Dulari – Interview
The front door of the apartment opens and the appetizing aroma of garam masala greets you. Dulari is in the kitchen frying purees. You have to reassure yourself several times that this lady, with the front of her sari tucked in a little higher, wisps of hair sticking out of her small bun and bending over a frying pan, is an actress with about 200 films to her credit!
Later as she sits patting stray strands of hair, you realize what a perfect picture she makes of the smiling magnanimous ‘Ma’ that she so often portrays on the screen.
Dulari, now a vivacious grandmother of two, made her first appearance way back in 1943 in Bombay Talkies’ “Hamari Baat”. It was a small role. Her father’s sudden illness forced her to give up her studies and work to contribute towards the family income. Through a sound recordist friend of her father; she managed to land a few assignments with Bombay Talkies. Soon she was moving towards success.
It was at one of the numerous outdoor shootings that she met her husband, the late Jagtap. He was a sound recordist. “I do not know whether I should mention this,” she began, “but a common friend of ours was responsible for our marriage. Messages and little notes were sent through him, if you know what I mean”. . . . They were married on February 23rd 1952.
Her husband’s death after many years of happiness came as a rude shock. “A vital part of me has gone with him,” she confesses. “I now feel inadequate and lonely. There was a time when I was choosy about all my roles. But now, I view my career as a professional would; take every role that comes my way. Anything to keep myself occupied.”
Another reason for this change can be her strong desire to be independent. Dulari had to face a problem of choice. Immediately after her marriage to Jagtap, she gave up films to settle down restlessly to domestic life. Ten years later, however, not being able to bear it any longer, she rejoined films.
“Character roles have depth in them and a much wider scope for acting,” says Dulari, or Ambika Jagtap as she is known to friends. She has played a wide range of roles. From the mischievous young sister to the sensitive, loving mother; from the bold, selfish vamp to the self-sacrificing best friend. Her most memorable role was in “Jeevan Jyoti” (1953). Her other important roles were in “Pati Seva”, “Rangeen Kahani” (1945) and some Gujarati films, — “Chundi ane Chokha” (1957), “Mangal Bhera” (1948) to mention a few.
Somehow the thought of romance with strange men did not appeal to her fastidious nature, making her go in for character roles exclusively. “Once at an outdoor shooting of a Gujarati film, an incident took place. The director of the film was a good friend of mine. No one had informed me, possibly due to the fact that he held me in great respect, that he drank a little too much in his spare time. One evening after shooting hours I went over to his room where he sat chatting with a few others. He quickly hid the bottles under a cot when he saw me enter. Unfortunately for him, I chose to sit on the same cot, dangling my feet. Suddenly my feet hit the bottles and broke them. You should have seen his face. He forbade me from entering his room again because I had deprived him of his quota.” She commands equal respect even now. The younger stars are attentive and make her feel like she is one of them.
“Raakhee will reach great heights,” Dulari predicts, “she is easily the best in the industry today.” According to her Shabana [Azmi] comes next, followed closely by Jaya [Bhaduri]. Reena Roy has talent but needs to put in some hard work.
She feels that these days stars spend more time organizing publicity stunts, feeling jealous of each other over trifles, pinching each other’s roles and so on, thinking that it will promote their career. But such antics only hamper it. There was never any rivalry among the older stars. Actresses rose to enormous heights purely through merit, making competition even tougher than it is today.
She finds it increasingly difficult to get good roles due to the increase in character artistes. But life goes on as usual for her with a series of new releases and unreleased films. Her latest Gujarati film, “Kulvadhu”, is running in a number of theatres in Bombay. Her other films are “Karyavar” (Gujarati) , “Aankh ka Taara”, “Akhri Daku”, “Darinda,” “Ahuti”, “Naastik”, “Dillagi” and “Darwaza”.
She feels the Indian film industry offers no security. TYR industry, she feels, must start trusts and funds to aid retiree artistes. Stars who once lived in bungalows have been forced into flats after retirement. “Security is very important for an actor to work efficiently. If there is a feeling of insecurity, he flops along with his films, like many have done in the past. I still get roles,” she says with a confident smile. “But I know that soon I will have to put a full-stop to my career. I have some land in Bhuisar where I intend taking up farming.” (As told to Filmfare in 1977)