Manto‘s writing on the early days on Indian cinema drew my attention towards Kuldip Kaur who is credited to be first vamp of Bollywood. Known for her daredevil attitude, Kuldip became a part of fascinating story of the industry.
Born in 1927 in the rich Punjabi landlord family from Lahore, Kuldip was married at the age of 14 at the Atari village near Amritsar. She and her husband were part of the rich circle of Punjab and were frequent to the Army clubs and parties. Their friends were industrialists, foreign expats and army personnel from higher rank. However Kuldip’s interest was beyond socializing in these clubs.
Kuldip was drawn towards the world of cinema and was especially attracted to Pran, who became popular after his Punjabi movie Yamla Jatt was a super hit. Though both Kuldip and Pran were married with kids but it was said that they had an affair. Kuldip had also gifted him a car in Lahore.( infact Kuldip had a very interesting relationship with cars. )
Kuldip’s husband Mohinder Singh Pompa was known as spoiled brat who was very fond of cars. He had a fleet of Aston Martin, Baby Morris and Buick. He was frequent in the clubs in both Amirtsar and Lahore and it was said that he never had two meals in the same city. Kuldip also learned driving at the early age, which was not common for woman in those days.
During the partition, both Pran and Kuldip had to leave everything behind in Lahore and come to India. During 1942-46, Pran had acted in 22 Punjabi films in Lahore and he was a big star. But after partition, he struggled to find work. It was difficult time for him. Kuldip, who was too egar to impress Pran, decided to surprise Pran when she left her comfort house in Amritsar and went to Pakistan to drive Pran’s car all the way from Lahore to Mumbai. This kind of incident had really established Kuldip as daredevil and brave in the small circle of the industry back then.
She finally got her break in the Punjabi blockbuster ‘’Chaman’ followed by Ziddi in 1948. She was screen tested in the old Bombay Talkies studio in presence of the biggest star of that era- Ashok Kumar. All her movies were hit at the box office and she never looked back from there.
Those days, there was shortage of actors who wanted to play the negative role. Because of her big eyes and flat chin, she was offered negative roles which she happily accepted. During this time, Pran also accepted negative roles as the offer for lead roles started drying altogether. Together Kuldip and Pran started in many movies together and their partnership flourished.
Her confident and piercing looks made her an ideal vamp. Her body language and expressions was role model for future actresses who took up the role of vamps. She was credited in 58 films before her life was cut short at the age of 30 when she was infected by tetanus in the year 1960. Without any formal training, she made her name in the industry’s most infamous character type which is still seen in popular films and television shows.