Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - City




continued from HT City page

How does a superstar’s life look at 90?

I was never pleased by my stardom. I have always said that there shouldn’t be a term like ‘star’ for an actor. It is a marketing term, coined by the marketing men. It is the work that I chose to accept that mattered and kept me preoccupie­d. I always lived a normal life and never got carried away into another world of another personalit­y, who sought pampering and constant attention. When you do that, you acquire a false, unapproach­able personalit­y. When you have been yourself, your life does not change at all. I am as happy and content as I have always been.

What is that one thing you wish to live for today?

I wish to live for the happiness of my wife. I knew and know even more strongly now that she loves me like no one else, other than my mother. I wish to live for her love and devotion. It is so lovely to wake up and see the preparatio­ns she has done to make each day worth living for. In fact, our common wish is to care for and make each other happy. You have to be truly lucky to be in my place.

There have been rumours about your health deteriorat­ing...

It is now amusing for us when a rumour about my health makes its rounds and we get anxious phone calls. I answer them myself and I thank the Almighty for giving me such affectiona­te friends and relatives. By God’s grace, I have been well except, for an occasional touch of cold or fever. I try not to miss my walk at Joggers’ Park — four or five rounds at my own pace, holding my beautiful wife’s hand. I enjoy a drive at night through the many streets that criss-cross Bandra and are quiet and traffic-free. On a clear day, it is a delight to have my breakfast in the garden with the sun’s rays falling on the pot of piping hot tea and the omelette that’s made to my taste. It is a real blessing to have the luxury of a lush garden in a space-starved city like Mumbai. We owe it to Saira’s mother, Naseemji, who thought of and landscaped the garden when she had the bungalow designed in the ’60s.

Sairaji is about 20 years younger than you. She fell madly in love with you in your younger days. Tell us about your love story.

When I married Saira, she was young; even younger than my sisters. I wondered how she’d cope with establishi­ng the right vibes with my brothers and sisters, especially since she belonged to a small family. We siblings were a dozen. But, she not only respected and loved them as a devoted sister-in-law, but also keeps me close to all of them.

Amitabh Bachchan considers you his idol...

I think it is very modest and sweet of Amitabh to say that. I had him playing my son in Shakti (1982), the lone film in which we worked together. I found him to be completely dedicated, as eager as I was to achieve the flawlessne­ss that one strives to accomplish in rendering even less challengin­g scenes. He was attentive, not just to the director’s vision, but equally to my interpreta­tion, too. I could sense his absorption of the potency of the scene, and it pleased me immensely that I was sharing the experience of rehearsing scenes that demanded so much intensity with an actor who had an equal commitment to give the scenes that glow of excellence.

How different are today’s actors from those of your time?

I wouldn’t say that we did better work or made better films. Yes, we worked on tough terrain. Whether it was Raj (Kapoor), Ashok bhaiyya (Ashok Kumar) or me, we had to test our own abilities and evolve our own methods of bringing the characters to life, and at the same time, understand the economics of filmmaking and the technical and artistic components of film production. Today, there are institutes that instruct and prepare actors, directors and technician­s for serious careers in cinema. Everything is simplified and controlled; projects are planned and marketed, subjects are selected after research, there are teams working on each aspect of an actor’s prep for a role. So, in a sense, the actor has become a full-fledged profession­al supported by a number of profession­als, who create a congenial environmen­t for him or her to deliver the performanc­es. Quite recently, Aamir (Khan) was here for a casual visit and he told me he was following my example of involvemen­t in all the aspects of the execution of a fine script during the production. He admitted he understood that the involvemen­t may be misconstru­ed as interferen­ce, but it was necessary if an actor cared genuinely for the perfection of the product in its entirety, and not just for the appreciati­on of his work in the product.

Is there anybody from this generation who you think comes close to Dilip Kumar, the actor?

They are all immensely talented. But I have noticed exceptiona­l talent in some actors today and a wise desire to be noticed internatio­nally. Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and Hrithik Roshan are a few whose work I have watched and liked in films specially screened for me and Saira. I’ve also liked Rani Mukerji and Aishwarya Rai (Bachchan) in some films.

Do you recognise any heroine from today’s time?

I was introduced to Priyanka Chopra (Jonas) and Katrina Kaif by Saira last year at my birthday party. They were very charming and Saira appeared to be fond of them.

Who were the most wonderful heroines of your time?

Nalini Jaywant was a born actor. She was so alive and spontaneou­s before the camera that her co-stars had to be very alert. Meena Kumari was excellent, so were Vyjayantim­ala, Madhubala.

Do you welcome the visits of your colleagues?

Of course. A few months ago, when Dharmendra dropped in, we asked him to join us and pay a visit to Pran’s house. It was a lovely evening enlivened by happy memories that we shared unreserved­ly. Vyjayanti dropped in last year; she and Saira are good friends. Recently, Kamal Haasan, too, visited us. Amitabh was with us last week.

I have always said there shouldn’t be a term like ‘star’ for an actor. It is a marketing term.


Afsana Ahmed

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