When I wrote my blog titled ‘Bollywood’s Drag-Queen Acts’ last year (https://myviewsonbollywood.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/bollywoods-drag-queen-acts/), which dealt with a few instances of Bollywood actors dressed up in female attire in our films, there were a few requests from friends to do a post on the ‘Drag-King’ acts wherein our actresses decided to dress up as ‘males’ on screen! So here goes…
Though the variety of scripts demanding the actresses to don the guise of a man was far lesser than in the case of actors dressing up as a woman, I managed to find 19 films (from 1954-2014) where our heroines took on this challenge! While some of the actresses had quite a few scenes in the male guise, others got to masquerade in the get-up only for one scene. The reasons for donning the male get-up varied from as simple a thing as playing a prank to something as grave as taking refuge in it to escape from being forcibly married off to a man of their parents’ choice. In some instances it was to take revenge and in some it was to save their dignity from lecherous men ready to pounce on single women living alone. In one instance it was just to be included in an ‘all-boys’ sports team!
VIDYA BALAN in Bobby Jasoos (2014)
Vidya plays Bilqees Ahmed a Hyderabadi girl who takes the name of ‘Bobby’ to become a ‘jasoos’ or private detective and solves the neighbourhood cases. During one of her cases she gets the opportunity to don several disguises as a guy to find the necessary information regarding the whereabouts of two girls in the area and to track them down. Vidya looks very convincing in the various get-ups but sadly she has not been allotted enough screen-time to make a great impact.
RANI MUKHERJI in Dil Bole Hadippa (2009)
In this Yash Raj film Rani Mukhejee plays Veera a village girl who is crazy about cricket and wants to be in her village squad as a batsman but is rejected by the selectors and the team captain (Shahid Kapoor) for being a girl. So she decides to become Veer Paratap Singh – Veera’s brother. Her make-up as Veer is very convincing, her acting is outstanding and the film is thoroughly enjoyable. Shahid who falls in love with Veera does not come to know of the real identity of Veer Pratap for a long time. The final innings of the match in the climax has both these ‘batsmen’ at the crease and has an interesting ending!
RAVEENA TANDON and ISHAA KOPPIKKAR in Ek Se Badhkar Ek (2004)
This was Kundan Shah’s last directorial venture. Here Raveena Tandon is a police inspector and Ishaa Koppikkar plays a RAW agent. To get some important information to nab the real culprits, these two dress up as Sikh guys. They do look convincing but the scene is a very short one and there is not much to write about.
SHILPA SHETTY in Pardesi Babu (1998)
Shilpa Shetty is the daughter of a rich businessman and is going to be forcibly married off to the guy chosen by her father. She runs away from her house and lands up in Govinda’s small rented accommodation. But the landlady’s condition before renting out had been that since Govinda was a bachelor, he should not bring any woman into his room! For a while Shilpa Shetty disguises as a Sikh guy to escape being spotted until the truth is revealed and the two get thrown out of their tenement.
SRIDEVI in Mr India (1987)
In this fun-filled film, Sridevi dresses up as ‘Charlie Chaplin’ in a scene. In this guise, she enters a casino along with a young boy and inadvertently ends up creating havoc. Unknown to her Anil Kapoor, who is invisible to everyone except the young friend who can see him through a special lens, bashes up the goons in the casino and to the onlookers it looks like Sridevi is the one doing it. This hilarious scene was included to elicit some fun and expectedly the audience loved it.
Here is the link to the above scene from the film:
SAIRA BANU- Victoria No.203 (1973)
This is a fast-paced comedy cum thriller which involves the theft of some valuable diamonds which are hidden in the Victoria No.203 unknown to its owners Saira Banu and her father. Unfortunately her father gets blamed for a murder he didn’t commit and she and her younger sister are left alone to fend for themselves. She decides to become a Victoria driver but she has to disguise as a man because she is informed politely that the license to drive a Victoria is given only to men. Saira Banu looks quite convincing and the hero Navin Nischol becomes chums with ‘him’!
KUM KUM in Lalkar (1972)
This Ramanand Sagar war film starring Rajendra Kumar, Dharmendra, Mala Sinha and Kum Kum was well-made and had lovely songs. Kum Kum plays a tribal princess who secretly loves Dharmendra and to help him from getting attacked by the enemy camp, she disguises as a tribal boy and helps them by being their guide and accompanying them on the dangerous mission. Of Course! After a while Dharmendra does find out the truth!
TANUJA in Do Chor (1972)
Tanuja dons the guise of a man at night and goes about robbing specific pieces of jewellery from the houses of some rich businessmen and leaves a Swastik sign as proof of the thief’s presence. As the film’s name signifies, the film’s hero Dharmendra also happens to be a thief and catches her during one of her robberies, falls for the disguise and decides to become ‘partners in crime’ with this new thief. Tanuja fools him for a while and pretends to be the normal Tanuja’s brother but ultimately the truth is revealed. Tanuja has quite a few scenes in the thief’s get-up and looks smart and quite believable as a guy.
PADMINI in Mera Naam Joker (1970)
This magnum-opus acted and directed by Raj Kapoor for R K Films was a classic and had a unique story-line. There are three leading ladies whom Raj Kapoor meets at different stages of his life and Padmini who comes in the third part of the film is initially introduced in the film as a boy working in a circus. Later when Raj Kapoor discovers her true identity she explains that it was to protect her dignity from the lecherous gaze of men and to earn a decent living that she had to forcibly pretend to be a boy. There are however very few scenes of her in the get-up.
MUMTAZ in Himmat (1970)
This film directed by Ravi Nagaich had just one scene in which Mumtaz disguises as a young lad. After the death of her parents, the man she looked upon as a brother tries to molest her and she runs away in this disguise. She gets into a truck waiting at a level crossing which is incidentally being driven by Jeetendra and his friend Jagdeep. Taking her to be a boy, they decide to help her.Though Jeetendra finds out her reality he teases her for a while pretending not to know just to have some fun.
BABITA in Kismat (1968)
This film has the evergreen Asha Bhonsle- Shamshad Begum duet composed by OP Nayyar-‘Kajra mohabbat waala, akhiyon mein aisa daala...’. The film released nearly fifty years ago yet this unique song retains its freshness and charm and remains a top favourite even today. This film is a fast-paced thriller, where a man hides an important coded message inside a guitar before he is murdered. Now the gang of crooks is after Biswajit-the owner of the guitar and thereafter the whole film is just a series of chase sequences with the villains running after his life and his guitar. He meets Babita and a friend on the way and to ward off the gangsters, they enter a dance troupe’s tent, disguise themselves and sing this awesome number. She dresses up as a guy and he as a girl.
ASHA PAREKH in Love in Tokyo (1966)
In this musical rom-com, when Asha Parekh learns of her father’s idea to marry her off to Pran-the man she dislikes, she dons the disguise of a Sikh and runs away from her house. She meets Joy Mukherjee and falls in love but continues to fool him in the guise of his Sikh friend as well. Expectedly after a while the truth is revealed. Though her outfit is well done, her shrill voice does seem a giveaway but then poor Joy Mukherjee does get fooled!
SAIRA BANU in Junglee (1961)
In her debut film itself Saira Banu gets to disguise as a man albeit for just a scene. To play a prank on Shammi Kapoor, she disguises as a ‘sadhu’ or ascetic and predicts that to avoid a catastrophe in his life he is required to travel to a distant place and bow before the Lord regularly for 15 days. He falls for the trick and starts on the journey but soon discovers that it was Saira Banu fooling him.
MALA SINHA in Bewaqoof (1960)
In this full-on comedy film starring Kishore Kumar, I S Johar, Pran and Mala Sinha, this get-up is used just to play a prank. To escape from Pran who is following them, Mala Sinha and her friend (I do not know the name of this actress) decide to dress up as bearded men and drive away to a distant place. Coincidentally at the same time, Kishore Kumar and I S Johar who have also decided to disguise in ‘drag’ end up getting a lift from Mala Sinha in her car. On reaching the destination, the girls discover their truth and decide to fool the guys for some more time before revealing the truth. The scene is quite hilarious. While Mala Sinha and her friend look decent in their get-up, Kishore Kumar and I S Johar look obnoxious dressed as females!!!
KALPANA KARTIK in Nau Do Gyarah (1957)
Vijay Anand makes his directorial debut with this film produced by Dev Anand. In the film Kalpana Kartik is being forced by her father to marry the good-for-nothing Jeevan. On the day of her marriage, when she is pondering over her plight, she overhears a conversation between Dev Anand (who had just dropped by to attend the wedding) and his friend where he suggests jokingly that if he were in the bride’s place he would run away. Taking a cue from this idea, she decides to run away. She disguises as a boy, caries with her some cash and jewellery and hides in Dev Anand’s trailer-truck conveniently parked outside her house.
She becomes his companion for a while before the truth of her identity is revealed. Interestingly later on towards the end of the film she reverts back to this disguise to thwart Jeevan’s plans to usurp a hidden ‘will’ meant for Dev Anand which would make him inherit Rs 9 lakhs of cash and Rs 2 lakhs worth of property (nau do gyarah! )
MADHUBALA in Raj Hath (1957)
Produced and directed by Sohrab Modi, the film has him playing the King of an empire whose ego is hurt when his proposal to have his daughter (Madhubala) married to the neighbouring kingdom’s prince (Pradeep Kumar) is rejected. He then declares war on them but is aware that to enter the enemy’s fortress and navigate through its various secret passages, they need to get hold of the blueprint of the palace which has to be retrieved and for this purpose, a brave person is required to enter that kingdom stealthily and get the map from inside the King’s palace.
Madhubala dressed up as a young warrior comes forward for the task and is proud when ‘he’ is lauded for ‘his’ bravery by the King and granted permission to undertake this difficult task. She returns home after successfully completing the mission and in the process also ends up falling in love with Pradeep Kumar. But her disguise is successful as no one comes to know of her true identity.
GEETA BALI in Rangeen Ratein (1956)
This is a unique film because here Geeta Bali does not just dress up as a man for a few scenes, but plays a male character ‘Gullu’ in the film. It is said that Shammi Kapoor and she were at the height of their romance around the time of the shooting of the film. The shooting was to be in the hill station Ranikhet which would require Shammi Kapoor to be away from Bombay for a while. So in order to be near him, Geeta Bali requested the director Kidar Sharma (who had incidentally given her the first break in films) to create a role for her. As there was no scope for a female character in the script, a male character was created and so Geeta Bali turned into a man for the film.
VYJAYANTIMALA in Kismet Ka Khel (1956)
Vyjayanthimala is a street urchin and she and her street friends indulge in petty thieving and robbery to make a living. During one of her late-night outings where she had gone to steal some bread and bun for her friends and herself, she comes across Sunil Dutt who is hiding in the bakery. She is dressed up as a boy but a few scenes later her real identity is revealed.
KALPANA KARTIK in Taxi Driver (1954)
In this film Dev Anand plays a taxi-driver and during one of his trips manages to rescue Kalpana Kartik from the clutches of two goons who take her to a lonely place and try to misbehave with her. After this, he takes her to live with him in his small tenement as she is new to the city and has come in search of a music baron who had promised to give her a break. Unexpectedly his old and orthodox ‘Bhabhi’ (sister-in-law) decides to come and stay with him for a few days. Dev Anand realizing the problems that can crop up if his Bhabhi comes to know that a girl is staying with him decides to chop off Kalpana’s hair, gets her to dress up in his loose-fitting clothes and turns her into his ‘cleaner and helper boy’ who is staying with him.
Kalpana looks convincing as a helper boy and also acts well.
Interestingly, the film produced by Dev Anand himself is directed by Chetan Anand, with dialogues written by Vijay Anand. The story is by Chetan Anand, his wife Uma Anand and Vijay Anand and it is during the shooting of this film that Dev Anand and Kalpana fell in love and got secretly married also!!!
Here are the YouTube links of a few songs featuring our ‘drag-kings’: