Mumbai: Mumtaz, the heartthrob of millions in the 1960s and 1970s, turns 65 Tuesday and says she has no complaints from life except for loneliness. “After I got married, my husband has given me lots of comforts. I enjoy the life of affluence. But I am a bit lonely,” Mumtaz told the author on phone from London.
Her elder daughter Natasha is married to actor Fardeen Khan and settled here, while her husband Mayur Madhvani, whom she married in 1974, and younger daughter Tanya are constantly travelling for work. “What do I do? I can’t follow them around the world, can I,” she said, adding that she doesn’t socialise. And “I rarely drink. I am not a night person. Clubs are not my scene”.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: Sixty-five years of a celebrated life. How do you look back?
A: No complaints. Life can’t be a bed of roses. My first 26 years was a time of hard work. I was an obedient child to my parents. Whatever I earned, I gave to my parents. Never asked them where my money went. After I got married, my husband has given me lots of comforts. I enjoy the life of affluence. But I am a bit lonely.
Q: Why are you lonely?
A: My husband is travelling constantly. My children have grown up. My elder daughter is married to Fardeen Khan and lives in Mumbai. My younger daughter is learning our family business from her father. She too is travelling a lot. What do I do? I can’t follow them around the world, can I?
Q: But surely you have your own life?
A: I do. But I don’t socialise. I rarely drink. I am not a night person. Clubs are not my scene. I hate the noise. One can’t converse. I am a daytime person. I go out for lunch with my friends, then stroll for a few hours. London is a perfect city for an afternoon walk. Then I am back home. I watch educational television and the news so I’m aware of what’s going on in the world. Then by 11 I am fast asleep. I wake up at 7 a.m.
Q: Have you thought of relocating to Mumbai?
A: I have two homes in Mumbai – in Juhu and Colaba. And I do visit very often. But because of the life I have now, I can’t live in India. Even in Mumbai I’ll be alone.
Yes, there are friends and relatives there. But for me, it’s a case of water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. Everybody loves me. But I can’t make everybody my close friends. I don’t make friends easily. At my age you can’t forge new associations because you never know what the other person has in mind. Of course, I can have as many fair-weather friends as I want. But that’s pointless. Finally it’s just me and myself.
Q: Have you kept in touch with your friends in the film industry? Shatrughan Sinha who’s unwell?
A: Shatru, I haven’t met for years. But I know I can drop in at his home any time and I’d be welcome. It’s the same with Mr. Yash Chopra. I can walk into any of my old colleagues’ homes, but I am a very shy person. People mistake my shyness for arrogance. But if anyone reaches out to me, like you, I respond. At parties I don’t circulate. I sit in a corner for half an hour and then I leave.
Q: What plans for your birthday?
A: My husband has arranged a dinner on a boat for only family and friends. My family has already started gathering here in London. It’s mostly family and just four-five friends of mine who have been with me for 30 years now.
Q: No friends from Bollywood for your birthday?
A: Who will come from Mumbai to London for me? It costs money to travel so far. Kaun mere liye Rs.1.5 lakh kharcha karega? Nowadays money is more important than anything else.
Q: Even more important than relationships?
A: Yes, you are judged not for what you are, but how much money you have and what position you have in society. If you don’t have money and a social standing, no one looks towards you. If you’re a nobody you aren’t even invited to any happening party. That’s why I’d implore all youngsters to make something of their lives. Kuch karo, kuch bano. I am still remembered back home because ‘ek zamaane mein main Mumtaz thi’.
Q: In that case if you were not Mumtaz, Mayur Madhvani wouldn’t have married you?
A: I don’t think he would have, no!
Q: What about love?
A: ‘Aaj kal pyar hota kahan hai’? You tell me. Do you think genuine love exists in today’s day and age? You’re younger than me. You tell me.
Q: What about the love between a parent and a child?
A: Only the love between a mother and a child is unconditional.
Q: That’s too cynical.
A: It’s a fact. You look at marriages all over the world. Who looks after the child? The mother, no? My husband is a good father. But I’ve friends who have brought up their children alone. I’ve the highest regard for the mother. In my own case my parents divorced very young. My mother took both me and my sister Malka when she left my father. My father said he wouldn’t give her any money. He gave her both the daughters instead.
Q: So your father was around?
A: Of course. People believed I was fatherless because Devyani Chaubal wrote, ‘Mumtaz has got no father’. I took her to court. My father, who lived in Hyderabad, promised to come to court to prove her wrong. He said, ‘Hum ayega court mein’.
Q: And did he?
A: No, the magazine and Devyani apologised publicly. I forgave them. If someone wrongs me and realises it, I am ready to forgive. But I will never tolerate nonsense.
Q: So you were raised by your mother?
A: My grandmother, mother and my aunt. Like “Three Men & A Baby” in my life there were three women and a baby. It was a wonderful childhood. We were a typical Irani family. My mother was divorced when she was only 16. Then my mother re-married. She had two sons. One of them died. But I’ve a stepbrother named Shah Rukh Askari in Mumbai.
Q: Then there is the other Shah Rukh who is your fan.
A: You mean Shah Rukh Khan? Yes I heard. That’s very sweet of him.
Q: Who is not your fan?
A: Oh there must be many. I’ve been lucky. I started my career on the wrong note as a supporting actress. In spite of that I became one of the top-most heroines at the age of 18. That shows how much people loved me. I’d be appreciated even when I was not the heroine. My fans were with me. Then I married at 26 and left India.
Q: Do you recall bad experiences on your way to stardom?
A: Nothing like that. There were no cheap passes made. It all depends on how one conducts oneself. I firmly believe if you’re a hard-working and good-looking nobody except god can stop you. Our film industry does give a chance to new talent. But the newcomer has to be worth it, no? Those who talk about being forced to compromise must be lacking in talent and looks. They want to become overnight stars.
As for men taking advantage of strugglers, why blame only the entertainment industry? It happens in all work places. Sexual dynamics are tapped in every profession for a raise, for a promotion, whatever. Please don’t point fingers at the film industry. And look at the kind of monies that are given to actors. You really have to be worth it to command that kind of fees.
Q: Which are your favourite roles and films?
A: “Khilona”, “Tere Mere Sapne”, “Aaina”, “Aap Ki Kasam”, “Jheel Ke Us Paar” – there were so many other hits. But I wouldn’t call them memorable films or roles. “Khilona” was a turning point for me. Producer L.V. Prasadji had the guts to sign a side actress like me in the author-backed part. It broke my glamorous tomboyish image. Do you know, “Seeta Aur Geeta” was offered to me? But they offered me a very small remuneration, so I said no.
Q: Do you regret losing it?
A: No, why should I? Because it was a hit? But I gave so many hits. Hemaji got her first Filmfare Award for “Seeta Aur Geeta”. ‘Mujhe pehle mil chuka tha’ for “Khilona”.
Q: What about V. Shantaram who cast you as a leading lady for the first time in “Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti”?
A: I was doing “Khilona” and “Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti” at the same time. I was signed for a guest appearance to do a song. I had done bit roles in Shantaramji’s “Stree” and “Sehra”. I couldn’t say no to him. So I agreed to do a song in “Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti”. Then his daughter Rajshree, who was playing the lead in the film, decided she didn’t want to work. So Shantaramji decided to cast me as the leading lady in “Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti”. But the film’s leading man Jeetendra refused to work with me.
Q: What are you saying! Jeetendra and you became such good friends?
Q: Ya, he said, ‘Mumtaz ke saath main kaam nahin karunga’. Shantaramji put his foot down. He told Jeetu, ‘If you don’t want to work with her, you leave the film. I’ll take another hero.’ But Jeetuji finally relented. I held no grudges against Jeetuji because in those days many big heroes refused to work with me.
Q: Even Dev Anand?
A: No, he never refused. I got the chance to work with him in “Tere Mere Sapne”. If he said no to any film with me, I am not aware.
Q: Jeetendra and you did so many films subsequently?
A: Yes, but our ‘jodi’ did not become as successful as Rajesh Khanna and I. My films with Jeetu didn’t click.
Q: It’s the chemistry?
A: It’s fate and destiny. It’s up to the audience to take an actor to the skies or drop him or her to the ground. Either they love you or hate you.
Q: You left the film industry so long ago….
A: Forty years years ago I left. I did make a comeback in 1990 with “Aandhiyaan”. When that flopped, my heart broke. I did get offers after that. But I decided against doing any more films. There’s too much politics in the film industry. I live in London. Working in Mumbai would have been impractical. It meant too much stress. I didn’t need it.
Q: Any role recently that you felt you should have done?
A: I liked Hemaji’s role in “Baghbaan”. But I don’t like any other films that she has done lately.
Q: But to see you play an aged woman of grownup children would be unacceptable?
A: That’s one of the reasons why my comeback film “Aandhiyaan” failed. People wanted to know why I was playing mother to an 18-year old. I was a trendy mom in jeans. I dressed in the film how the heroine dressed in the original Pakistani film. Director David Dhawan wanted me to dress and behave exactly the way it was in the original. It didn’t go down well with the audience.
Sridevi dies at 54 of cardiac arrest: India, Bollywood in shock
Sridevi no more, and a part of my childhood dies with her
Sridevi died on Saturday night after suffering a cardiac arrest at the age of 54. Called the first female superstar in India’s male-dominated film industry, she made over 260 films in a career spanning 45 years.
As a starry eyed schoolchild, I would spend hours trying to get the steps of Morni Baagan Maan right, in front of the mirror. As a girl, not even 7, I was too young to understand the complexity of the lyrics or the depth of the feeling that the Lamhe song held within it, but it was she, Sridevi, her fluid dance moves and the play of emotion in her face that had me entranced. I would try to turn just like Sridevi, get her hand mudras right. Again, it would take me years to understand there was nobody like Sridevi. The twinkle in her eye, the charm she could switch on as cameras turned towards her or the movie star charisma that was part of her personality — Sridevi lived what her Mr India song said, Bijli Girane Main Hoo Aayi.\
My experiments in front of the mirror were not extraordinary, nor were they one of a kind. Lakhs of children across India were trying to emulate Sridevi — for some (like me) it was her dance, for others it was the fact that she was a superstar when women rarely had the word super attached to them in any form in the industry. And for almost everybody, it was her ability to light up the frames she inhabited.
My romance with Sridevi began long before I understood how to tell good films from bad; at that age I either loved them or hated them. So, when, early on a Sunday morning, as I got up to incessant messages, tweets and Facebook posts full of grief, I went back to my childhood. It was a child again who was mourning the loss of her star.
Indeed, Sridevi’s death has taken away something crucial with it — a part of my childhood. Whether it was her act as a child-woman in Sadma, the luminous double role in Lamhe, the quintessential Yash Chopra heroine in Chandni or the bubbly Hawa Hawai of Mr India, Sridevi managed to bring a certain je na sais quoi to every role she played.
Among the yellowing photographs and fading memories is a photo of me with my friends with a fruit hat a la Sridevi in Hawa Hawai. Maybe it was a day during summer vacation when time hung heavy on our hands. But I remember how disastrous the first attempt with a straw hat and a bowl of fruit was. We were rescued when the friend’s mother emerged and gave us a tongue lashing that only mothers are capable of. Then, being a Sridevi fan (who isn’t?), she helped us fashion the hat.
Then came Madhuri Dixit, and the gaggle of girls divided into Team Madhuri and Team Sridevi. I was a staunch member of the latter and many a evening, we would spend in fraught debates on who was better. Sridevi had been around for decades. Starting as a child artiste at the age of 4, she had worked in Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada films before she decided to shift her focus to Bollywood. She was a star here as well. Madhuri, IMHO, was a novice.
There were chinks in her career but it was still 90s Bollywood and actresses — even the one called the first female superstar of Bollywood — had to take the good with the bad. The pulpy papers of those times were full of how the leading actors of those days would cower before her. They may or may not have been true but they fuelled my imagination as a fan.
She definitely left a stamp on my career. I believe that years of defending her against Madhuri fans (you know who you are) made me pick up the job of an entertainment reporter. I came across her on many occasions in my career and always found her a picture of grace and poise, standing out in the sea of beauty that is Hindi cinema.
And today, she is gone, in a moment that appears was written by an unfeeling screenwriter. Or maybe, it is the fan inside me who is not ready to say goodbye. Oh, what it would be to watch her once again in a dark theatre with the lights dimmed.
Sridevi made 264 films over 45 years, and while not all of them will stand the test of the time, her charisma will. I would remember her as the effervescent Chandni, the middle class mother in English Vinglish but mostly as Hawa Hawai — who wore fruit hats and solved crimes as an intrepid journalist.
The Great Sanjay Leela Does Disservice To Cinema With Propaganda And Dishonest Portrayal Of History In Padmavat
I saw the film more than a week back and I was flabbergasted and disgusted by what I had seen.
It wasn’t until my mentor and friend Promod Puri, the founder an former publisher-editor of Canada’s oldest South Asian English language newspaper The LINK, wrote his review online that I felt compelled to add to the debate about one of the worst forms of propaganda in a Bollywood film I’d ever seen.
The great Bollywood writer-director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has basically put himself in the gutter with this outrageous Rajput Hindu propaganda that glorified the individual suicide the Sati (mass suicide as in Padmavat called Jauhar).
Looking back at the Hooliganism and blockade of the film by extremist Hindu and Rajput groups – it seems like a conspiracy given that the film actually shows the Muslims as evil blood thirsty monsters and I’m not even talking about the actually monstrous Khilji played by Ranveer Singh.
It should be the Muslims who should be appalled and disgusted at the polar opposite portrayals of Muslims and Hindus. It’s the Muslims who should be protesting and saying the film should be banned!
Given that the film is produce by Viacom India which is now 51 percent owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, I think the “Show” if extremism might have been planned ahead so that Muslims in India don’t actually think the film is anti-Muslim which it clearly is.
Writer-Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a good if not great filmmaker but here he comes across as Hitler Propagandist filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl who made pro-German propaganda films during Adolf Hitler’s reign.
Films like Padmavat are extremely irresponsible at a time in India where there continues to be a divide among Hindus and Muslims in Modi’s India.
And the film is really laughable as it tries to reconstruct history from a Hindu perspective when in reality the great but blood thirsty madman Khilji defeated the Rajputs. And no matter how much the film may try to sugarcoat it, the Rajputs were no match for the brutal strength of Khilji at a time in human history when brutal and maniacal strength was the Warrior’s code.
Take the brutal rulers of Europe and Asia – they were no different than Khilji!
I lost a lot of respect for director Bhansali as it seemed like he was just a puppet pulling someone else’s strings with much dishonesty and disgrace!
Aamir Khan say there is no Intolerance in India, urges Modi to reign in people spreading hatred
Days after his intolerance remarks, Bollywood star Aamir Khan today said India is “very tolerant” but there are people who spread hatred and appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rein them in.
The actor also believes that he still continues to be country’s brand ambassador even though the government may have discontinued his services, saying India is his mother and not a brand.
“Our country is very tolerant, but there are people who spread ill-will…Those who speak of breaking up this vast country, such people are present in all religions, only Modiji can stop them. After all, Modiji is our PM, we have to tell him,” he told Rajat Sharma in his ‘Aap ki Adalat’ show on India TV, according to a press release issued by the channel.
Aamir said a sense of security comes from the justice system, which should ensure speedy justice, and from elected representatives who should raise their voice when something goes wrong.
“After all, law is equal for all, and nobody is above law. Unfortunately, there are some people who spread negativity and hatred. If I am not wrong, our Prime Minister has also expressed concern. His slogan is ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’,” he said.
The actor, who hit headlines with his remarks that his wife was thinking of leaving India over growing intolerance, also replied to megastar Amitabh Bachchan’s remark that he damaged India’s brand identity by his statement, saying there was a feeling of insecurity due to growing intolerance.
“I had said in my interview that there was a sense of depression, a sense of despondency, a feeling of insecurity and intolerance was growing. But these are entirely two different things,” he said.
He added that he was “wongly quoted” and said, “I never said India was intolerant, I was wrongly quoted…To say about rising intolerance and to say India is intolerant are two different things.”
Claiming to continue serving as India’s brand ambassador even after government discontinued him, the superstar said, “For me, my motherland is my mother, it cannot be a brand. I can never view my mother as a brand. It could be a brand for other people, but not for me. Till this date, I continue to be India’s brand ambassador, even the government may have discontinued me.”
He said for 10 years he was brand ambassador for ‘Incredible India’s Atithi Devo Bhavo campaign’ and never charged a penny for all his public service campaigns for the country and nor will he charge in future.
Aamir also asked media and news channels not to air news about violence on TV as it creates an atmosphere of fear.
“Every Indian is infected with fear. I would also appeal to media not to highlight such violence, as it creates a sense of insecurity and fear among common people,” he said.
On his wife Kiran Rao expressing her intent to leave India due to insecurity, Aamir said he and his wife were not going anywhere and have been born here and will die in India, but said, “After all, Kiran is a mother, a mother always worries about her children.”
“Often we speak so many things among ourselves, but that does not mean, we take 100 per cent action on them. Now was that our intention. Kiran has actually expressed a feeling, an emotion, and we were born here, and we will die here. We are not going to leave our country, let me make it clear,”he said.
The superstar went on to say that whenever people try to divide, “we should become alert, and should beware as to why we are being reminded that we are Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh. After all, we are all Indians. We have to be on our quard.”
Seeking to clarify that there was intent on his or his director’s part on purportedly denigrating Hindu religion in his film ‘PK’, he said, “It was only a character playing the role of Shiva in a play, who was made fun of, in a particular situation. After all, Lord Shankar is Almighty, how can we dare to make fun of him?.”
The actor said he fully empathised with the cause of Kashmiri Pandits. “My heart cries even today for them. It is shameful, and I appeal to people living in the Valley to bring the Kashmiri Pandits back.”
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