I used to see her as a baby with her over ambitious mother, Mrs Thakur making the rounds of studios and offices of filmmakers, trying to get the baby work as a Baby in films – Ali Peter John
Her mother used to literally push her into the offices of producers and directors and ask her to play around with them, sit on their laps and do all that she could as a child to draw their attention and give her a role, which she succeeded in getting in many films and was one of the more popular child artists who could play both the boy and the girl child.
It was a very successful innings which she played till she was growing up into a teen and went out of circulation…..
But before the industry could give her up, she made a striking comeback as a leading lady in Rajshri’s “Geet Gaata Chal” with her contemporary male child artist Sachin as her hero.
The film was a hit and the same team was repeated in a number of other small romantic films and she was making quite a good living with her mother and they had a posh house in a building called Bhanu Apartments. She was accepted as a star.
But it took her only one ‘mistake’ to ruin it all, not because of a mistake made for any commercial reasons, but to satisfy the creative artist in her.
She signed a film called “Nirvaan” with Jalal Agha as the director and Amol Palekar and Naseruddin Shah as her co-artists.
The film was an out of the rut film, with some very sensitive scenes, great music and equally great cinematography.
Sarika as she was now called was however the highlight of the film. She had signed this film without letting her strict mother who knew nothing about what the film was all about.
Sarika agreed to do a scene where she had to expose her breasts and she did it without any problems.
But the problems started when her mother saw the first rushes of the film and blew her top.
She asked Jalal to cut off that scene but, Jalal refused as he believed that the scene was a very crucial scene for the entire film.
This led to a war between the mother and daughter till Sarika finally walked out of her own home, without taking anything from it and leaving in the clothes she was wearing….
Then began the journey of the gypsy woman. She first lived in an empty house which belonged to a local politician from Juhu, which was in a lane called Raut Lane, opposite the Iskcon Temple and when she had called me, she was just sitting on an empty floor with some clothes lying all around her.
She was not sure of where she was going and what the status of her career was. She had no money and no films to look forward to….
From that house (?) on Raut Lane, she shifted to a PG dig on West Avenue Road in Santa Cruz where she also invited me and on the day I reached there, it was a dirty game of life being played with her.
The income tax department had raided her place and I had to sit with her till they finished their search, finding only thirty-one rupees and one of the raiding officers asking, “Are some of the stars so very poor?
“And I didn’t have a proper answer for them, even though I knew the whole truth about Sarika’s story.
She changed three more PG digs and when she was completely out of all money and work, she even agreed to play the vamp in films made by Subhash Ghai and a director like Din Dayal Sharma and agreed to wear bikinis and other skimpy clothes.
I could see her thriving career once being blown up into pieces and heading to a place called nowhere.
Luck however came to her help in the form of love. Kamal Haasan, the superstar of Tamil films who was working in his first two Hindi films was regularly living at the then Holiday Inn Hotel in Juhu where Deepti Naval and Sarika were seen visiting him at all the odd hours of the day and the gossip magazines had a field day fielding all kinds of stories about the three….
Time passed and Sarika who always considered me a very close friend called me one morning and announced that she was pregnant and asked me to see her in Gulistan Apartments at Seven Bungalows.
She told me she was carrying Kamal’s child (Kamal had already one failed marriage with a model and actress from Bombay called Vani Ganpathy).
The news spread by a senior journalist Bhavana Sommaya spread like wild fire like they say and the next thing I heard was that Sarika was in Chennai where she was living in Kamal’s house and very soon she was known as the ‘Amma of Chennai'(that was how all the women of Kamal were called by his countless fans).
Kamal and Sarika had two daughters, Shruti Haasan and Akshara Haasan and strangely, Kamal married Sarika in a public ceremony together with their two daughters.
Sarika had given up acting and taken up the responsibility of helping in the films being made by Kamal under the banner of Raj Kamal Films.
She was the costume designer of most of his big and ambitious films and was generally in charge of everything that went into the production of a film and Kamal gave her all the credit for the work she did…
And then suddenly the bubble burst and the dream died and it was all over for the couple from Chennai and it ended with a divorce just when their daughters were growing up.
Kamal had found another woman, also an actress to take the place of Sarika who left for Bombay with her two little daughters.
I one day found her coming out of a building called Varun Apartments with her two daughters right across the road where I had my house.
She told me she was living with a friend and told me her whole story sand I wondered what she would do or what destiny had planned for her ..
I was happy to know that she was signed to play a key role in a film called “Parzania” which was based on the riots of Gujarat, especially the Godhra riots in which names of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah weer said to be involved.
Sarika’s performance in the film was so stark that she won her first National Award for the performance.
There were talks about her being offered other challenging roles, but the only film she was seen in was Ravi Chopra’s film “Babul” in which she made a fleeting appearance as a widow in white and with a tonsured head.
That was the last time she was seen in a film or even in public places. There were rumours about her turning a recluse or living in the bungalow of the filmmaker, Nasir Husain, the uncle of Aamir Khan, but I had the opportunity to meet her when she attended the inauguration of a painting exhibition and a poetry book launch of Deepti Naval where she said there was a need to meet more often, but that desire was dead before it could take proper birth….
I never heard of her again till last week when I came to know that the one-time Baby had crossed sixty.
And what I found more interesting was the fact that she had decided to be a producer in theatre and was beginning her new career and life as the producer of Aamir Khan’s daughter, Ira Khan’s debut making play in English called “Paedea”,a Greek play written by Euripedes and what was more interesting to know was that she was joined in this venture by her younger and beautiful daughter, Akshara who didn’t have a very good beginning when she did her first film in Tamil and even when she did her first Hindi film, “Shamitabh” with a dream cast of Amitabh Bachchan and Dhanush….
I am a mixed bag of emotions when I think about my very old friend, Sarika. Where does she go now? What will her future look like?
What are the dreams that she still wants to fulfill? Will she fulfill them? Will she have any more relationships in her life?
And what are the storms that are waiting to encircle her? I have as I say been a witness to many such stories, but I always find the story of Sarika to be the most fascinating and almost unbelievable.
If there is any subject that could form a very good biography and if there is any subject waiting to be turned into a biopic, I strongly feel it is the amazing story of Sarika Thakur-Haasan.
I remember asking Sarika who the Thakur in her name was and she had just said, “ask my mother”.