RUPINI tells Jyothi Venkatesh
The pretty, chirpy and bubbly Komal Mahuvakar who had made her debut in Hindi films with the Rajshri film Payal Ki Jhankar is now known as Roopini after she was rechristened with that screen name when she made her debut with the Tamil film Sir I Love You opposite Bhagyaraj. For this interview, I recently met the actress at her modest apartment in Bandra, Mumbai
Tell me about your background as an actress?
I am a Mumbaikar who was born and brought up in Mumbai. I do not have a film background. My dad is a retired lawyer while my mom is a doctor. I landed in films because my parents had always encouraged me to take up dancing which has always been my passion. Till date, I have not learnt acting from any Institute and do not have any secretary or for that matter manager to look after my work.
At what age did you start acting?
I was too young as a child and just four and a half years old when I acted in a Gujarati mythological film called Ra Navgan directed by Chapsibhai Nagraj, who ‘literally’ kidnapped me when I had gone to Maganlal Dresswallah for my costumes as a dancer. Chapsibhai was a client of my father. He phoned up my mom to tell her that he wanted to cast me as a child Goddess Varudi Maa in his film with actor Upendra Trivedi. Though she was scared, my dad convinced her that he was a good director and let me act in the film. It turned out to be a big hit and there was no looking back.
And then a spate of films followed!
Yes. Destiny put me in films. I did not ask anyone to cast me. Hrishida saw me at a rehearsal for a dance of mine from King George High School. Gopi Kishanji who was there introduced my mum to Hrishida who offered to cast me in his film Mili with Amitabh Bachchan, Jayaji , Bindu and Asrani as a child artiste, as Gopiji was the dance director in Mili. I became a top favorite of Hrishida and thereafter he cast me in his films like Kotwaal Saab, Khoobsoorat after Mili. Afterwards I did films like Dream Girl, Des Pardes in which I played the daughter of Pransaab and a couple of films in Hindi and Gujarati too before I landed the offer from Tarachand Barjatya , who spotted me at a dance rehearsal and asked me to play the young lead in Payal Ki Jhankar. I was the youngest girl till date to play the leading lady in a film. I was then in the sixth standard in the same school in which Master Alankar, who was my leading man in the film was in the 10th standard.
Thereafter you bagged Prakash Mehra’s film Ghungroo!
After Payal Ki Jhankar, Rajshris signed me to do three more films out of which Saanch Ko Aanch Nahin was one with Arun Govil and Madhu Kapoor. It was when K Vishwanathji invited me to the screening of his film Sagar Sangamam at Prakash Mehra’s Sumeet Theatre that producer Satyen Pal introduced me to Prakashji who cast me in his film Ghungroo in the main lead with Shashi Kapoor and Smita Patil. I had also acted as a child star with Smitaji in L.V. Prasadji’s film Mere Ghar Mere Bachche. Thereafter films followed like Sohanlal Kanwar’s Awara Baap and Swarthi, Bahaar and Meri Adalat which starred Rajnikant and Mohnish Behl whose debut film it was.
How did you make your trek towards the South and bag the lead in the film Sir I Love You?
Padmalayas offered to remake Payal Ki Jhankar with me in Telugu but my parents wanted me to continue with my studies and did not want me to go to the South to pursue acting. They then planned to make it with Sridevi but somehow she did not suit the role. Bhagyaraj’s wife Poornima Jairam was known to my mom. It was thanks to my mum that she had bagged her debut film Paheli in Hindi with the Rajshris in Mumbai before she went down to South and fell in love with Bhagyaraj and married him and settled down. We gave a courtesy call to Poornima when we were in Chennai and Poornima’s husband Bhagyaraj Sir offered to cast me in the lead opposite him in his film Sir I Love You. It was my debut in Tamil film for which I was offered to rechristen my name as Roopini. I was asked to choose between names like Rajalakshmi, Roopini and Rajeshwari and I opted for the name Roopini.
You became a star overnight after Sir I Love You!
After I did Sir I Love You, Manivannan cast me in his films like Theerthakkaraiyinile and Ninaikka Therindha Maname. I also did Manithan with Rajnikant and Koolikkaran with Vijaykant and palak jhapakthe hi, I realized that I had become a star overnight Then came films likie Apoorva Sahodarargal with Kamal Hassan which was dubbed in Hindi as Appu Raja.
Which are your five best films in Hindi?
Payal Ki Jhankar, Ghungroo, Swarthi, Meri Adalat and Khoobsoorat .
Which are your five best films in Tamil?
Pathini Penn, I.P.S.Thilakavati, Teerthakkaraiyinile, Manithan, En Thangachi Padichava and if you may allow me to add two more, I’d name Apoorva Sahodarargal and Michael Madana Kamarajan.
Are you ready to act in web series?
I am game to be part of web series if I am offered meaty characters, which are challenging to the core to the actress in me, though I am not too sure whether I’d like to take up negative roles. For me the script is the deciding factor. I’d love to do films like Drishyam.
You are now acting in the Tamil serial Chitthi now. The only Hindi serial in which you had acted earlier was in Rajashri’s Woh Mehlo Mein Rehnewali. I had acted in 1000 episodes of the serial because it was produced by Rajshris.
Which are the filmmakers who are in your wish list today?
A.R. Murugadoss, Trivikrama Rao, Priyadarshan Sir, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Rajkumar Hirani.
Do you remember any memorable incident in your life?
I can never ever forget the day when the late Chief Minister Smt Jayalalitha handed over to me the Tamil Nadu State award for the best actress in the Tamil film Pathini Penn
What is your impression of Rajnikant as a co-star of yours?
I am lucky I could get to act as his leading lady in films like Manithan, Meri Adalat, Rajadhi Raja etc. Rajni Sir is a big icon and such a big sweetheart. I did not at all realize that I was actually acting with such a big mega star when I was acting with him. I still cannot believe that he had told me once in Marathi that “Mi ek picture tuhja barobar Marathi madhe nakki karnar”.
What about Kamal Haasan?
When I opted to do the role of Gautami in the film Apoorva Sahodarargal, because she had more scenes in the film, it was Kamal himself who suggested to me to take up the role that I eventually did, because he had prophesied that my role will be remembered more than that of Gautami. Kamal also told me that the role I played was not at all negative though it looked like one when she leaves Kamal in the end, because for one thing, she did not even know that Kamal was interested in her.
Do you miss Chennai now that you have shifted to Mumbai bag and baggage?
I do miss Chennai but do not regret having left Chennai because I have always considered myself a Mumbaikar. Today, I am glad that a lot of producers are asking me why I am not returning to films as an actress, either in Tamil or for that matter Hindi.