Begum Ayesha Sultana (born as Sharmila Tagore on 8 December 1944) is an Indian film actress. She has won National Film Awards and Filmfare Awards for her performances. She has led the Indian Film Censor Board from October 2004 till March 2011. In December 2005 she was chosen as an UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
Sharmila was born in a Hindu Bengali family in Hyderabad State to Gitindranath Tagore who was then deputy general manager of the East India Company owner of Elgin Mills. Gitindranath was the son of Kanakendranath Tagore who is the son of noted painter Gaganendranath Tagore. She attended St. John’s Diocesan Girls’ Higher Secondary School and Loreto Convent, Asansol. She is the great-great-grand niece of noted poet Rabindranath Tagore.
Sharmila 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 appeared in a number of Ray films, often co-starring with Soumitra Chatterjee.She established herself as a popular Hindi film actress with Shakti Samanta’s Kashmir Ki Kali with Shammi Kapoor in 1964. Samanta again cast her in many more hit films, notably An Evening in Paris (1967), again with Shammi, the first appearance in a bikini of an Indian actress, (Sadhana had appeared in one-piece bathing suit in earlier films) which not only shocked conservative Indian audiences but also set off a wave of bikini-clad actresses carried forward by Parveen Babi (in Yeh Nazdeekiyan, 1982 ), Zeenat Aman (in Heera Panna, 1973; Qurbani, 1980) and Dimple Kapadia (in Bobby, 1973) but established Tagore’s role as somewhat of a sex symbol in Bollywood.
Wearing a bikini put her name in the Indian press as one of Bollywood’s ten hottest actresses of all time and was a transgression of female identity through a reversal of the state of modesty, which functions as a signifier of femininity in Bombay films. But, when Tagore was the chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification, she expressed concerns about the rise of the bikini in Indian films.
Samanta later teamed up Tagore with Rajesh Khanna for movies such as Aradhana (1969) and Amar Prem (1972). Other directors paired them together in Safar (1970), Daag (1973), Maalik (1972). The pair of Khanna- Sharmila gave 6 box office hits[ – Aradhana, Safar, Amar Prem, Chhoti Bahu , Daag and Avishkaar and films like Raja Rani, Tyaag, Maalik were critically acclaimed but box office flops. She starred in Gulzar’s 1975 film, Mausam and won the National Film Award for Best Actress. She also played a supporting role as heroine Sarita Choudhury’s mother in Mira Nair’s 1991 film Mississippi Masala.
Her latest release is a Marathi film Samaantar by Amol Palekar. Her earlier releases were Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Eklavya: The Royal Guard, which brought together real-life mother and son, Sharmila Tagore and Saif Ali Khan. They shared screen space for the first time since Aashiq Awara (1993).
She married Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, the Nawab of Pataudi and former captain of the Indian cricket team, in a Nikkah ceremony held on 27 December 1969. She was converted to Islam from Hinduism before Nikkah and change her name to Ayesha Sultana. They had three children: Saif Ali Khan who is a Bollywood actor and husband of actress Kareena Kapoor (b. 1980), Saba Ali Khan (b. 1976) and Soha Ali Khan a Bollywood actress (b. 1978). 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.
Sharmila in her first movie The World of Apu
1969 – Film fare Best Actress Award — Aradhana
1970 – Nominated, Filmfare Best Actress Award — Safar
1976 – National Film Award for Best Actress — Mausam
1997 – Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award
2002 – Star Screen Lifetime Achievement Award
2004 – National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress — Abar Aranye
2004 – Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters of France
2006 – Nominated, Filmfare Best Actress Award — Viruddh… Family Comes First
2007 – Lifetime Achievement National Award (Actress) — Journalist Association of India
2011 – Outstanding Achievement in Indian cinema — Floriana IIFA Awards, Toronto
2013 – Padma Bhushan Awarded by Pranab Mukherjee, President of India, New Delhi