Did You Know Veteran Actor Tun Tun Was Bollywood’s First Female Comedian?

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Remember Veteran Actor Tun Tun? Bollywood’s First Female Comedian, a household name in the 60s Uma Devi Katri was popularly called Tun Tun. Recently, actor Dharmendra Deol posted a picture on social media remembering the first female comedian in Bollywood and in an era that was dominated by talented comedians like Jonny Walker, Bhagwan Dada and Keshto Mukherjee.

Actor Dharmendra shared a black and white picture of a scene from the film, Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya. In the frame, Tun Tun is seen holding Dharmendra’s collar with her right hand while her left hand is raised. Dharmendra captioned it as “Tun Tun Ji, was my most darling heroine. I miss such loving persons….but life goes on and on…..” Uma Devi Katri alias Tun Tun passed away in 2004, at the age of 80.

But the actor remains fresh in the minds of hundreds and the artists she worked with. Her comic timings and singing as a playback singer has been applauded and a source of inspiration for many girls and women who aspired to be a comedian in the male-dominated comedy industry. She took the first step and since then Bollywood has witnessed female comedians like Gudi Maruti alias Preeti Ganguly, Juhi Chawla, amongst others.

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Bollywood First Female Comedian

Uma Devi Katri was born in Uttar Pradesh on July 11, 1923. She lost both her parents at an early age and her uncle became the guardian. Her uncle did not believe in a girl’s education so she taught herself to read and write in Hindi.

In the late 1930s, she ran away to Bombay (now called Mumbai) to pursue her dream of singing. There she met with music director Naushad. She begged him for a chance and after hearing her voice, he was enthralled and she got her first playback project in 1946, Wamiq Azra. She then went on to sing for director AR Kardar’s film in 1947, Dard. Her songs – afsana likh rahi hoon and aaj machi hai dhum became hits.

It is reportedly said that after listening to one of her songs, her husband fell in love with her and the duo married, and had four children.

She sang seven hit songs for the film Chandralekha which became hits. But this film breached her contract with Kardar and led to an end to her singing career. It was Nashad, her mentor, who suggested she do comedy then. In an interview, she said, “Naushad, who is my rakhi brother, knew this defect of mine pretty well and kept on telling me that he saw more of a mischievous comedian in me. I decided to fall in line and on the spur of the moment told him that I would act as a funster only if Dilip Kumar were to act opposite me. Naushad bhai immediately consulted Yusuf bhai and I was baffled and could not believe my own ears when he created a character especially for me in Babul.”

It was Dilip Kumar who christened her with the name Tun Tun. Since then, she starred in Guru Dutt’s Mr & Mrs 55, Pyaasa, Aar Paar and Mom Ki Gudiya.

“My bulk is my trump card. I don’t regret that I am fat. I’m lucky I was born this way. However, that does not mean that I am not in favour of dieting. I agree dieting is very essential to maintain a slim and healthy body. But where is the need for me to be slim and ravishingly beautiful,” she had said.