Indians loved Elizabeth Taylor, the original diva

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Her posters made people freeze in their tracks. Her movies were seen again and again. But Elizabeth Taylor will be remembered by Indians as much as a woman who lived life on her own terms as an actress of striking beauty and talent.

Be it her many marriages, her phenomenal jewellery collection or her zest for life, she was the original Hollywood diva.

With the film legend passing away in Los Angeles at the age of 79 Wednesday, many Indians in showbiz and fashion recall being smitten by her arched dark eyebrows, piercing green eyes and oomph factor in the early 1960s.

“For me, she defined cinema and cinematic beauty. When I was a kid, people used to be very attracted to English films. We used to be in awe of her looks. I remember stopping for a glance at her poster,” filmmaker Rohan Sippy told. “Her presence will certainly be missed a lot.”

Her portrayal of a promiscuous woman in ” Butterfield 8″ (1960) and an alcoholic woman trapped in a vicious marriage in “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf” (1966) won her Oscars.

But perhaps her most famous role in India remained ” Cleopatra” in 1961 – on the sets of which she met and fell in love with Richard Burton. Taylor was married eight times, including the two marriages to Burton.

“It was with a sense of awe that I watched ‘Cleopatra’ because it opened up a whole new world for me, particularly on gender issues. At that time in India, a woman’s place was generally regarded as at home even though my own mother had a full time job,” said journalist V. Romesh Kumar who saw “Cleopatra” at the age of 11.

“The fact that a woman could be a queen and a powerful one at that, able to exercise her own judgement was quite a revelation – and Taylor portrayed this forcefully.”

Her wide eyes captivated many men.

“We have always perceived her as a rare personality… a lady who thinks from the heart…, and you can see it in her decisions,” Jai of designer duo Parvesh-Jai told.

“Like getting married again and again… falling in love again and again…, but nothing could stop her. She was a person who did what she felt was right,” he added.

Jai feels at times, her love life overshadowed her work as an actress, although it reinforced her stardom and celebrity status.

Her style statement is still an inspiration for fashion designers.

“I loved her bold and individualistic style statement. Her death indeed comes as a shock. The loss will be irreparable to the world of art and cinema. She was truly someone who owned the room once she walked into one! Truly an inspiration for us,” said designer Nida Mahmood.

Designer Arpan Vohra added: “It’s really sad to bid goodbye to one of the most iconic glamorous beauties in Hollywood who in every way, be it with the movies or her personal life, made people talk about her.

“Her unmatched style statement of wearing jewels, and it is believed she had one of the world’s best collections, hardly comes as a surprise because she used to flaunt them at all occasions,” he said.

After reigning in Hollywood industry for over two decades, major movie roles started to dry up in the 1980s, although she later appeared as a guest star on ” The Simpsons” and several TV movies.

In her later years it was her charity work for AIDS with the establishment of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and her friendship with late popstar Michael Jackson that kept her in the news.

She also launched lucrative perfume and jewellery lines, pioneering merchandising efforts by Hollywood stars.

Her life was also marred by health problems, many of which were attributed to a horse fall she suffered while filming “National Velvet”. She also famously battled addictions to alcohol and drugs.

For the young southern actor Rana Daggubati, who is making his Bollywood debut with “Dum Maro Dum”, her screen persona was very strong.

“Elizabeth Taylor was one of those actresses who had a very powerful hold on people here in India. Not only on-screen but her off-screen persona was really strong too. I have followed quite a lot of films of her,” he said.
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