(also known as Begum Ayesha Sultana Khan following conversion to Islam and marriage; born 8 December 1944) is a former Indian film actress known for her works in Hindi cinema as well as Bengali cinema. She has received two National Film Awards and two Filmfare Awards for her performances.
She led the Indian Film Censor Board from October 2004 till March 2011. In December 2005 she was chosen as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. She was one of the International Competition’s Jury Members at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. In 2013, she was awarded Padma Bhushan by the Government of India
Main article: Tagore family
Sharmila was born in Hyderabad, India, the daughter of Gitindranath Tagore, a general manager in the British India Corporation, by his wife Ira Tagore (née Barua). While Sharmila Tagore’s father belonged to a Bengali Hindu family, her mother came from an Assamese Hindu family, and both of them were distantly related to the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Gitindranath was the grandson of the noted painter Gaganendranath Tagore, whose own father Gunendranath had been a first cousin of the laureate. In fact, Sharmila Tagore is more closely related to Rabindranath Tagore through her mother: her maternal grandmother Latika Barua (née Tagore) was the granddaughter of Rabindranath Tagore’s brother Dwijendranath Tagore. Tagore’s maternal grandfather (husband of Latika Barua née Tagore) was Jnanadabhiram Barua, the first Principal of Earl Law College in Guwahati (now known as Government Law College), himself the son of the noted social worker Gunabhiram Barua. As a member of the Tagore family, Sharmila Tagore is also a distant relative of the actress Devika Rani and the painter Abanindranath Tagore (brother of Gaganendranath Tagore)
Sharmila Tagore was the eldest of three children and had two younger sisters, the late Oindrila Kunda [Tinku Tagore] and Romila Sen [Chinky]. Oindrila was the first in the family to act in a film, and the only role she ever played was that of Mini, the child character (but a central character) in Tapan Sinha’s film Kabuliwala (1957). In adulthood, she became an international bridge player. The other sister, Romila Sen, is the wife of Nikhil Sen, a corporate honcho who served as Chief Operating Officer of Britannia Industries for many years.
Sharmila Tagore attended St. John’s Diocesan Girls’ Higher Secondary School and Loreto Convent, Asansol. She made her film debut when she was a 13-year-old schoolgirl, after which her studies lost priority, and she never finished school. Within a short while, her results in school became very bad, her attendance levels were very low, she came to be regarded as a bad influence on her classmates, and was faced with a choice of either doing films or studying further. At that point, her father advised her to move ahead in life, commit herself to a film career and ‘give it her all’ in order to become successful. She did as her father advised, and credits her parents for having supported her at every point in her life.
Sharmila Tagore began her career as an actress in Satyajit Ray’s 1959 Bengali film Apur Sansar (The World of Apu), as the ill-fated bride of the title character. She later appeared in Shakti Samanta’s Kashmir Ki Kali in 1964. Samanta cast her in many more films, including An Evening in Paris (1967), in which she became the first Indian actress to appear in a bikini, which established Sharmila Tagore as somewhat of a sex symbol in Hindi films. She also posed in a bikini for the glossy Filmfare magazine in 1966 But, when Begum Ayesha Sultana was the chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification 36 years later, she expressed concerns about the increased use of bikinis in Indian films.
Samanta later teamed up Sharmila with Rajesh Khanna for movies such as Aradhana (1969) and Amar Prem (1972). Other directors paired them together in Safar (1970), Daag (1973), and Maalik (1972). The pair of Khanna-Sharmila gave 7 box office hit Aradhana, Safar, Amar Prem, Chhoti Bahu, Daag, “Raja Rani” and Avishkaar. As per the review of the film Raja Rani made in 2014 by the Hindu newspaper, the film did well at the box office and taking into consideration, the inflation as of 2014, the film would have grossed more than 1 billion. She starred in Gulzar’s 1975 film, Mausam and won the National Film Award for Best Actress. She also played a supporting role in Mira Nair’s 1991 film Mississippi Masala. She was the highest paid Bollywood actress from 1970 to 1976 along with Mumtaz. She had a very successful pairing opposite Dharmendra, along with whom she starred in seven movies – Devar (1966), Anupama (1966), Mere Hamdam Mere Dost (1968), Satyakam (1969), Yakeen (1969), Chupke Chupke (1975), Ek Mahal Ho Sapno Ka (1975) and Sunny (1984). Her filmography also include Faraar (1975) opposite Amitabh Bachchan; Besharam (1975) and Mausam (1978) opposite Sanjeev Kumar; and Bengali film Mangaldeep (1991) opposite Naseeruddin Shah. In 2017, she walked as a showstopper for Designer Rohini Gugnani at India Runway Week.
Sharmila Tagore married Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, the Nawab of Pataudi and former captain of the Indian cricket team, in a Nikah ceremony held on 27 December 1969. She converted to Islam upon marriage and changed her name to Begum Ayesha Sultana Khan. They had three children: Saif Ali Khan (b. 1970), a Bollywood actor, Saba Ali Khan (b. 1976), a jewellery designer, and Soha Ali Khan (b. 1978), a Bollywood actress and TV personality. Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi died, at age 70, on 22 September 2011. In November 2012 she wrote to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) asking for the upcoming series between India and England to be recognised as the Pataudi Trophy which was commissioned by the MCC in 2007. The Indian board responded saying that England’s Test series in India are contested for the Anthony de Mello Trophy, in honour of the cricket administrator and co-founder of the BCCI.