Monday, December 28, 2015




She belonged to a reputed Kashmiri Pandit  family of  Lucknow. Her father had shifted to Lahore on account of his employment .   Later the family moved back to Lucknow as  her father , Jeevan Lal  Katju, was appointed on a senior  administrative position  by the  British  Government and transferred to the united Provinces . Her father later resigned  his government  job and joined   the freedom struggle of the country . He was a well known Congress leader from the  UP. Her Mother's name was Kailashwati Mulla Katju. She was the   sister Ananad Narain Mulla , the well known Urdu poet and  the Judge  of Allahabad High court .

Yashodhra was fondly called as Chunnu by her parents.  Other members of this Katju family were her brothers Moti Lal Katju , Pyare Lal Katju  and her three sisters Chandra ( Manno) , Usha ( Panno ) and Manorama . Manorama ( Journalist and former editor of the  film Journal Screen  )  married a European  journalist named Harold Phillip Mcleod Walter while  Usha was  married to  Prakash Narain  Masaaldaan ( a Kashmiri Brahmin ). Katju family was closely related to Nehrus of Allahabad  .

Yashodhara studied in English medium schools and was fluent in English , Hindi and Urdu. Apart from that, she was a highly  talented girl who  was equally well versed with  singing  and  dancing  .  For some time she also joined Bhatkhande Music Institute ,Lucknow  to learn music  but devoted more time to dancing and got herself  trained  as a professional dancer   ( Kathakali , Katahk  and Manipuri )   from some masters of  Lucknow . Later she took dancing lessons in Bombay as well.

According to Dr Sunil Kothari ,

“With help of Kathak Guru Mohanrao Kallianpurkar ,  Pandit Sundar Prasad( Kathak maestro of Jaipur Gharana ) started Bindadin Maharaj School of Kathak named after the great Kathak Guru Bindadin Maharaj near Babulnath Temple in Mumbai. It attracted a few young female dancers like Nalini Jayant, who later on became a well known film star, and Yashodhara Katju who also joined films.”

 All this apart , this talented girl nursed a desire from her childhood to join films and accordingly, much against the wishes of her family , she moved to Bombay in 1941. The family  is reported to have sought intervention of   Pandit Jawahar Lal  Nehru also  to dissuade her from joining films but she proved adamant. Katjus were closely related to Pandit  Jawahar Lal Nehru’s family . It is said that Chander Mohan Wattal ,  another actor of that period  too  tried to dissuade her from acting in films  but she remained adamant. Her parents finally consented  to her decision and ensured a boarding and lodging for her in Bombay .

Prior to her , Shyama Zutshi was the first Kashmiri Pandit  girl who joined films in 1934 .She acted in  Shiv Bhakti  produced in 1934 .

And in  1941, at a young age of 14 years , she was offered a role in a movie named LALAJI produced by  theNational Studios . The movie was completed in 1942. Her co-actors in that movie were Yakub, A. R. Kabul, Wasker,  Amar, Sunalini, Vatsala Kumtekar, Maya Devi and  Krishnakant .

Between LALAJI (1942,  her  first Movie  )  and DO PHOOL (1973 her  last movie ) ,she acted in about 85 films . Her co-stars included Jagdish Sethi, Pahari Sanyal, Shanta Apte, K. C. Dey,  Manorama ,Motilal, Shobhana Samarth, Leela Misra, Trilok Kapoor, Sadhana Bose, Khurshid, Kanhaiyalal,  Ulhas, Yakub,  Jairaj,  Rehman, Suraiya,   Prem Adeeb, Nirupa Roy ,Shyam, Suraiya, Kuldip Kaur ( K K ),  Jeevan, Cuckoo,Bharat Bhushan, Lalita Pawar,  K. N. Singh, Meena Kumari, Jankidas,  Durga Khote,  Mukri, Bhagwan, Jagirdar, Nigar Sultana, Ajit, Pran, Agha, Sunder, Anwar Hussein, Jayant, Shakila, Naseem Bano,  Guru Dutt, Ratan Kumar, Mahipal, Ifftekhar, Bina Rai, Rajendranath,  Helen, Madhubala, Sapru, Sulochana, Sunil Dutt, Meena Kumari, Daisy Irani, Ashok Kumar, Kumkum,   Vaijayantimala, Begum Para,  Kamajit, Tuntun, Balraj Sahni, Devanand , Prem Chopra  , Rajendra Nath , Aruna Irani , Mehmood  and  Rajendra Kumar.

From the younger generation, her co stars included Rakhee Gulzar, Rakesh Roshan, Hema Malini, Simi Garewal, Kabir Bedi, Zeenat Aman,  Vinod Mehra ,Mumtaz and   Mehmood Junior . She worked with almost all prominent directors in  the film industry including S.S.Vasan, Devendra Goel ,Guru Dutt, Mohan Segal, P. L.Santoshi ,M.Sadiq ,D. N. Madhok,H.S.Rawail,B. R. Chopra, Rafiq Rizv, Kishore Sahu,Dev Anand and Mahesh Kaul.

She started as a  co star , moved to lead roles , shifted to comedy ( Mostly with Bhagwan , another comedian of her time  ) and finally did some memorable performances as a character actress (Seema , Hare Rama Hare Krishna and Do Phool  etc.)  .

Yashodhara had a younger sister named Manorama Katju. Manorama edited Screen  , a popular  Film Tabloid . Manorama later started her own magazine but closed it after sometime and moved permanently to England.

  Her close friends included Nalini Jayant , Laita Pawar and Nirupa Roy.Sometime around 1958, she married a Naval officer ( Commander Bhandari ) and lived a happy married life..After 1973, she did not act in films and  slipped into oblivion .She  died of a sudden  heart attack.

( Avtar Mota )
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