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She Brought Hope to Some of The Biggest Hits For Three Decades

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Ali Peter John

She was the first ever actress I fell in love with when I was in school. It was only much later I realised why such crazy and mad people like me were called fans. If I have ever been a fan of in the true sense (and still am) it is this actress, this woman the world knows as Asha Parekh. I have the unique satisfaction of creating my own kind of record. I must say that I have seen every film of this actress right from her first film with Shammi Kapoor in “Dil Deke Dekho” till she played the mother of Amitabh Bachchan in “Kaalia”.

I have gate – crashed into every studio where she shot when I was a boy. I went on literally chasing her for years till I found a job in screen. I was thrilled to pieces in when my boss once told me he was taking me to the shooting of a film starring Asha Parekh. I was doubtedly thrilled because I knew the girl I was lively in love with was also an Asha Parekh fan, and I imagined how I would impress her when would show her a photograph of me with Asha Parekh with her autograph on it . I was denied that great delight by my cruel and heartless boss who said it was below a journalist’s dignity to ask a star for a photograph or even ask for an autograph for himself or for any one else. I have gate – crashed into studios and at functions where I expected to catch a glimpse of her. I was thrilled again when a friend who was a journalist bit the Times of India gave me his invitation to a press conference bat the Natraj Hotel (now defunct) where she was to talk about a dance program she was to do for a social cause. I was happy watching her all the time, I was happier when she talked about her love for dance and the program.

I was also happy about the snacks and tea served at the end of the conference. I remembered all those days when she was shooting for a film called “Baharon Ke Sapne” which was entirely shot on a set built next to my house. There was a new hero who every one called a “faaltu” and a “Gorkha” and did not care to have a look at him (that “faaltu” and “gorkha” went to become Rajesh Khanna, the greatest superstar ever). Hundreds of people gathered at the location and stayed on till the shooting was over and I was the only man who kept hanging around as long as Asha Parekh was there and left only when she left in her posh car. I read everything written about her and saw every photograph printed in different magazines and news papers. Asha Parekh was one person who brought light into my otherwise bleak and almost hopeless life. She was the only hope in my life those days – this is a confection I am making for the first time.

I matured with time (have I really?). I was a responsible journalist but somewhere within me I still had that fan of Asha Parekh living in me. There were times when I was standing in her presence but found it difficult to talk to her. My silence led to a major misunderstanding. She once told one of my senior colleagues that I was a very arrogant man and “looked at me like Pran Saheb looked at me in my films”. I never felt so bad in my entire life. How I wished she could understand my feelings for her then. We started knowing each other and talking about various things with the passing of time. I saw her gracefully growing from the glamorous heroine to a serious actress. I saw her taking greater interest in various social activities; she was an active member of various social welfare organizations. She was approached by several political parities to be their candidate to fight various elections, some even wanted to nominate her to the Rajya Sabha but she was not interested even though she had friends in all the major political parties. She was the chairperson of the jury of the “Screen” awards. Her presence in the jury gave the awards the kind of dignity which could not be got by any other celebrity which spoke volumes for her status.

She was appointed the Chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification which was another feather in her cap. She tried her best to bring about change in the age old rules of censorship and succeeded to a certain extent. She later took to making TV serials and made and directed some good serials but ultimately realised it was all a game of TRP ratings and efforts to make every serial commercially viable and not a place to display one’s creativity. She has now stopped making serials. She has shifted from her sprawling bungalow in Juhu into a luxurious apartment where she lives all alone with some very good friends dropping in once in a way. She was present at the recently concluded international film festival in Goa only for a day where she had time to talk about those days and these days…

HER SECRETS…

What secrets? There are no secrets at all. God made me the way I am. I have always believed in Him and have surrendered my life to Him. It is God who has done every thing that has happened in my life, I have done nothing. God has always been my guide and I know He has led me so far and will continue to lead me. If He had not planned my life. I would not be what I am today. My past, my present and my future will always be in the hands of God, I don’t have to depend on people who try to play God and even be God at times, thank God.

HER POSITION TODAY…

All I had was the God – given ability. I have been blessed to dance well and I really danced to the best of my ability. I was destined to be an actress and I became one. I did my best to be as good an actress as I could be and managed to play my whole innings. I am a firm believer in learning things along the way, and most of the things I know about films and acting are things I have learned while I was working. Life is the greatest teacher. It teaches you more than any book can and the lessons it teaches you can never fail you.

THE WILL TO LEARN…

Of course, I did. In the initial years I was just taken for granted as a glamour doll. I was offered the normal singing, dancing and running round the trees kind of roles. I was the typical heroine of the hero. I did what I was asked to do to the best of my ability like I said but I also knew that I had to grow , I had to go ahead and make all the efforts to be known as a good actress. There was a time when I was sick of being the decorated doll, the bouquet of flowers and a hanging on the wall. I wanted to prove my self and do roles that had life in them and made sense. I kept trying and I kept waiting for the opportunities to come my way.

THE SATISFACTION

You know one thing – hard work, patience and the will to make the best of every opportunity really pays. I finally found recognition and applause in films like “Do Badan”, “Mera Gaon Mera Deah” , “Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki”, “Kati Patang” and some other films whose names I cannot remember off hand .

ON COMPETITION…

I always tried my best to live up to the roles I was offered. I never compared my self to any other actresses. I was not in competition with any one else. I know I could have been a better actress, but I was happy with the way my career was taking shape. I firmly believed that you get what you deserve and what has been planned for you by God. I was blessed to be happy under all circumstances, because happiness is what is most important in this one life we are gifted with. Why ask for happiness when you can be happy with whatever happens to you.

ON WOMEN TODAY…

I am no one to pass judgment but I sometimes believe that women were portrayed in a much better and sensible way in our time. We had writers and directors who could create great roles for women and gave us all the opportunities to play characters which were real or almost real. Where do we have films where the actress has a major role today? We were lucky to have a combination of both glamorous and real life characters. I can see the signs of some actresses having great potential in them to take on any challenges, but what is the use when their potential is not used the way it deserves to be used?

ON HER FAVOURITE DIRECTORS…

We had directors who were specialists in making different kinds of films and there were some who excelled in creating great female characters. I was lucky to find directors like Raj Khosla, Vijay Anand , Manoj Kumar and Shakti Samanta who were directors who not only were masters in making films but were masters in breathing life into the different kinds of female characters . I don’t think they make directors like them any more. They had a complete hold on their films, from the writing of the script to the shaping of the characters involved and especially in their detailed work about the characters in their films, especially women. I would not be wrong in saying that these directors knew women better than the women themselves. They knew all the strong points and weak points of women. They knew how to handle actresses and make them grow into real characters. They treated women with care, with sensitivity and respect.

ON FILMS TODAY…

I don’t watch as many films as I used to. I now see a film once in a way when some one whose opinion I respect recommends some film. There are all kinds of films being made today. There is such a big change. It is like living in a different country and another era. We are making the maximum number of films in the world, I am told. But what is the use being good only in quantity and neglecting quality altogether? I agree that we have to change with the times, but the change has to be for the better, which is what I don’t see in most of our films. We have made all kinds of progress in technology, but what is the use of all the new techniques and special effects and all that when what we desperately need are good subjects. We need to be in touch with our Indian traditions, customs and values and not just blindly ape the western culture Indians of all ages are getting used to. My simple and sincere advice to our filmmakers today is to find good subjects written by good writers. As long as we don’t have good writers, we have no hope of making good films.

THERE IS HOPE

How can I whose name is hope not have hope? I am an eternal optimist. I see great hope in young directors like Sooraj Barjatya, Priyadarshan and Karan Johar. They are the kind of directors who can show Hindi films a new way and lead it to a bright future.

ON CENSORSHIP…

I believe the best censorship starts at home when parents guide their children on what film to see. There is a lot to be done to make the Censor Board responsible and relevant. There should be no kind of interference or politics in the working of the Censor Board. And I think the best censorship can be done by our film makers during the time they are writing their scripts and making their films. They must be responsible because films have an impact on the entire country. They must make films with responsibility and give no chance to the Censors to raise any kind of objection. The day we make films with a conscience knowing what is wrong and what is right we will not have to fear the Censor Board like we are now.

WILLING, BUT…

I would, only as long as the films offered to me make sense and the roles offered to make are suitable to my experience and are able to give me the kind of satisfaction I look forward to at this stage of my life and career.

She had avoided writing an autobiography but she finally relented and spoke her heart out to Khalid Mohamed, the renowned writer, journalist, the most hated film critic at one time and a filmmaker who was criticized for making his film. The result has been “The Hit Girl”, the story of her life which includes the truth about her having a close relationship with the veteran filmmaker Nasir Husain who made the maximum number of films with her. When she was recently asked if she would like to have a biopic made on her, she was game and when asked who she would like to play Asha Parekh, without hesitating for a moment she said, Alia Bhatt.

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