How will you describe your journey as an actress?
I basically started off as a child star with films like Baap Beti and Aasmaan even when I was a little kid. Otherwise I would describe myself basically as a dancer who strayed from the stage to films. I remember when I was asked to report to the acting classes at the Filmalaya Acting School when I was acting in Dil Dekhe Dekho I used to run away from the classes.
You seem to be the only heroine who has acted with almost all the stars of your time!
Though I have acted with several leading men of the 60’s after I had made my debut with Dil Deke Dekho, like Sunil Dutt, Rajendra Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, Joy Mukherjee, Biswajeet, Manoj Kumar, Raaj Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Dev Anand and even Sanjeev Kumar and Raj Kapoor, I should confess that I have fond memories of having worked with a very unassuming and shy at heart actor like Dharmendra. I had acted with Dharmendra as his heroine in almost six films, like Aaya Saawan Jhoom Ke, Aaye Din Bahaar Ke, Samadhi, Batwara, Shikaar and last but not the lest Dharam Aur Kanoon. I think the only actor with whom I have not acted was Dilip Kumar.
How was your camaraderie with Dharmendra?
I am happy Dharmendra has also completed fifty years in the film industry, like me. I used to tease Dharam quite often because we shared a great camaraderie, but certainly we were not on back slapping terms then, because he was junior to me career- wise, though I was younger to him age –wise. When I was working with him in Aaye Din Bahaar Ke, his Phool Aur Paththar had just been released. Though mostly
Dharam used to laugh it off, at times he used to get upset too at being made the butt of jokes on the sets. I particularly remember one incident when I asked a unit guy to tell ‘Dharam Uncle shot Ready Hai’ and he got very angry because he did not like being addressed as Uncle. When he came to know that I was the culprit who had persuaded the unit guy to call him Uncle, he promptly retorted by asking him to
address me as aunty.
Which among the films of yours with Dharmendra do you like the best?
Though Dharam and I had acted in almost six films together, I think I like my work in Samadhi the best. I liked Dharam however in two films of us- Samadhi and Aaye Din Bahar Ke. Dharam is a good actor, who had rendered sterling performances in his films like Anupama, Chupke Chupke and Satyakam, though he is remembered mostly for his work in pot-boiler commercial films of the 70’s
Do you remember any memorable incident with Dharmendra on the sets?
Dharam is one actor who was always warm and caring. He was very protective about his heroines. I remember once we were shooting for Aaye Din Bahar Ke in Shimla in freezing cold, where Dharam had to serenade in a pond and sing a song when I was dancing outside the pond. It was almost minus degree temperature and the scene required that I run away with his clothes. When everyone on the sets asked him to have brandy, the shy gentleman that he is, he initially refused because he felt that I may not like the idea of any one on the sets drinking since I am a tee- totaller, who detests anyone who drinks, but relented when he was told that I would have no objection because otherwise he would have certainly frozen to death in the pond.
It is uncanny but Dharmendra and you were honored not once or twice but thrice together for your contribution to the film industry!
Yes. It is uncanny but true that both of us were given Life time Achievement awards simultaneously at IIFA as well as Filmfare, besides Pune International Film Festival. The last time I bumped into Dharam was at Nashik where both Dharam and I were bestowed with the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke award by the Maharashtra State government. When the audio visuals from the film Mera Gaon Mera Desh were shown during the Dadasaheb Phalke awards function at Nashik, Dharam said with glee that he remembered that some portions of the film were shot in Nashik.
How do you rate Dharmendra’s sons Sunny and Bobby?
I have seen Dharam’s sons Sunny and Bobby as kids when they used to accompany their doting father on all the outdoor shootings during their summer vacations. I used to find Sunny very shy as a kid. I find that Sunny is still shy though Bobby is no longer shy. It was a pleasure working with Sunny in the film Manzil Manzil in his formative years as an actor. Like Dharam, Sunny was also very respectful and
obedient and child-like and also chivalrous.
How would you compare the actors then and now?
I should say that actors today are doing extremely well, in spite of all the modern day pressures to which they are subjected to, since things have changed a lot. However I wish that I could say the same about music, lyrics, dance etc too. Sadly there is no depth in lyrics. We may be technically on par with Hollywood but it looks like we are obsessed with aping the West in every aspect forgetting our ancient Indian culture and heritage. I think because of globalization, we are losing out on our
How did you feel when you were honored by IFFI in Goa four years ago for your contribution for the last 50 years to Hindi Cinema?
I feel really great naturally to have been around for such a long time in the film industry and what’s more still continue to be a part and parcel of the same. I may not be actively working as an actress any more but then I also have had a production house which has made TV serials in Hindi as well as Gujarati, besides my involvement with a lot of social work. I decided to stop making serials because the actors today are not disciplined.
Can you elucidate?
Ethics has gone for a toss. And you believe it or not, one actress who was working in my serial all of a sudden told me that she had to go to London and hence could not fulfill her commitment to shoot for me. Without even getting my permission, she went away and when I wanted her to come back, she asked me for airfare from London. I simply replaced her with another actress but she came back and pleaded to me that she wanted to be a part of the serial once again. I refused.
Do you think learning acting really helps an actor?
It does help you if you learn acting from an acting school because it makes you b e confident. However, in my case, I did not have any camera fright at all because I was already used to the stage and what’s more, I was quite bindaas.
What difference do you find between films and TV?
TV is small and like a soda water bottle. The fizz goes away when the serial is off air whereas films have a very wide and huge canvass. If I do not take up acting today, the reason is that I am mostly being offered only roles to play the inconsequential mother or sister or bhabhi. I’d rather concentrate on my other activities which keep me busy than take up these offers.
Why did you stop taking up acting offers?
If I do not take up acting today, the reason is that I am mostly being offered only roles to play the inconsequential mother or sister or bhabhi. Also the fact remains that my parents were not well and I had to take a backseat to look after them since I am the only child. I’d rather concentrate on my other activities which keep me busy than take up these offers.
How do you keep yourself busy nowadays?
My Asha Parekh hospital keeps me busy almost round the clock. If any one in the film industry needs my hospital, they are most welcome even for free treatment in deserving cases. I am involved with the hospital because the hospital people want me there.
You were also quite busy with film industry bodies!
Yes. Till some time back, I was the President of CINTA for about six years. I was also the Trustee cum Treasurer from its inception of the Cine Welfare Trust till some time back. I was also in the Gandhi Trust for six years which was set up by Richard Attenborough to give aid to all old artistes who are not financially in a sound state. I may not be acting but I am still connected to the film industry and would like to do something for the industry in whatever capacity that I can possibly.
It was reported in a section of the media that you did not act with Dilip Kumar because you did not like him?
What rubbish! I never ever gave any statement to that effect. How can I? I am pained and hurt when I see the level to which the media these days can go to make a juicy copy and spoil relationship between two actors.
Did it hurt you that you were written off initially as a bimbette?
I was always thought of as a glamorous doll initially and it hurt me that critics did not think that I was a good actress. I had to work extra hard to prove that I was a good actress. I realized that I could do serious roles as a good actress when Bikram Singh wrote in Times of India that I had performed well in Do Badan. I did serious roles in films like Chirag, Main Tulsi Teri Aangan Ki, Do Badan, Pagla Kahin Ka and Upkaar
Can you pick your ten best films in your career?
Dil Dekhe Dekho, Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai, Caravan, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Do Badan, Kati Patang, Chirag, Gharana, Teesri Manzil and last but not the least Main Tulsi Teri Aangan Ki