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India's first female villain was called Pak spy; married at 14, became mother at 16, left family to run away with star

The first successful female villain in Indian cinema had a colourful life off screen too

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India's first female villain was called Pak spy; married at 14, became mother at 16, left family to run away with star
Kuldip Kaur
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Over the years, Indian cinema has seen a number of powerful and successful female villains. The likes of Bindu and Nadira made a name for themselves playing negative characters in several iconic films, Of late, even lead actresses like Kajol, Kareena Kapoor, and Priyanka Chopra have taken the leap. But this trend was started by one Punjabi actress, who defied her family and society to become Indian cinema’s first female villain.

Indian cinema’s first vamp

Kuldip Kaur is widely regarded as India’s first female villain. The actress began her career in 1948 with Punjabi film Chaman, which was a big success. But her breakthrough as a vamp came in the Hindi film Grahasti the following year. She appeared in roles with negative shads with many films through the 50s, and starred in hits like Samadhi, Baiju Bawra, Baaz, Anarkali, and Aadhi Raat. At the height of her career, she was considered as important as Pran, the reigning villain in Bollywood at the time. She was so hated during he 50s that there were rumours calling her a Pakistani spy but they were found to be untrue.

How Kuldip Kaur defied her family to enter films

Kuldip Kaur was born in a Jat family in Lahore in 1927. She was married by the age of 14 and gave birth to her first child at the age of 16. However, she defied convention and family pressure to join films. She began making movies in Lahore pre-Partition. Here, she reportedly began an affair with Pran. Author Saadat Hasan Manto called Pran her ‘male mistress’. After Partition, she and Pran escaped to India with Kuldip leaving her family behind. That is when she began her Indian film career.

Kuldip Kaur and Pran

Kuldip Kaur’s untimely death at 32

Kuldip Kaur appeared in over 100 films in a career that lasted barely a decade. Her death was equally tragic as it was sudden. She died in 1960 at the age of 32 after contracting tetanus. There are two stories behind her death. One states that she went to Shirdi where she was pricked by a thorn. The other theory is that she got a wound from a nail at a dargah. In both cases, the story goes that she thought it was a normal wound that did not require a doctor’s eyes. Eventually, the wound became infected, claiming her life.

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