“I was enamoured by Nasir saab” – Asha Parekh

globalmovie     05 Jun,2017         No Comment

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She’s undeniably distinct from her peers. Because Asha Parekh has gone way beyond the paradigm of stardom and its engulfing halo. A noted dancer. Director and producer of hit TV shows like Kora Kagaz and Kangan. Ex-President of CINTAA (Cine and TV Artistes Association). The first female Chairperson of the Censor Board. Distributor of 21 hit films. Founder of the Asha Parekh Hospital in Santacruz… she’s a woman of many shades and much substance. Isn’t it then hard to believe that a woman so driven, an achiever succumbed to depression and had to surmount suicidal thoughts? Well, her autobiography Asha Parekh: The Hit Girl (An autobiography with Khalid Mohamed) reveals both the verve and the vulnerability of the screen goddess of the ’60s with never-before insights. “I’m an emotional person. I follow my heart, not my mind. I tend to brood when someone hurts me or when I believe I’ve hurt someone. I come across as a tough person. But I’m not all that strong,” asserts the 70-plus veteran. “People believe I’m just about glamour. But the highlight of my life is not just being a filmstar,” she explains why she eventually felt the need to tell her story. “I have spoken about the highs and the lows in my life. Particularly, the period between the loss of my mother (Sudha aka Salma Parekh) in 1990 and that of my father (Bachubhai Parekh) in 2003. I felt a certain hollowness creeping in,” she says. “I’ve also spoken about the opportunities I missed… about a few other things, which would not have been possible otherwise. It was difficult to be honest,” she confides hinting at her rumoured closeness to filmmaker and mentor, the late Nasir Hussain…

HIT HAI!

Asha, who began her career as a child artiste, was seen in Madhubala’s film Jwala. Later, director Bimal Roy impressed by 10- year-old Asha’s dance on stage cast her in Maa (1952) and then in Baap Beti (1954). At 16, Asha was rejected by Vijay Bhatt for his film Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959) as he believed she was ‘not star material’. In an uncanny twist, eight days later, producer Subodh Mukherjee and director Nasir Hussain cast her in Dil Deke Dekho (1959) opposite Shammi Kapoor and her fortunes changed overnight. She went on to forge a fruitful association with Nasir Hussain in six films including Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai (1961), Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963), Teesri Manzil (1966), Baharon Ke Sapne (1967), Pyar Ka Mausam (1969) and Caravan (1971).

If Nasir Hussain gave her a glamorous image, Raj Khosla lent gravitas to her roles in Do Badan (1966), Chirag (1969) and Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1978). With director Shakti Samanta she did dramatic fare like Pagla Kahin Ka (1970) and Kati Patang (1970), the latter earning her the Filmfare Best Actress Award.

Amongst a bevy of beauties, Waheeda Rehman, Nanda, Sadhana and Mala Sinha, Asha earned the title of ‘the jubilee girl’. She was also the highest paid actress and was considered ‘lucky’ for every hero, right from Shammi Kapoor, Joy Mukherjee and Biswajeet to Shashi Kapoor and Rajesh Khanna. Her twirling grace and stylised outfits that contoured her sexiness made her a fashion icon. “I was styled by talented designers like Bhanu Athaiya, Madame Pompadour and Leena Daru. We Indian women have unique body types and our designers understood that,” she says.

She rues the fact that girls today have to be extra thin to carry off gowns. “Wearing gowns at events – well, I find that a bit ridiculous! Sarees add such grace. A woman can look dignified and sensuous at the same time.” But she did care about her figure. “I had to wear a cowboy attire and tuck my shirt in for the song Aap se miliye in Pyar Ka Mausam. As you know, I’m heavy from below. I’ve got big hips!” she smiles. “So, I consulted Dr Jassawalla. I lost about 15 kilos with his recommended diet and massages. I’d visit him at 6 am everyday and from there go to the set. As I was asked to eat very little, I’d get cranky,” she shares. “Nasir saab would joke, “Issko roti dikha do! Yeh theek ho jaayegi!”

MY HEROES

The ‘hit girl’ says that she was never hit upon by her heroes. “I’d sit in a corner and be immersed in my book. My mother always accompanied me,” she says. Asha shared a close bond with both, the late Geeta Bali and Shammi Kapoor and addressed them as ‘Chachi’ and ‘Chacha’ respectively. “I called Shammiji ‘Chacha’. There was no way I could have any romantic leanings for him,” she smiles. “I shared a fine rapport with all my heroes,” she maintains. “Once while we were shooting for Hum Hindustani (1960) near the Randhawa falls in Igaptpuri, we got lost. Sunil Dutt saab came searching for the unit in the forest. That was so nice of him,” she reminisces.

Ask her if her gorgeousness fetched her compliments and she laughs. “Men used to get frightened to talk to me. They found it hard to compliment me.” She adds, “But I remember when I wore the white sharara for the song Achcha toh hum chalte hain in Aan Milo Sajna, J Om Praksh saab (director) remarked, ‘You’re looking so nice’. He even got a similar outfit made for his daughter Pinky (Roshan) when she got married to Rakesh Roshan.”

Asha is an integral part of Rajesh Khanna’s superstardom. The association began with Rajesh’s earliest film – Baharon Ke Sapne. “Even during Baharon… there was something special about him. He was an introvert and kept to himself. But during Kati Patang, he was a superstar. I remember huge crowds had gathered at Nainital Lake where we were to shoot Jis gali mein tera ghar. On the first day we couldn’t shoot,” she recalls. “I had witnessed the superstardom of Dev Anand – girls going crazy over him, flocking around him. But not like this!” says Asha who shot two films simultaneously with Rajesh Khanna. “From 7 am to 2 pm, we’d be shooting for Kati Patang. And from 2 pm to 10 pm for Aan Milo Sajna.”

She had her own fan following too. “I used to get fan mail by the gunny bags,” she reveals. She recalls a crazy fan experience, “There was this Chinese fellow, who had plonked himself near my gate and just wouldn’t go. He kept tabs on when I came, when I left. Naturally, I started getting scared. So I’d dunk in when my car entered the gate.” She continues, “When the neighbours asked him to go, he brandished his knife saying, ‘I’ll kill you! I’ve come to marry her’. I called up the police commissioner. They put him in Arthur Road Jail. From there, he wrote a letter asking me to bail him out. It was creepy.”

While she continued to do character roles in films like Raiszaada, Ghar Ki Izzat and Professor Ki Padosan in the ’90s, the changing work ethic left her discouraged. “I was playing the mother’s role in a film. Shashi Kapoor was my co-star. And this young star was the hero. Shashi and I would reach the set at sharp 9.30 am. And we’d wait and wait for this star to arrive, who would stroll in at 6.30 pm. Once, when he walked in that late, Shashi, whose shift had ended, got up and left. It made no difference to this star,” she narrates adding, “I was so put off by this behaviour, I decided not to act after that.”
LOVE & LOSS

The girl, who played muse to the finest love songs filmed on her, chose to stay single. Didn’t she ever fall in love? “I’m human too. I did fall in love,” she says softly adding, “Yes, Nasir saab was the only man I ever loved.

I was enamoured by him. I loved him. But it was not meant to be.” She adds she didn’t want the tag of a ‘homemaker’ and that’s why she never considered marriage with him. In fact, so dignified was her position in the married filmmaker’s life, that his daughter Nuzhat and son and actor Imran Khan even attended Asha’s book launch. “Love in those days was hidden. There was a pardah. Sachai thi, depth thi. But today there’s no therav. Today we have become so practical, that we have lost out on emotion,” she reflects.

She’s made her peace with life and learnt the mantra of staying happy. “Either I brood and stay miserable or I keep myself occupied and fight depression. The choice is mine. I have been in that space. I don’t want to get there again,” says Asha who enjoys her ‘girlie time’ with peers Waheeda Rehman and Helen. “Waheeda and I went to Alaska for 21 days. Once we had been to Sule Farms in Nasik and also Lavassa when Nanda was alive,” she says. Nanda’s sudden demise in 2014 baffles her even today. “On Monday, I spoke to her for half an hour. She was complaining about pain in her legs. Tuesday she was gone!” Then with a faraway look she says, “The fear of the way you’re going to end does get to you. Life’s so uncertain.”

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