indian cinema heritage foundation

Asha Mathur

  • Born: November 21, 1934 (..)
  • Primary Cinema: Hindi
  • Parents: Sohan D Singh Sekhon

Asha Mathur is an actress of Hindi films who worked predominantly in the 1950s. She was born on November 21, 1934 to Sohan D Singh Sekhon. She was one of those few educated actresses who joined Hindi cinema. Though, she did not have a long-lasting career but managed to make a mark for herself in the 50s.

She was introduced as actress by prominent and successful writer-director Kishore Sahu. He was known for his customary ‘eye’ for the heroine. She was seen in Kali Ghata (1951) for the first time on screen along with Bina Rai. In this film Asha played the role of Chand Kapoor who falls in love with Ram Narain, played by Kishore Sahu. However, because of the lack of reciprocation from Ram towards her, jilted Chand decide to move on and marry Ram’s step brother Jagat, played by Jeevan, who has inherited entire estate of his father. As the story progresses, Chand realizes her mistake and discovers that Ram was the only one she ever truly loved. She suggests to Jagat that they should bring Ram back. Ram, on the other hand, fell for Sonia Gorden, played by Bina Rai, a French woman with whom he might have a connection going back to their previous lives. Kishore Sahu concocts a savoring drama in Kali Ghata with an epic finale.

In M Sadiq’s Poonam (1952), Asha played the role of Bina – wife to Rajan, played by Ashok Kumar. Bina is presented as an antithesis to Kamini Kaushal’s Chanda, a village belle who is in love with Rajan. Where Chanda is empathetic and prioritize emotions and feelings over anything, Bina is presented as a crooked and cunning woman who can go to any extent for her own good. The film presents the conflict between the good woman and bad woman and was part of the films that went to soldify this trope of pitching women against each other in Hindi cinema.

She played the role of Princess Rukhsana in Lekhraj Bhandari’s interpretation of Arabian Nights tales, Naqab (1955). A melodrama with ‘The Thief of Baghdad’ treatment, the film follows the story of a Vizier, played by Hiralal, madly in love with Princess Rukhsana. He usurps the throne in order to get the Princess to marry him but she refuses to comply. Her lover, Prince Kamran of the neighboring state, played by Ajit, along with her sister Princess Yasmin, played by Madhubala, comes to rescue Princess Rukhsana from the hold of the cruel vizier. The Vizier’s captain of the guard, Anwar, played by Shammi Kapoor, rebel and go against his lord to help Kamran and Yasmin in their mission. Asha Mathur portrayed Princess Rukhsana with such finesse that it engenders a deep sympathy for the plight of the character. ‘Her performance come out as a charming cameo,’ wrote one of the reviews published in Filmfare’s June 24, 1955 issue. 

Apart from this, Asha Mathur also worked in films that explored Oriental aesthetics and Arabian Nights narratives such as Alif Laila (1953) and Shah Behram (1955). She also played the role of the historical figure Noor Jahan in Malika-e-Alam Noorjehan (1955).  

Other than this, Asha Mathur worked in films like Hamari Duniya (1952), Dhuaan (1953), Bilwamangal (1954), Rajyogi Bharathari (1954), Laakhon Mein Ek (1955), Jagadguru Shankaracharya (1955), Amaanat (1955), Ganga Maiyya (1955), Raaj Darbar (1955), Harihar Bhakti (1956), and Taqdeer (1958). She also appeared as a guest actor in Mayur Pankh (1954) and Toote Khilaune (1954). 

She went on to marry prominent filmmaker Mohan Segal and have two children, Uma and Deepak. After her marriage she took a retirement from her acting career. Her daughter Uma Segal is an award-winning documentary filmmaker.