#Azurie was one of the earliest dancers to make a dance performance an integral feature of Hindi cinema. She was the forerunner for dancing divas of the Hindi film industry like Cuckoo Moray and Helen who modeled themselves on her.
Anna Marie Gueizelor, whose screen name was Azurie, was born in Bangalore in 1907 to an Indian mother and a German father who was a doctor. Her father looked down on Indian music, dance and films and encouraged her to learn ballet and to play the piano. When Anna was a teenager, the family moved to Bombay. Her father became a member of the Three Arts Circle organized by Begum Atiya Rahman from her palatial home, Aiwan-e-Riffat. After her father’s death, Anna stayed with Begum Rahman who encouraged her to study the arts of the subcontinent. She studied different schools of dance from renowned teachers.
Azurie thought films were magical from the first time she went to the cinema. In an interview with Ali Peter John in 1980 at the age of 72 she said, “One day a filmmaker asked me if I could dance and without thinking twice I said ‘yes’. I started dancing and soon found out that I was born to dance . . . and the filmmakers were happy and I was happier than them”. She featured in numerous films in the Bombay film industry. It is believed that her first film was “Nadira” (1934). Her filmography includes: “Jawani ki Hawa” (1935), “Gentleman Daku” 91937), “Mera Wattan” (1939), “Jai Swadesh” (1940), “Nai Duniya” (1942), “Sheikh Chilli” (1942), “Return of Toofan Mail” (1942) and “Hatim Tai” (1947) amongst others.
Her memorable appearances include her performance in the song “O jaane wale balam laut ke aa” in the film “Rattan” (1944). Azurie was the lead dancer in silhouette in the famous drum dance in the V. Shantaram’s film “Chandrasena” (1935). V. Shantaram is believed to have said once, “Give me a girl with a figure like Azurie and I’ll give you anything.” Her performance in the song “Main harijan ki chhori” in “Naya Sansar” (1941) was so popular that Mahatma Gandhi sent for her and asked her to work in his ashram for the upliftment of the Harijans. She got an opportunity to display her histrionic abilities in the film “Maya” (1936) where she played the frivolous daughter of a rich man who gets the hero, only to discover that he doesn’t love her. Her last film in India was “Bahana” which released in 1960.
A little before Partition, she fell in love with and married a Muslim gentleman called Mahmood. She migrated to Pakistan and did a few films there like “Jhoomar” that released in1959. She opened the first Academy of Classical Dance in Pakistan and toured several foreign countries with a small dance troupe. In Islamabad, Azurie was a member of the board of the National Council of the Arts. She was a founding member of the Pak-American Cultural Centre in Karachi where she taught classical dance for a number of years. She died in Pakistan in 1998 at the age of 90 or 91.
Courtesy- Film Heritage Foundation
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