On December 8, 1944, Sharmila was born in Hyderabad to Gitindranath Tagore, who was the then deputy general manager of the East India Company owner of Elgin Mills. She is the great-grand niece of legendary poet Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore made her acting debut at the age of 13 when she began shooting for auteur Satyajit Ray's "Apur Sansar" (World of Apu), the last in the celebrated Apu trilogy. The film was released on May 1, 1959. She went on to star in Bengali films such as Devi, Shes Anko, Nirjan Saikate and Barnali. She made her debut in Hindi film industry with Shakti Samanta's Kashmir Ki Kali. (All photos courtesy: mid-day archives)
In the 1960s, Sharmila Tagore's bikini shoot for a magazine cover, the first Indian actress to do so, created quite a stir. Tagore's husband, late Indian cricketing legend Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi's support put her doubts to rest. "There was a huge criticism and times were very different. Tiger was away and I told him all this is happening and he told me 'I am sure you look very nice'. That was enough support and I wasn't unsettled then."
From being the sex symbol of yesteryears (bikini clad diva in An Evening in Paris) to delivering power-packed performances in cult movies like Aradhana, Sharmila Tagore exuded confidence in the most demanding of roles that she was cast in by the masters of Indian cinema, including Satyajit Ray.
Sharmila Tagore clarified that the bikini shoot wasn't a statement. "It wasn't a statement... I just thought I would look nice. What is the point of wearing a bikini right now... I wore it at the right time," she added.
In picture: Amol Palekar and Sharmila Tagore in Mother, a Bengali film which released in 1979
The multiple National Award winner admitted to revamping her image with a variety of roles. "But I did make an effort change my image. After that (bikini shoot for magazine), I signed 'Aradhana' and different kind of films, because you know your sex (symbol) image doesn't last for very long. You know for longevity you must do different kind of roles that find a place in people's heart," she said.
In picture: The Sharmila-Rajesh Khanna pairing gave six box office hits 'Aradhana', 'Safar', 'Amar Prem', 'Chhoti Bahu', 'Daag' and 'Avishkaar'
Sharmila Tagore married Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, the Nawab of Pataudi and former captain of the Indian cricket team, in a Nikah ceremony on December 27 1969. Before her nikaah, she converted to Islam from Hinduism, and changed her name to Begum Ayesha Sultana Khan.
The couple has three children - son Saif Ali Khan and daughters Soha and Saba. While Saif is now a father of three children - Sara Ali Khan and Ibrahim Ali Khan (from his first wife Amrita Singh) and Taimur Ali Khan (from his second wife Kareena Kapoor), Soha has a daughter - Inaaya Naumi Kemmu (from husband Kunal Kemmu).
Sharmila Tagor, recently, said in a statement how she faced brickbats and bouquets for some of her choices which are now celebrated as game changers. "As a female actor in Bollywood back in the day, owing to some choices I made I was often perceived by some as a social suspect and by some as a woman ahead of her times. Both brickbats and bouquets by different sections came my way, however I stood my ground. Today my decisions have been vindicated both by my industry colleagues and viewers. Ironically, those choices are even celebrated as game changers," said the veteran actress.
In picture: Sharmila and Amol Palekar appeared in the 2009 Marathi film 'Samantar'
Sharmila also said that the life of a heroine during her time was not exciting. "Heroines (then) couldn't be bad, so Helen had all the fun... heroine's life wasn't all that exciting... today's heroines have much better chance."
In picture: Sharmila Tagore and Akshay Kumar in '8 x 10 Tasveer'
Sharmila Tagore describes herself as a "working actor", and says she doesn't believe in star status. "We call ourselves working actors. I don't believe in the star status because somehow you get disengaged from life... once you are in that place, then you are not in touch with (people). I would like to mingle with people," she said.
In picture: Sharmila Tagore with Amitabh Bachchan in 'Virrudh'
For Sharmila Tagore having the same lineage as Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore has been a privilege and the actress credits her famous surname for opening several avenues for her. Sharmila's maternal grandmother Latika Tagore was the granddaughter of Rabindranath Tagore's brother Dwijendranath. "I don't have that much authority on Tagore but yes I have a wonderful surname. It's my heritage and it has opened many doors for me. It's a privilege to be born in such a household. He unfortunately died three years before I was born so I could not have any direct interaction with him. But I have heard great stories from my mother," she said.
In picture: Sharmila Tagore with Shammi Kapoor at a function some years ago
Here's wishing Sharmila Tagore a very happy birthday!
As Sharmila Tagore celebrates her 74th birthday, we present to you some interesting facts about the veteran Bollywood actress
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