Remembering Bimla Kashmiri
Bimla Kashmiri was born as Gulabi Sargotra in a Batwal family at Bermean, a small village in Udhampur district of Jammu and Kashmir. She had four sisters and one brother. She spent her early life in the village and later challenged the regressive practice of child marriage when she was about to be married off with a Nandan caste boy of Narwal at the tender age of twelve. She, however, insisted that she would like to become a dancer. After the untimely death of her parents while she was in her teens, she was raised by her brother.
After the partition of India, during October-November 1947 when a large number of people died in communal rioting, her family moved to Jammu and lived in a refugee camp. One day she along with other fans went to Hotel Premier at Residency Road to see Indian film actors who were staying over there. During their audience, a railway contractor turned actor named Gopal was so enamored by her fascinating look having some passing similarities to actress Meena Kumari that he, with the permission of her family, took her to Mumbai and there he renamed her as Bimla Kashmiri.
Bimla was very enthusiastic in learning dance, so she learnt classical kathak style of dancing and began performing in Mumbai’s Shanmukhananda Auditorium and Nobility Hall at the age of nineteen. She had made a record by performing dance continuously for eight hours and very soon her name conjured up an image of an eminent Indian dancer.
Bimla also acted in many Hindi films in her career as actress, supporting actress and dancer. Some of her noted films were Fuji Lama (1952), CID (1956), Harishchandra Taramati (1963), Magic Carpet (1964) and Truck Driver (1970).
The then Prime Minister Morarji Desai had praised her dancing and acting.
Bimla did court marriage with a south Indian, Madho Rao, at the age of 40 and lived with him happily.
The couple had no child and had adopted her niece, Mala, whom she raised as a daughter and provided her with the best music education. It pained her when she having married a Muslim boy, ran away from home. This incident made her life worst.
In December 1978, she fell ill and was immediately flown to Bombay hospital by her husband. After thorough investigation, she was diagnosed with cancer which had spread throughout her body to her brain and lungs. After she put up a brave fight with the fatal disease, this great inimitable artist died in January 1979 at the age of 48. Her last words said to her husband were, “Mony can’t buy life”. The film industry was deprived of one of the greatest performers.
Bimla left behind huge property including two bungalows, one hotel, one restaurant, one dance school and three luxury cars.
It is said that when actor Dharmendra went to Mumbai to get his earlier pictures taken had stayed in her bungalow.