their own merit. Even those whose movies did not do well commercially !
    As time flies and we can see the ravages of time on the once beautiful faces , let us respect each actor for what they contributed , and for the joy their movies continue to bring even now .
    I choose to respect all. :A K Hangal, Madanpuri, Sulakshana Pandit, Vijayeta Pandit, Madhoo, Nadira, Rameshwari, Ranjeeta, B Saroja Devi , Jamuna and many more.

  37. Written by Manisha Gul Deshmukh :

    Here is a list of all the LUCKY Breaks that made major stars.

    The makers of ‘Sholay’ were keen on casting Danny Denzongpa as Gabbar, but since he was already busy with Feroz Khan's ‘Dharmatma’, Amjad Khan got lucky
    AKSHAY KUMAR His is a perfect story of sheer luck. A black belt in Taekwondo, he was working as a chef and waiter in Bangkok. But a lack of finances forced him to return to Mumbai where he began teaching martial arts and modeling . After he missed his flight for an ad-shoot in Bangalore, he visited a film studio along with his portfolio. That very evening, Akshay was signed for a lead role for the movie Deedar. Since then, there's been no looking back.
    ARJUN RAMPAL : A regular guy with chiseled looks, Arjun Rampal came to light only after he was discovered by designer Rohit Bal at a Delhi discotheque. While he went on to become one of India’s top models, he later even proved that supermodels can even become successful actors. With a career spanning a decade and more than 30 films, he still is the hottest man around.
    JEETENDRA : He was born as Ravi Kapoor into a business family that dealt with imitation jewellery. While supplying jewellery to legendary filmmaker V. Shantaram, he was cast as actress Sandhya's double in the 1959 movie Navrang. His good looks and dancing skills couldn’t go unnoticed for long. He was the highest paid actor in the 70s.
    SHAH RUKH KHAN had the chance to make an international debut with Danny Boyle's Indian saga Slumdog Millionaire. According to reports, SRK was offered Anil Kapoor's character in the movie. However, the Indian superstar thought the role was not suited for him and turned it down. The role eventually went to Anil Kapoor and opened the doors of Hollywood for him! Amitabh Bachchan also refused the role in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, where he had to play himself, host of the game show ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’. Like with Mr. India, the role again went to Anil Kapoor
    When Hrishikesh Mukherjee was conceiving ‘Anand’, he initially wanted Shashi Kapoor to play the lead role. Shashi though wanted to focus on romantic roles, and hence refused it. Hrisihida was also keen on casting Kishore Kumar for role of ‘Anand’, but due to some misunderstanding they did not collaborate
    One of Bollywood’s biggest blockbusters, Shekhar Kapur’s ‘Mr. India’, was offered to super stars Amitabh Bachchan as well as Rajesh Khanna. Both turned it down since they couldn’t relate to the invisible hero plot
    Shatrughan Sinha was offered the legendary roles of Amitabh Bachchan in ‘Deewar’ as well as ‘Sholay’, but Shotgun turned it down due to various reasons.
    Speaking of ‘Deewar’, Amitabh’s role was also offered to Rajesh Khanna. Owing to lack of dates, the role went to Big B. The late Navin Nischol was offered Shashi Kapoor's role of Ravi in 'Deewar'. However, he turned it down since he did not want to play second fiddle to Amitabh Bachchan. Also, Nirupa Roy's character of the mother was initially offered to Vyjayanthimala.
    The makers of ‘Sholay’ were keen on casting Danny Denzongpa as Gabbar, but since he was already busy with Feroz Khan's ‘Dharmatma’, Amjad Khan got lucky