Jaya Prada, The 80s Diva and Sridevi’s Rival Joins the BJP. Will the Move Prove Lucky For her Political Career?

Jaya Prada, The 80s Diva and Sridevi’s Rival Joins the BJP. Will the Move Prove Lucky For her Political Career?

Jaya Prada was once described as the most beautiful actress. But she could never reach the heights in cinema as her arch-rival Sridevi did nor could she make a huge space in politics
Jaya Prada, The 80s Diva and Sridevi’s Rival Joins the BJP. Will the Move Prove Lucky For her Political Career?
Jaya Prada

Jaya Prada

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Jaya Prada  the politician, is moving on. In a surprise  move earlier this week, the Samajwadi Party (SP) loyalist  actress Jaya Prada crossed floors to the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). Jaya Prada is so into politics now that her chequered  career as an actress is  nearly  forgotten. What would Jaya Prada’s  film long and  fruitful innings as an actor  have been if Sridevi was  not around? Throughout her  career, and not just in Hindi films but also in Tamil and Telugu, Jaya Prada was pitched against the much-missed iconic Sridevi and found to be lacking… in what, one can’t say.
Because Jaya Prada could dance as well as Sridevi and Jaya also had the classic chiselled features of a perfectly carved Durga idol which prompted Satyajit Ray to call out Jaya’s exquisite face as one of the most beautiful he had ever seen, Jaya could  have been another Waheeda Rehman. But she always wore a  mask… and  I don’t mean just the garish makeup which hid her immaculate features. There is always a sense of incompleteness in Jaya Prada’s performances. As though her aspirations were constantly stopped by distractions.
Somehow, Jaya never reached the zenith that her all-round combination of talent beauty and grace promised. Starting out in Telugu cinema in 1974, she quickly garnered  a reputation for being both saleable and assailable with blockbuster films Manmatha Leelai and Seetha Kalyanam. Renowned directors like K Balachander, K Vishwanath and Bapu cast her repeatedly. “There’s something very pure, very graceful and poised about Jaya Prada,” Bapu had once raved. Unknowingly, he pinned down the lack of oomph in her personality that all female superstars are known to possess. When Jaya Prada  moved to Hindi cinema, she was an instant hit in the underrated blockbuster Sargam. The film and its songs were super-hits. And Jaya Prada was soon approached by every major filmmaker in Mumbai.

Jaya Prada in a scene from 'Sargam'


However Sargam remained her career’s  highest  point in Hindi. Sadly Jaya Prada’s most ambitious film Sur Sangam, a  striking spectacular  homage to Indian classical dance and music sank without a trace. The Telugu version of the same film was a game-changer in Andhra Pradesh. Hindi cinema didn’t seem to respect her virtuous personality. Jaya Prada was heartbroken, as  she  was quickly typecast as  the  typical  long-suffering  Sita-reincarnated wife in forgettable  family dramas  produced  in  the South with  street-side arrow-pointers like Swarg Se Sundar and Ghar Ek Mandir as titles.
A very successful leading man  of the 1970 and 80s who worked with both Sridevi and Jaya Prada compared the two rather ebulliently. “Jaya was more the domesticated wifely type while Sridevi could be  anything she wanted.  Jaya was restricted and typecast.”
The constant comparisons with Sridevi soon got to her and her career. A string of Bachchan-starrers in the 1980s where she had little to do except wait while the hero fought all odds, including the mega-hit Sharaabi only reiterated Jaya Prada’s beautiful-but-dull image. She soon gravitated to politics where she found a mentor and  guiding force in Amar Singh. Jaya Prada never relinquished cinema. It was more the way. Hindi cinema could never properly fit Jaya in. This applies to politics also where she always seems a little uncomfortable as though caught in the boogie of an express train.
What she  lacked in her film career was  a guiding force  like Sridevi’s husband Boney Kapoor. Jaya’s scandalous marriage to producer, the already-married Srikanth Nahata in 1986, plummeted  her stocks in  Bollywood even  further. I  remember sitting with Manmohan Desai in his office when news of  Jaya Prada’s marriage came in. “Oh Damn, why did she have  to get married ? Now she will get pregnant,” Desai couldn’t hold back his anger.
He was worried about his Bachchan-Prada starrer Ganga Jamuna Saraswati which on  release, was an ambitious  flop. Jaya Prada was never lucky in love or career. Let’s  hope the change to saffron will bolster her so-far bleak innings.

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