Sometimes, life gives you something but holds back that vital something else. Today though, Jayshree T has no grouses against her destiny. A swinging film career then, a family of her own now, work that continues to come in… So what, that she was never a Hindi film heroine!
The years have been kind to Jayshree T, in more ways than one. The joy she currently takes in her husband’s support and her young son’s presence, is both palpable and heartening. She has enjoyed her tryst under the sun, which makes her trip down memory lane all the more pleasant…
“I started my career when I was five,” she tees off, seated comfortably in her home. “The film was Goonj Uthi Shehnai and it was a big hit. My parents were Marathi stage artistes, but I was the first to join films My sister Meena and I learnt Kathak. Later, as I grew up and established myself, Gopi Kishenji, who spotted me dancing in a film, actually called me and said, ‘I want a student like you’. It was a great compliment!”
Sangeet Samrat Tansen, Zameen Ke Taare and Pyar Ki Pyaas , were the other films Jayshree did as a child artiste. “But being a very good student, I wanted to be a doctor!” she reveals. At that time, Amit Bose was on the lookout for a fresh youngster for a dance sequence in Abhilaasha. The choreographer Harmendar, who knew my father, suggested my name. My father actually picked me up from school and took me straight to Rooptara Studios!
“Incidentally, Nandaji was the heroine of that film. Little did I know then, that along with my professional life, my personal life too, would begin with her…”
Things really began to happen with her number in Chanda Aur Bijlee. “It didn’t look too promising for me at the start,” she recalls. “Director Atmaji had already warned me that since the film was complete, my name wouldn’t be flashed in the credits or on the publicity posters. But when the song was picturised, would you believe, the distributors demanded that it be included in separate publicity banners! From then on, there was no looking back!”
Of course she has had her fair share of downs. At times, I was asked to quit a film because the villain of the film apparently had his own favorite for the role. The producer was unable to put his foot down. At times, top dancers were not prepared to be featured alongside me, fearing that I would overshadow them. Once I was established though, distributors would insist on me. I didn’t hold this against these dancers once I was successful. Perhaps this is what made them realize their folly and apologize to me.”
Jayshree recounts the one time she was signed on as heroine, with more than a touch of regret… “I remember the time Mohanji signed me on in the female lead for Saawan Bhandon. Later, he felt that I suited the modern girl’s role better and took Rekha on as the village belle. We were all newcomers then.” To think of it now, a reversal of roles could have made a drastic change in her destiny…
“Nevertheless, films poured in. Khilona, Kahani Kismat Ki, Jugnu , Jwar Bhata, Sharmili, my plate was full… comedy, vamp, modern, rural, Western dances, Indian folk… But I never got a break as a heroine. It was a dream that remained unfulfilled. Which girl wouldn’t want to play heroine? Yet, it makes me happy that while there are so many heroines whom people don’t remember, they are still aware of me!”
Jayshree believes she fared better than her sister Meena because, “If you present yourself glamorously in this world, you click fast. I was always known for my modern characters, while Meena played sober roles like Manoj Kumar’s sister in Roti, Kapda Aur Makaan and Jeetendra’s sister in Jeene Ki Raah. It was as simple as that.”
Roles that remain close to her heart today include, “the ones I played in Saawan Bhadon, Bayano Nave Sambhala and with Mehmood in Qaid. My dominating bhabhi role in Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani, also made a pleasant change.
“A definite high was the time Helen was asked by a journalist, Helenji, after you, who’? She answered, ‘Jayshree T’! What’s more, recently, after watching Govinda dance in a film, Johny Lever called him the male Jayshree T!”
Jayshree is surprisingly candid when she speaks of the late Sanjeev Kumar… “There was a big age gap between us. To me, he was a friend, philosopher and guide. I respected him a lot. Today I realize, it was more like puppy love from my side. We worked together in many films and he was, very nice to me. He was very fond of eating and would tell me to bring him home-cooked food. However, our association was blown out of proportion by the Press. A lot of stuff concerning us, was fabricated. We stopped reacting to it, after a point.”
Apparently, the entire issue was born when a journalist asked Jayshree whether she would marry Sanjeev, if he proposed to her. “I said, ‘Yes, why not, he’s such a nice person’. The next day, there was a huge hoarding which read, Jayshree T wants to marry Sanjeev’!”
Over the years, with heroines more than eager to do exotic dance numbers and an overall increase in male-oriented films, Jayshree veered towards regional films. “I did a heroine-oriented film in Marathi, called Bayano Navree Sambhala, with my guru, Gopi Kishen. It was the first Marathi film to be released at Metro cinema!” she beams, with obvious pride.” I had another silver jubilee with Dada Kondke’s Hyach Navra Pahije. Then Vijay Bhattji offered me a Gujarati film, Panchino Manus, opposite Asrani, which was also a hit. In fact, all my regional films were hits!”
Incidentally, Jayshree has set a record of sorts, given the variety and the number of regional films she has acted in. “I’ve done films in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Marwari, Punjabi, Haryanvi, Sindhi, Bengali, Oriya, Assami, Garhwali, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bhojpuri and English! That makes it roughly 500 Hindi films and 200 regional films.”
One pleasant fallout is that, “Thanks to my regional films, wherever I go, the people of that particular state think I belong there! In fact, my husband often teases me that our government should give me an award for national integration, considering the number of languages I’ve worked in!”
Now to get to the mysterious T factor in her life! Why did she never use the full form of her surname?
“Yes,” she smiles, “many have been amused by the T factor in my name. My actual name is Jayshree Talpade and since I’ve married, it’s Jayshree Karnataki. At the time I started out in films, there was already a Jayshree V. Shantaram here. Then there was Jayshree Gadkar. With so many Jayshrees around and also the fact that people found Talpade quite a tongue-twister, I chose to use just the ‘T’. It created curiosity and helped boost my popularity!”
Despite the heady glitz of showbiz, Jayshree remained a homebody at heart and her dream of having a family came true, when she wed Jayprakash. “Earlier, Meena and I had younger siblings and our parents to look after. I had to fulfill my responsibilities before I settled down. Since Jayprakashji and I belong to the same profession, people wrongly presume ours was a love marriage. Actually, being a director, he has worked more with my sister Meena. It was a common guru who suggested the marriage proposal. When Jayprakash spoke to his mother and Nandaji they readily agreed, as they knew me quite well. Would you believe, we got engaged the very same evening! My husband was very understanding and he gave us enough time for us to get to know each other, before we wed in ’89.”
Of course, there was always the image of a fast girl, that she had to often contend with. “I realized the full impact of my screen image,” she laughs, “shortly after my marriage, when I had accompanied my husband to Ahmedabad, on work. There, he introduced me to an old, far off relative. She took one look at me, took him aside and whispered, ‘You’ve married her! She will throw your mother out of your house!”
Jayshree reveled in motherhood after the birth of her son in ’91. “I realized I had to be and more importantly, wanted to be, totally by my child’s side. Acting took a back seat. Five years later, when my husband started his serial, he offered me a role in Ankhein and another in Dahektein Sholay.” Now, TV is her oyster, as she appears in a host of DD soaps, including Ardhangini, Waqt Ki Raftaar, Aparajita, Ahuti and the upcoming Aaya Hasaya.
This of course doesn’t mean her film career is over! “I’m doing Cheetah Films’ production, Abbas -Mustan’s project, a Kalpataru film, D. Rama Naidu’s film and also the Barjatyas’ Hum Saath Saath Hain.“Sooraj narrated the script to me and I liked it immensely. I also had the chance to work with choreographer Chinni Prakash, whose father I had earlier worked with! It was a wonderful experience.”
Jayshree winds up recounting, “an extremely amusing incident,” but one which we feel, amply proves the extent of her popularity… “We were shooting at a remote spot in Gwalior, for Kasam Bhavani Ki, in which Yogeeta Bali played the female lead. At the shooting site, I noticed a lot of police personnel. Some of the officers came up to me and said it was better I didn’t shoot and returned to Bombay. ‘But why’? I exclaimed. ‘Madame’, they replied, `we have received information that the dacoits in this region, are planning to kidnap you. They appear to be quite crazy about you’. I was shocked! Such pretty girls like Yogeeta and Nazneen around, and I was their target! Eventually, the song had to picturised in good old Film City!” (As told to Ranjeeta in 1999).