Bollywood Actors With Tragic End:Part 1: VIMI

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Hello Friends,

This is my first post on Pinkvilla, hope you will enjoy it.

When I saw old Humraaz, I was very curious about knowing more about this forgotten actress Vimi, who looked beautiful in her bollywood debut...I was wondering why I never heard of her or saw more of her...I googled her and found this article which brings out the truth of this glamour world in light! Vimi had a tragic end!

This is from her Wikepedia entry.

Slim, swathed in chiffon and cloaked in an air of mystery, she caught B.R.Chopra’s eye. He couldn’t look away. He requested his host, music director Ravi, to introduce him to the beautiful woman rightaway. Close-up, she was even more bewitching. They chatted the rest of the evening; Vimi was aware that the famous producer- director was studying her every expression. Another woman would have been frazzled but she was used to men lavishing attention. “That’s why I dress tastefully… to make myself as attractive as possible,” she would laugh coquettishly. She knew Choprasaab was sizing her up for a role. Looking into those flashing eyes, Chopra knew she was the heroine he’d been searching for. He needed a new face for Humraaz—someone exotic and enigmatic. He didn’t even know where Vimi had come from. He cornered his host again, “Is she interested in acting?” Ravi wasn’t sure.
After all, it’s unusual for a bahu from a conservative Calcut­ta family to nurture starry dreams. But Ravi remembered that during a dinner at the Grand Hotel some months ago, Vimi and her husband, Shiv Agarwal, hadn’t been averse to the idea that she should give a movie career a go.

“It was a small, select gathering, I was soon singing a few of my favorite numbers,” remi­nisces Ravi. “Then someone men­tioned that Vimi could also sing; we persuaded her to recite a poem. Her diction and delivery were surprisingly chaste. And lookswise, she was a stunner. I wondered aloud why she didn’t join films. She laughed off the idea, wondering who’d give her the big break. I invited her to Bom­bay and promised to have a word with Choprasaab.”

In Bombay, Ravi invited her to his son’s birthday party so he could show her off. When Chopra left without a word, she wasn’t disheartened. She played it cool. Music director Usha Khanna, who was a childhood friend of Vimi’s brother, egged her on to face the camera. Usha even drag­ged her to Filmalaya studio where they bumped into S.Muk­herji. The movie moghul had looked her up and down and asked bluntly, “So what’s wrong with working in films?” And Vimi had replied airily, “Nothing… it’s just that temperamentally, I’m not cut out to be an actress.”
The day after the party, however, Ravi approached her with Chopra’s offer. She asked for time to think. Later, she recal­led in an interview, “When Ravi left, I asked myself the question, ‘Why not?’ During the next three weeks, I must have repeated the question to myself over a thou­sand times. I didn’t have one good reason to say no. But I still needed some moral support to say yes. And that support wasn’t forthcoming from my family.” Despite the family’s disappro­val, she eventually gave in to Chopra’s offer. A screen-test was arranged. He got her a new war­drobe, special make-up and hired a suite at the Taj Mahal Hotel. For six days, Vimi preened and pouted for the camera. She was very photogenic. One look at the stills and Chopra had discovered the heroine for Hum­raaz (1967).

Her orthodox Punjabi parents were outraged. Although born and brought up in Bombay, Vimi had been a sheltered child. Western dresses, lipstick and even talcum powder were taboo. But it had always been a chore to curb her exuberance. As a little girl, she couldn’t sit still for a minute, she’d be dashing around the house at breakneck speed. Once, she ran headlong into the bathroom tap. The head injury led to several visits to the doctor.
But she was running wild. again. She slipped and broke her jaw. On another occasion, she gave herself a new hair-cut; the scissor-happy girl messed up her long silken tresses, and was soundly thrashed by her mother. “I was so busy running that I learnt to walk only when I grew up,” Vimi had joked. By then she had already worked for 10 years at the All-India Radio, besides picking up a degree in psycholo­gy from Bombay’s Sophia Colle­ge. Soon after, she met Shiv Agarwal, a businessman from Calcutta. Short, stocky and swarthy, Agarwal belonged to the reputed Amirchand Pyarelal family. He was bowled over by this Dresden china doll, it wasn’t long before they took the marria­ge vows. Vimi came from a middle- class family while the Agarwals were millionaires with a business in stainless steel. Vimi settled down to a cushy life in Calcutta… she was happily married with two children when she met Ravi at the party and her life was never the same again.

Her parents disowned her when she signed Humraaz. Her in-laws gave some money to the couple and broke off all ties. Vimi was hurt by their callousness but refused to be stymied. “I am hel­pless,” she sighed. “I can’t retrace my steps. Acting has become a way of life for me. If others are unhappy, there’s nothing I can do about it. One can’t keep everyone happy.”

Her first day on the sets was a fiasco. Although she had done radio plays ever since she was eight, she had had no formal trai­ning in acting. There were the occasional concerts in school and college; she had also repre­sented her college at the All-India Youth Festival but facing a movie camera was another kind of discipline.

That all eyes were focused on her didn’t make it any easier. “I was not nervous,” she stated then. “But the high-pitched voi­ces unnerved me. I can’t stand people fighting or talking at the top of their voices.” She adapted to the ambience of the studios. Looking beautiful for the camera was easy. Vimi always had a flair for high- fashion. And at 112 pounds, she didn’t have to diet or exercise. Moreover, she was extraordinari­ly photogenic. All that she lacked was acting talent. “She couldn’t even keep her eyes closed without the lids fluttering,’ remembers Chopra exaspera­tedly. “When she couldn’t get it right despite several retakes, I asked her to shut her eyes, then to open them slowly and I’d take a reverse shot.” Since there were two seasoned actors in Humraaz—Sunil Dutt and Raaj Kumar—Vimi had to make an attempt to match skills with them. And she was ready to put in long hours on the sets. Chopra roped in veteran actor Manmohan Krishna to help him out with his protege. “Three days before we had to pic­turise a scene, we’d put her through the grind of rehearsals and more rehearsals. By the time, she had to give the shot she was word-perfect, thanks to all the coaching,” explains Chopra. Once word spread that she was working with one of the most prestigious banners in town, offers started pouring in. But a clause in her contract prevented Vimi from signing any outside productions till Humraaz was complete. “I hadn’t realized how much this had disturbed Vimi and her husband till the last sche­dule,” recalls Chopra. “We were flying out to Darjeeling for a fortnight, I informed Vimi who was in Calcutta about the details of the outdoor schedule. On the day of my departure I got a telegram from her, stating that as far as she was concerned her work in the film was over and so she wouldn’t accompany my unit anywhere.”

Shocked, Chopra air-dashed to Calcutta and headed straight for her bungalow. After much wheeling-dealing, the Agarwals consented to go to Darjeeling, provided Chopra released her from the contract. “Once I agreed, the outdoor went off without a hitch,” remembers Chopra.

Humraaz was a super-hit. At the silver jubilee celebrations, Chopra watched his glamorous heroine sign autographs by the dozen. A star, as they say, was born. Producers queued up. On the other hand, B.R.Chopra had no intention of repeating her in his next project though he had a two-film contract with her. “At a time when she had hiked up her price to Rs 3 lakhs, I could have insisted that she act for me for as little as Rs 50,000. But I wasn’t interested in working with her again,” he says bluntly.

For a while, Vimi was the toast of movie town. She caught the eye of many heroes, including the dashing Shashi Kapoor who was tired of co-starring with heroines years older than him. When producer Tejnath Zar approached him for Vachan, he insisted that Vimi should be pai­red with him. “However, Vimi wasn’t very keen on Shashi,” Zar remembers. “After Humraaz, her expectations were sky high. She only wanted to act with stars like Raaj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar and Sunil Dutt.” Zar consulted B.R.Chopra before persuading her to do Vachan. Chopra didn’t recom­mend her too highly but to start with, Zar and his hero found their heroine hassle-free. “She was very sweet, soft-spoken and understanding. She wasn’t ever late, she was always ready to put in an extra hour,” says Shashi Kapoor nostalgically. “But she concentrated more on her looks than on her acting. Clothes, make-up and those elaborate bouffants were her forte.”

Zar agrees. She had about 20 scenes in the film and she insisted on 20 different dresses. “Vyjayanthimala and Sadhana were the Queen Bees then…Vimi probably felt that she could com­pete with them by looking more glamorous,” reasons Zar. There was no denying that Mrs Agarwal was a heart-stopper. The moment she walked into a room, she’d make heads turn. She was poised to go places but ‘Loin’ Ajit, who worked with her in Patanga, says firmly, “Her hus­band ruined her career. Produ­cers couldn’t take his interfering ways and tall tales beyond a point.”

Disinherited by the family, Shiv Agarwal apparently wan­ted to cash in on his wife’s looks. He invested whatever money she earned in a high-power publicity campaign. Unfortunately, the publicity backfired because it was clear as day that Vimi was no actress. Despite a successful debut, Vimi was described by cri­tics as a “wooden face”.
By the time Vachan was com­plete, Vimi had ceased to be hot property. “After watching the first six reels,” Zar recapitulates, “a leading distributor offered to buy the film if I changed my heroine. But I stuck to my choice…The film was a wash-out. For three years, I couldn’t launch another film. To this day, I owe money to my distributors.”
Patanga and Abroo didn’t fare any better. The Punjabi film, Nanak Naam Jahaaz celebrated a silver jubilee but by then it was too late. The Agarwals couldn’t pay the rent for their Juhu apart­ment and moved to a modest house on Bandra’s Pali Hill. Even then the going was difficult. “For months, the house would be lit up with diyas and candles. They couldn’t pay the electricity bills, you see…”Zar trails off, embarrassed on being reminded of those days.
Dark days literally descended on Vimi. Desperate for cash, it is alleged that her husband pushed her into the arms of prospective producers. Their parties were no longer classy affairs but crowded with riff-raff. When Vimi objected to the quick, shady liaisons, it’s said that her husband beat her up black and-blue. “She came to my office a week before she died,” says B.R.Chopra. “Though it was quite early in the day, she was reeking of cheap tharra (alcohol). She was very distraught, her back and arms were covered with bruises.”

She had come to ask him to for­get and forgive the past. “I’m really sorry for having misbeha­ved with you. You must excuse me,” she kept telling Chopra over and over again. Vimi would frequently apologize to moviewallahs about her hus­band’s boorish behavior. It was obvious to all around that her marriage was on the rocks; yet, she was too frightened to make a break. The woman with so much joie de vivre had turned into a taciturn and reserved woman…haunted by an inexpli­cable fear.

Around this time, it seems, a film broker ironically called Mr Jolly, entered her life. Jolly was drawn to the once elegant woman and started recommen­ding her to his distributor friends. He was even planning a film with her in the lead. Vimi knew this was her last opportunity. She started spending a lot of time with him. Realizing that he was going to lose his golden goose, Agarwal turned even more vio­lent. Unable to bear the torture any more, Vimi moved in with Jolly. For some months, they stayed at the Oriental Palace Hotel but when funds ran out, they were forced to move to a sleazy neighborhood. By then, Vimi was beyond caring. Zar remembers meeting her with Jolly at a dub­bing theatre. She was drunk. Noticing her Vachan producer, she laughed bitterly, “See, your heroine is passing through such bad days.”

Five months before her death, her mentor Ravi met her at the Bandra court. “Her husband was also there but it was obvious they weren’t together. There was ano­ther man with her. As soon as she saw me, she came running towar­ds me. She broke into tears and complained about her hus­band,” the music composer remembers.

The estrangement between the once much-in-love couple surpri­sed Ravi. “Her husband was from a good family. He seemed very attached to her. She and Agarwal seemed to be happy together. Kisi ki nazar lag gayee.” Ravi promised to help bring about a reconciliation between Vimi and her husband. But as cir­cumstances would have it, he soon had to leave for a foreign concert. When he returned, she was no more. And he never saw Agarwal again. “What happe­ned?” he asks. Apparently, watching her star­dom go to pieces, Vimi had lost her zest for life. She started drinking heavily, her liver was dama­ged. Her last few days were spent in the general ward of Nanavati hopsital. Jolly was by her side… they were down to their last rupee.

On August 22, 1977, she breathed her last. She was in her 30s. Vimi’s body was taken to the Santa Cruz crematorium on a chanawalla’s thela. The body was wrapped in a soiled dhoti. “And to imagine that she once used to drive down the same roads in an Impala. Crowds would hope to catch glimpse of the Humraaz heroine,” recalls a misty-eyed Zar. On the day, she was wheeled on her last journey, there were only a few curious bystanders. Her fans had forgotten her. So had her producers and heroes. “There were only nine people at her funeral. And only two from the industry—S.D. Narang’s bro­ther and me,” laments Zar.

Yet, two chautha ceremonies were held in her memory. One was organized by Jolly and the other was presided over by Agar­wal and their children who were in their early teens. However, nei­ther the husband nor the kids attended the funeral. It was a believe-it-or-not fare­well to a beautiful woman who lived for a dream…and lost everything for a dream...

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want to know about her children

Just saw Humraaz today and curiously set out googling Vimi .Quite a sad and tragic end.
Wonder whether her children are around and leading a decent life ???

In the Indian movie news of Malaysia i saw vimi with the hero of humraaz ,and i thought vimi was the most cute and charming girl.until recently when i checked with wikipedia, only then i knew that vimi was long gone what a pity.

vimmiwas most beautiful actress .LEKIN JINDAGI ME DHOKE BAAZ HI MILE

still vimi's son is alive his name is swami rajneesh bharti

hemant 07.03.014.vimi was most beautful actress.bollywood is such a place where only correct people suffer and met with tragic end. i saw her movie humraz and amazed to see the real beauty.

Thank you so much for appreciation guys! I will try finding more of such articles!

Wow she died of so much alcohol in a such short time! Incredible. This happens when u agree to enter in Bollywood, but if her husband wouldn't have ruined her life like that, this wouldn't have happened. Both could have stick together and work hard for their well being.

It's a sad story but it's not in her own words, who knows what was really going on inside her head!

In those times parents could never accept their daughters or sons to join films. They use to think it was a far fetched career not worthy of people from good families.
I think if only Vimi had the support of her family and divorced such a husband, she might have done differently.
Sad story.

OMG! That is such a sad story. Didn't know that about her life. Seems that Bollywood is full of sad endings for many actresses.

she looks like Kareenas mom Babita kapoor

she looks better then madhublala!!

knew she had a sad life buh didnt know half of these things..thnx!!......she was so beautiful

nice post.. such a sad story.. makes us thank god for the simple and contend life we lead..

It is so sad to know about her....she was so feminine and high class but her end was just the opposite!

Parveen Babi,Priya Rajvansh,Meena Kumari,Madhubala
Sanjeev Kumar,Guru Dutt

I remember watching the songs of Humraaz which are popular even today, but never knew much about the heroine. It's a very sad story. Lindsay Lohan better watch out, she's on the same path.

So Vimi gave birth to 2 kids before debuting as a slim beautiful ingenue ? Amazing.
Apparantly her son is now a Swami! Swami Rajneesh ( Osho's disciple ) .

wow what a striking resemblance to hema malini!

She started dwelling on her beauty too is not her fault entirely. Directors/Producers create so much hype around a heroine's beauty when starring in their movies. They do it for publicity of their movies. Usually, the emotionally immature but gorgeous women become victims of their own hype. They start living up to impossible standards of beauty and make wrong decisions like Vimi did in her life.

Vimmi came into movies after being married and having 2 kids - in 1960s. Now that is something .... Very slim and svelte

She acted in Nanak Naam Jahaaj Hai - beautiful movie

The songs from Humraaz are so beautiful: Neele gagan ke thale being the most famous.

This article reads like a tragic novel. This is story of so many starlets: Parveen Babi being the most famous to die all alone in her apartment, it was 3 days before the neighbors even noticed. She was an only child, from a royal family, and suffered from schizophrenia.

interesting. but me thinks its a publicity for kareena's movie heroine. why this post all of a sudden??

I remember watching her film with Sunil Dutt. Sad to read this.

It was a sad story, but you can't blame any film person for her downfall, it was her husband's greed and her vanity that took her down. She thought her beauty was everything and didn't bother to learn acting and still felt after 1 movie that she deserved to be with the best.

Very good poignant article.Please give us more of such articles. It's a pity they did not do a screen test to check out her acting skills before convincing her to ruin herself.Now had she been around today,the lack of acting skills are no problem for a successfull career.Many actresses have sleazy parents or husbands who treat them like cash cows. Sadly, I belong to the list of people who have forgotten her. Indeed ,I never even knew her name!

wow! Very tragic!

interesting read, skimmed through it will read properly later

So interesting....and so sad! Somehow, there's a moral...'Not everything that glitters is gold'. Thanks stylehymn.

Interesting. Reminds me of the dirty picture story in a small way. Really sad. Human weaknesses like greed and insecurity and fear can destroy lives.

wow thats sad, thanks for the article!

So sad! It's strange that so many yesteryear actresses have such tragic pasts! The 90's heroines all generally have fabulous lives-Juhi, Madhuri,Kajol. It's such a strange coincidence

Welcome stylehymn :)

Filmwallas are big time thugs if one does not know their way through the shady allys of bollywood it is better to just stay away. All that glamour is just the facade to lot more filth.

sad story

I always wondered where this beautiful lady had vanished?

OMG. Didnt know all this. verry sad...

hmmm..... Now that's a story apt to be called 'Herioine'! I never knew this herione had such a tragic story to her life... don't understand the glamour and desire of fame... ppl can't think by their heads...

oh my God... this is such a tragic tale. may God rest her soul in peace.

thankyou for this post.

She was beautiful, most old actresses wre beautiful
Thanks for the post

too tragic!

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