Vyjayanthimala Bali (born 13 August 1936), also known by the mononym Vyjayanthimala, is an Indian film actress, Bharathanatyam dancer, Carnatic singer, dance choreographer and parliamentarian. She made her debut in the Tamil language film Vazhkai in 1949 and in the Telugu Film Jeevitham in 1950 later became one of the most prominent actresses of South India and the golden era in Bollywood.
Vyjayanthimala was one of the biggest Bollywood stars in a career lasting almost two decades. She was also the first south Indian actress to become a national star and "paved a way" for other south Indian actresses to foray into Bollywood. Vyjayanthimala is an accomplished dancer and was one of those who introduced semi-classical dance to Bollywood. Her subsequent dance numbers in her films had earned her the title of "twinkle toes". She was also referred to as one of the first female superstars of Hindi cinema and was known as "Numero Uno actress" for her "illustrious career in 1950s and 1960s".
She was born in Triplicane situated near Parthasarathy Temple in an orthodox and religious Tamil Brahmin family to M. D. Raman and Vasundhara Devi. Her mother was a leading actress in Tamil Cinema in 1940s where her film Mangama Sabatham was the first ever Tamil film to be declared a "colossal" hit at the box office. She used to call her mother by her name as her mother was only 16 years older than her. Similarly, she also called her father "Anna", meaning elder brother, as her father happened to be the eldest in their family and everyone called him "Anna" which is common in a Hindu joint family. She was raised primarily by her maternal grandmother, Yadugiri Devi, and M.D. Raman. She was also known as "Papakutty", which means little child. Her ancestors were from Mysore (now in Karnataka). In 1938, her grandfather Gopalacharya, the late Mandayam Dhati, started a nursing home on Narayan Shastri Road, Mysore.
At the age of five, Vyjayanthimala was chosen to perform a classical Indian dance for Pope Pius XII while her mother was an audience in 1940 at Vatican City. Vyjayanthi did her schooling from Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School, Presentation Convent, Church Park, Chennai. She learned Bharata Natyam from Guru Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai and Carnatic music from Manakkal Sivaraja Iyer. She had her arangetram at the age of 13 and started performing in Tamil Nadu later.
In her hey-days, Vyjayanthimala was the subject of many controversies. Particularly her relationship with her co-stars was often the subject in topic. In the early 1960s, Vyjayanthimala was linked with Dilip Kumar, who has acted with her the most compared to any other actress which resulted in great on-screen chemistry between them. While working for his home production Gunga Jumna (1961), it is said that Kumar handpicked the shade of sari that Vyjayanthimala would wear in every scene. In addition to that, film historians Bunny Reuben and Sanjit Narwekar have confirmed the Kumar & Vyjayanthimala's affair where they had said that Vyjayanthimala was Kumar's third love after Kamini Kaushal and Madhubala.
In early 1960s, actor Raj Kapoor had commenced the filming of Sangam with Vyjayanthimala playing the female lead along with Rajendra Kumar and Kapoor himself as male lead. The filming took four years to finish. During this time Vyjayanthimala is said to have been romantically involved with Kapoor and almost married him. Initially, she was vexed with him and kept him at a distance. However Kapoor did not give up over her attitude. This incident had made Kapoor's wife Krishna to move out of her husband’s house with their children. They checked into Natraj Hotel in Mumbai and stayed there for four and a half months as Krishna was disgusted with the affair.
Vyjayanthimala married Chamanlal Bali in 1968. After marriage, she gave up her acting career and moved to Chennai. They have a son, Suchindra Bali. In 2007, she published her autobiography, titled Bonding, with Jyoti Sabarwal as co-writer.
Vyjayanthimala is a Vaishnavite and a vegetarian. She grew up listening to holy chants and devotional songs. She is a devotee of Aandaal, one of the 12 Alvar saints of South India. She used to invoke Aandaal before any public performance to gain her blessing.