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Birthday Special Tanuja: Language Does Not Matter In Cinema As It Is A Global Industry

77th Birthday Interview


Today is the veteran actress Tanuja’s 79th birthday. We wish Tanuja, who is the proud mother to Kajol and Tanisha and mother in law to actor Ajay Devgn, a happy birthday on behalf of and Mayapuri by reproducing this interview of TANUJA, taken five years ago when I met the effervescent and lively albeit moody actress when she was conferred upon with the Life Time Achievement award for her yeoman contribution to Cinema by the Director, Dr Jabbar Patel of Pune International festival in Pune. Tanuja is unstoppable when she condescends to talk to you. In this freewheeling conversation, Tanuja, who was born on 23rd September, 1943, left me speechless when she spoke to me about her daughter Kajol as well as her own enriching journey as an actress par excellence

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You are one of the few educated actresses, who ruled the 60’s. How do you feel when you look back at your illustrious career?

I hail from a family which belonged to the educated CKP community. My grandfather was a banker of repute. It was indeed a great miracle that at a time when the theatre was actually looked down upon by people, especially in the 30’s, my mother Shobhana Samarth, who wanted to be different from the other conservative women in society then, agreed immediately when she was offered a role in a film. Thanks to my mother, who used to say that education must come first in everyone’s life, I went to Switzerland for higher studies. I wanted to be an interpreter in the U.K and communicate to people in their languages as I was fond of learning different languages. I achieved my ambition of being a communicator, though I did not learn German and French. I learnt Bengali, Marathi and Hindi besides English and achieved my ambition.

How did you become an actor?

My elder sister Nutan followed in my mother’s footsteps and became an actress. An actor absorbs different ways of acting by observing people around him or her. Acting doesn’t change. It is always the performance that changes. I took pains to acquire knowledge which is a never ending process in life. To be an actor, you see, listen and understand the character that you portray in a film.

_I Am A Proud Grandmother Today_- Tanuja

Did you learn acting before you plunged into the field?

I do not think that you can teach a person how to act. You can only teach a person the method of how to appear in front of the camera. What is necessary to be a good actor is the emotion which has to come from within but you cannot project, if you do not feel at all. Though everyone is an actor and has talent in an abundant measure to play a role in his own way, you just cannot teach a person how to feel as an actor. Each and every film in which I have acted has been a new experience for me. Every director with whom I have worked with till today, has been great.  I just cannot say that such and such a film was better than such and such a film. Interaction is the process at that moment and the camera has always been my friend and I never had any problem with the camera.

Is acting the be all and end all of your life?

Look here Venkat. Acting is okay but if you cannot perform as a human being, what is the big use of your being alive and kicking in this world? Even if one person can manage to make a difference to another, it will change the thought process of how each human being looks at another. We need to stop fighting with one another.

Who are your favorite actors?

I do not see many movies. If I am not invited to a trial, I do not go to see a film in a theater. I’d rather see it at home either on DVD or the TV. In any case, I feel that there is a great dearth of good films and people forget that Cinema is about entertainment and also about driving home a social message. I have been a great fan of Meena Kumari and Madhubala. Yet I did not want to be like them but just enjoyed watching their films. I used to watch my sister Nutan, who had spontaneity. In Bandini, without even a single dialogue, she said it all in 27 takes. Among the actors, I liked the shades of Kishore Kumar as every role that he played was different. I admired Dilip Kumar and was actually hero worshipping him. I was just 6 when his oratory in English, Hindi and Urdu was amazing. I learnt discipline, a method from him to be spontaneous. Your spontaneity needs channeling by observation.

How would you evaluate your growth as an actress till date?

I have worked like a dog to establish myself for almost 9 years. Acting came easy and there was no pressure. I chose to do my duty because it was the only thing that I could do effortlessly. Though emotions do not change and the performance depends on individuals whether an actor or a director, there is no difference then and now because an actor is an actor and a performance is a performance, today technically we are advanced. The change is amazing. I too have experimented in my time and did light roles in Hindi films and ‘out of the box’ roles in Malayalam, Marathi and Bengali films. Today the girls are given the choices, though then we had to choose from what we used to get.

Why are you not acting in films anymore?

The Marathi film Pithruran directed by Nitesh Bharadwaj was my last film as an actress. I am ready to do a film in any language. Language does not matter in Cinema as it is a global industry. I do not have a dream role. I see what the role is and where I am in the script. I am a director’s actress and want him to tell me what I should do. If he visualizes and explains to me, I’d be able to interpret my role.

Your daughter Kajol has emerged out of your shadow and is a great actress on her own merit today!

I do not have an appropriate word to explain the talent that Kajol has. She has only shown a spark of her caliber as an actress in all the films in which she has acted till today. I watched Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge eight times only for the sake of my daughter and only once for the music. In fact, I’d say that she has only shown the tip of the iceberg and inside her there is a volcano which is ready to erupt. Kajol constantly creates and recreates. Not only is she reasonable but also logical as an actress and down to earth as a mother of two children- Nysa and Yug. I am a proud grandmother today.

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