indian cinema heritage foundation

Madhuri (Beryl Yvonne Claesse)

  • Real Name: Beryl Yvonne Claessen
  • Born: .. (Nainital, British India)
  • Parents: Alice and Allan Claessen
  • Spouse: Lorimar Vinay (divorced)

Leading actress and exquisite beauty Madhuri (original name: Beryl Yvonne Claessen) enjoyed an extensive career and top billing in several films, featuring in a range of productions from the silent era followed by the talkie age, working primarily with Chandulal Shah’s Ranjit Studios. Some of the films she acted in include Noblesse Oblige/ Benamun Balidan/ Sorathi Shamsher (1929), Krishna Kumari/ Flower of Rajasthan (1930), Rose of Kashmir (1931), Matribhumi (1932), Kalo Bhut (1932), Sitamgarh (1934), College Kanya (1935), Thokar (193p), Pagal (1940), Shadi (1941), Jungle Man (1950), Pagle (1950), Oot Patang (1955), Qaanoon (1960), Ban Phool (1971), Sant Tulsidas (1972), and Naarad Leela (1972).

Born Beryl Yvonne Claessen in Nainital, British India, her parents were Allan and Alice Claessen. They later divorced and Alice married Hector Ramos who then became Madhuri's step-father. Among the earliest films she worked in was the costume drama Rajput Sawar/ Rajput Cavalier in 1929, in which she played the female lead Shobhana in a cast that included Mohan as Chandra Singh, Manorama as Putli, Mumtaz as Ganga and Ramesh as Kalu. Made under the banner of Young India Pictures, it was directed by Ramakant Gharekhan and Indulal Yagnik

In the Maneklal Joshi directed Krishna Kumari (1930), she starred alongside P Jairaj in the Young India Pictures production, while in Shree Krishna Film Company of Bombay’s Hoor-E-Roshan (1931) she starred opposite Eddie Billimoria in the Nanubhai Vakil directorial. 

In 1932, she starred in Kalo Bhut alongside Master Vithal, in the Shantilal J Dave directorial written by Vijay Shankar Bhatt and produced by the Royal Film Company. The following year, she starred in Krishna Sudama (1933), a fantasy film directed by Jayant Desai under the Ranjit Movietone banner. 

She played a character named Sadika in the Jayant Desai-directed Ranjit Movies’ drama film Sitamgarh (1934). The film revolved around a tyrant Jabbar (Bawa) who attacks the village of the famously devout Sayyed (Bhupatrai) and kidnaps his son Iqbal (Bilimoria). Iqbal grows up to become the commander of Jabbar's army and is as tyrannical as his mentor, campaigning to force the people to accept Jabbar as the true god. He comes to a camp of 'true' religious believers led by Sadiq, his daughter Sadika (Madhuri) and a Princess Hamida (Khatun). The latter falls in love with him, much to the chagrin of Shaddad (Ishwarlal), her suitor. Eventually Iqbal learns of his real ancestry and joins the true believers. He then proceeds to attack those who do not share his religion, nor his belief in Jabbar. When Jabbar realises that his own family now opposes him, he commits suicide.

Ranjit Movietone’s College Kanya (1935) saw her play the lead role of Urmila in this Jayant Desai directorial alongside Raja Sandow PK, while she went on to star in the Ranjit Movies’ actioner Ban Ki Chidiya (1938) alongside Eddie Billimoria and Ishwarlal.

The Abdul Rashid Kardar-directed Thokar (1939) saw her essay the female lead Radha in this Ranjit Movies’ production written by M Sadiq. The film was a cautionary tale about wealth not bringing happiness. The blind Mohan (M Kumar) lives in a village with his ward Radha (Madhuri). He wins a fortune with a sweep stake ticket sold to him by the tramp Ramesh (Noor Mohammad Charlie), who claims his due and begins to take over Mohan's life, making him move to the city and getting him married to Chinta (Wahidan), a prostitute. When Mohan's eyesight is restored, he finds that his wife is having an affair with Ramesh. Mohan takes revenge and eventually lands up in his old village, a poor man, but with Radha still unchanged, waiting for him. The film has been cited as one of the "most interesting" films made by Kardar for Ranjit Movietone. Baburao Patel, editor of the cine magazine FilmIndia, called it one of the “good social pictures” and “the best” from producer Chandulal Shah

She played the female lead Parvati in Ranjit Movies’ Pagal (1940), which would become the fourth highest grossing Indian film of 1940. A psycho-social melodrama, it was directed by A R Kardar for Ranjit Movietone, with Kardar also writing the dialogues and story (with Kamal Amrohi) for the film. The film's protagonist was Prithviraj Kapoor playing a doctor with psychological problems, working in a ‘lunatic asylum’. The plot revolved around a doctor who loves a girl, but marries her sister due to an unfortunate coincidence. His treatment of his wife and the girl he loves, and his own eventual deterioration into insanity forms the basis of story. 

In Diwali (1940), she played the female lead Rekha in a cast that featured Motilal as Dr Kailas, Vasanti as Tulsi and Ishwarlal as Rangilal directed by Jayant Desai. The following year, in Shree Rajnit Movitone Company’s Sasural (1941), she played the female lead Usha alongside Motilal and Noor Jehan in the Chaturbhuj Doshi directorial. The film was a romantic comedy about the wrongful identification of a groom by his wife-to-be in a household consisting of a father, step-mother step-son some friends and several servants. The comedy, which came from gags which, according to a review, “intellectuals would like to forget as stupid”, turned out to be the major source of entertainment in the film. 

Shaadi (1941) saw her share top billing along with Motilal and Khurshid Begum in this Jayant Desai directorial under the Ranjit Films banner, while the drama mystery Vakil Saheb (1943) saw her star alongside Trilok Kapoor in this Mohan Sinha-directed film for Pradeep Productions. 

Her 1945 film Dharm featured her as part of the cast comprising Rattan Bai, Dinshaw Billimoria and M Ismail, in this Star Productions film, while the following year she starred in Amar Pictures’ Gwalan (1946) alongside Trilok Kapoor and Sushila Rani. The film was directed by Baburao Patel, founder-editor of FilmIndia.

In 1946, she acted in the action genre film Silver Queen, directed by Raja Yagnik under the Neptune Films banner. The cast included Navin Chandra, Agha and Bhim, among others. Doli (1947) saw her feature in a cast headlined by Amar, Sulochana Chatterjee, and Pratima Devi. The film was directed by S K Ojha for the All India Pictures banner. 

She would go on to play supporting roles in films.

On the personal front, on 30 December 1945, she married Lorimar Vinay; they divorced on 8 August 1949.

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