21 June, 2021

Wages Of Whimsy

The tributes of wealth and a luminous beauty couldn’t keep Leela Naidu from her steady courting of failure

Wages Of Whimsy

Those who recall The Householder (1963), the black-and-white debut of one of the most enduringly successful film partnerships of the 20th century—the triumvirate of Ismail Merchant, James Ivory and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala—will remember it mainly for the luminosity that Leela Naidu brought to the role of a struggling, impecunious schoolteacher’s young wife. Perhaps the right word to describe her careless beauty is languor—ennui would be better, given her Indo-French parentage—a quality of moodiness also reflected in her role as a village doctor’s wife in Hrishikesh Mukerjee’s Anuradha (1960).

She is cast opposite seasoned performers, Shashi Kapoor and Balraj Sahni, in the two films, but effortlessly manages to overshadow both. In this book she explains why: “I do not remember my first day of shooting perhaps because I did not suffer from stage fright. According to me, stage fright is about waffling. It happens when an actor will not stay in the moment.”

It could...

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