Do you know who Bollywood’s Rati was?

Large doe eyes, raven black hair, curvaceous women in the prime of her youth, ravenous Rati made her promising debut in Bollywood and Hindi cinema had a fresh new face. But who was Rati?

Actresses from South India have always had some exotic image up north in Bollywood. The 19-year-old Southern sensation Krishna Kumari made her Bollywood debut with none other than Kishore Kumar. Krishna Kumari had the added advantage that she could read, write and speak Hindi. Of course, another common tradition was the renaming of an actress when they migrated industries. Krishna Kumari was christened as Rati to avoid confusion with another actress of the time.

It was 1958 and the superhit pair Kishore Kumar-Nutan starrer “Kabhi Andhera Kabhi Ujala” was getting made.

Krishna Kumari was picked to play Kishore’s sister. Those were different times; films rode on the fame of their songs. With music by the famous O.P. Nayyar, “Surma mera nirala, aankhon mein jisne daala” sung by Kishore Kumar was picturised on Krishna Kumari.

“Rati: The enchanting new discovery of Hindi films” screamed a newspaper headline of the time. The posters of the film said they were featuring a “new flame” called Rati. Bollywood was obviously fidaa over her looks. Krishna Kumari fondly recalled to her daughter how Kishore Kumar had remarked on seeing her: “Yeh toh Meena jaisi dikhti hai” referring to Hindi cinema’s heartthrob Meena Kumari.

Read more about Krishna Kumar aka Rati’s journey into Bollywood, how many films she did, why she chose to return to Madras, the famous song she sang often for her daughter – all in the beautifully produced book “My Mother T. Krishna Kumari” authored by her daughter Dipika V. Maiya as a personal memoir. It’s filled with exclusive pictures not seen anywhere. Buy it here.