Bindu – Memories
I entered the film industry, a married girl. I was all of 16 then and just discovering what marriage was all about. I had a love marriage and my whole family was against it, though my husband and I were very adamant. In fact, even the priest refused to perform the marriage ceremony for us and my husband, Champak Lal Zhaveri, bribed him into performing it. I was young but was sure about the man with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life.
My husband and I had spent most of our growing years together. We used to live in the same building which was called Sonawala Towers. His sister was my friend and that is how we met each other. We would meet each other on the sly everyday. During recess in school, I would sneak out to meet him. I was about 14 or 15 then. My classmates suspected that there was something going on but they didn’t have the courage to tattle to my teachers about it because I was everyone’s pet. No one would have believed them, you see.
Initially, my husband was dead against my joining films. In those days, no girl from good family even thought of becoming a star. But I was stubborn. Eventually, his love for me won over his insecurities. I had always been fascinated by the performing arts. My mother was a stage artiste herself and that is how I was drawn to acting. As a child, I was always on stage, performing. Many people had told me that I should try my luck in films. But I was very scared of my father. He disliked the very idea. Though I never voiced my desires, there was a growing need in me to vent my energy somewhere.
Then my father expired and the responsibility of sustaining a very large family of eight fell on my shoulders. My father had left a lot of debts and I was expected to clear all of them. That is how l started modelling and finally made an entry into films. I did a couple of documentary films which were sent abroad as part of a strategy to promote tourism in India.
I remember, the first film I acted I in, was Anpadh (1962). I don’t remember who approached me for the film but I do know that Mohan Kumar, the director of my film saw me in one of the documentaries and sent someone to ask me if I was interested in a film career. I, of course, jumped at the idea. The role was good enough for me. Anpadh was a very sensitively directed, social film. The leads were played by Mala Sinha and Balraj Sahni and I played Mala Sinha’s daughter. The story was that Mala is dumped by her husband because she is an illiterate. She then takes a vow to educate her daughter so that her daughter would never have to face the situation that she was in.
I enjoyed doing the film but I also felt disappointed that Mohan Kumar did not give me the kind of publicity I deserved. Of course, I couldn’t expect my pictures to splash all over the posters but, I did expect a certain amount of publicity Which I never got. I tried to reason it out to myself but I can’t deny that I was badly disappointed. Had it been Hema Malini, her publicity would have been handled in a better way. There were other hassles too. My make-up used to be different everyday. Sometimes it was dark, sometimes it was very light. I used to come on the sets and Mohan Kumar would laugh aloud at my sight. I knew that my make-up was not right but couldn’t do a thing about it because I was a newcomer and had to keep quiet. Despite everything.. I enjoyed doing the film because everyone was so accommodative and co-operative on the sets. Mala Sinha and Balraj Sahni, treated me with care.
B y the time the film was released, my family was circulating in the film industry. Laxmikantji met my sister at a party and instantly fell in love with her. When they asked us if they could get married, we agreed immediately. Laxmikantji was indirectly instrumental in getting me my second film. We had invited him and my sister over for dinner one night. All the guests had arrived but these two were nowhere to be seen. We heard that Laxmi was at a dubbing theatre and so we drove down to pick him up. Raj Khosla was also there dubbing for his film, Anita. While we were waiting for Laxmi, Raj spotted me and kept staring. Eventually, he came up to me and said, ‘Would you like to work in my film’? I agreed immediately. Then he told me that the role he had in mind was a negative one. I was a little taken aback and was also unsure whether I wanted to club myself in that bracket. Raj Khosla saw the temptation on my face and also the reservations about playing a vamp and very kindly told me to sleep over it for a week. He was making a film based on a novel by Chandrakant Kapelkar, called Nilaambari. He told me, `Bindu, you are the heroine of my story, but the lead in the film will be played by someone else.’ I asked hazaar people for advice and finally decided to do the film. My husband was a little apprehensive about my doing another film but I convinced him into letting me do it. If the film flopped, I promised to quit the industry for ever. So very grudgingly, he agreed. Two days later, I called Raj Khosla and told him I was ready to play the vamp.
At the screen test, I rattled off my dialogues and the shot was canned. Raj Khosla was absolutely flabbergasted that though a newcomer, I could be so comfortable before the camera. I was hugely appreciated.
From the very next month, I began shooting for the film. This time, I didn’t bother with my looks, but concentrated more on my performance. The first scene of the film began with a dhamaka. I was supposed to yell at Rajesh Khanna who is an uninvited guest at my party. Rajesh Khanna was on the verge of becoming a star. Aradhana and his other films had not been released but he was being touted as a superstar already. People used to say that he was arrogant but I have never felt so. He was always very friendly, very sweet to me.
Raj Khosla was very tense about the film. His earlier films had all flopped. In the entire cast I was the only new artiste, whereas Balraj Sahni, Prem Chopra, Rajesh Khanna, Kamini Kaushal were all established artistes. When Raj Khosla told me that he was banking on me to be the lucky mascot of his film, I began to shiver. I suddenly realized the great responsibility put on my shoulders. If the film flopped, I would fall short somewhere. At that very moment, I prayed to God to see this film through. I promised that I would offer my obeisance at Tirupathi. The moment the film was over, I somehow wrangled the script from Raj Khosla and rushed to Tirupathi. Whether it was pure luck or whether God heard my prayers I don’t know, but the film became a huge hit. Initially, the reports were average. But a week later the whole scenario changed. The film was publicized by way of word. And collections picked up drastically. Do Raaste was declared a golden jubilee hit.
A fter that film, Rajesh Khanna and I did many more films together. Kati Patang, Ittefaq, Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke… My husband didn’t have any problems with me continuing in the industry because he was enjoying my popularity quite a bit. By now, I had been branded as a vamp and all the offers I was getting cast me in the role of the bad woman. Around this time, I got a call from Hrishikesh Mukherjee asking me to come and meet him. I thought, ‘Chalo, another negative role and that too from Hrishida’. I was quite pleased that he had noticed me. When I met him he said to me, `Bindu, I have seen you playing many roles. In all of them you scream and shout and create trouble. But in my film you will play a positive role’. I was surprised. How could I, a vamp, play any other kind of role? The film was Abhimaan. And everyone knows what a beautiful role I played. I have never enjoyed doing a role as much as I did doing that one. After that one film, I featured in many other Amitabh films. Gehri Chaal, Zanjeer… Everyone noticed Amitabh in Zanjeer but no one has appreciated his performance in Gehri Chaal. It was flawless. Those days, Amitabh was very insecure about his position in the industry. He used to tell us, ‘If my film doesn’t do well, I am going to quit and go back to Allahabad’. Amitabh and Jaya were on the verge of getting married during the making of Abhimaan. It was rather sweet watching them shoot. Jaya was really short and they used to prop her on a bench when she had to share a shot with Amitabh so that she was on the same level as him.
I got quite close to Amitabh and Jaya during those days. He was quite different then. Very jovial and full of life. We used to have major get-togethers. In the middle of the night, we would decide to go for an outing. Amit would come to my house and pick me up and we would gather for one of our sessions. Amit was always interested in music and always at these get- togethers he would be forced to sing some of his folk songs. While on an outdoor shooting, every night we would drive for an hour, just to have biryani. Those were fun days. There was a camaraderie and warmth that we all shared which I really miss today.
With Zanjeer, I became famous as, Mona Darling. Ajit’s particular style of saying it, set it into a rage, and whenever I went out, people would start calling me by that name. It was natural, I guess. After that, I did several other Mona Darling films. All this quite thrilled me. When I hear all the Mona Darling jokes today, I laugh heartily to myself. Those days, I was concentrating on making money. I was greedy. Whatever role came my way, I would grab it. There was no competition for me so I was having a cushy time. I was also fast gaining the reputation of being a good dancer. Shaktida, when making Kati Patang had asked me if I was comfortable doing dance sequences.
I was primarily a classical dancer with many years of training in Bharat Natyam and Kathak. But I was very uncomfortable doing cabarets where I had to jiggle, wiggle. On top of that I had to wear these revealing costumes. Oh my god, I was so uncomfortable. For Kati Patang, Mani Rabadi designed this costume for me which was full of holes. I was so scared to wear it that I begged with Mani Rabadi to do something about those enormous holes from where my flesh could be seen. Ultimately she put a skin colored cloth under the costume. Only then did I rest in peace. I began to practice very hard for that particular dance sequence in Kati Patang. I would dance for hours and all my male dancers would help me perfect my steps.
I was nervous but I took it up as a challenge. I faced quite a few problems while shooting that particular sequence. I could never lip-synch with the number. I kept goofing all the time. I would exaggerate every movement, open my mouth so wide that the whole world could see what was inside. My hair dresser would desperately signal to me to close my trap from the fringes of the crowd who used to stand there to watch me.
It was while I was shooting for this song that I first saw Shashi Kapoor. He had heard that a new girl was being shot in the same studio. So he came to watch me, I noticed him in the crowd so I started showing off even more. Later on, when we were shooting together, I reminded him of the earlier incident. Shammi Kapoor was Casanova, all right, but Shashi was no less. While Shammi did everything openly, Shashi did it on the sly.
After Kati Patang was released, everyone congratulated me on the dance number I had done. It became quite a rage. But I was very dissatisfied with the song when I saw the rushes. I knew I had it in me to improvise. I requested Shaktida to reshoot the whole scene but he refused. Maybe if I had been a big star he would have listened to me. After that one number, producers began to come to me with roles that had at least one dance number for me. Phir to, jo bhi roles aaye, usme Bindu ko naachna jaroori ho gaya.
Kamal dance master was especially very impressed with my work. He had this reputation of being tough with heroines. From the beginning, he had problems with Rekha because she was promoting Saroj Khan. But somehow with me, he was very decent and kind.
There is one number I distinctly remember shooting for. It was for the film Chhupa Rustom. We were to shoot the dance in Simla but it was impossible because it was snowing. It was the month of May and Goldie Anand finally decided that the whole song would have to be shot in Natraj Studio in Bombay. I went through torture. I had to wear heavy cardigans with the fire blazing, full blast. The floor of the studio was sprinkled with a thick crust of salt and I had to dance on bare knees hour after hour. By the end of the day, my knees were bleeding profusely and I had to take one tetanus injection so the wound wouldn’t turn septic. It was awful! At the end of the fourth day of shooting, I just threw away my warm clothes and said, ‘Enough, I can’t do this any more’. I was so tired of dancing in that heat.
Times have changed now. The kind of warmth we shared then with our colleagues, is totally missing now. The youngsters won’t even get up to offer a seat to a senior artist, when they notice us standing. It is pathetic. I miss my friendship with Sharmila, Rekha, Amit and Amjadbhai. We used to have fun together.
I remember, once we were shooting in Madras with Randhir. Hema and Jeetu were on the same location and we got to hear rumours of their impending marriage. At that time, Dharam was madly in love with Hema too. Randhir being Randhir immediately called Dharam and told him, ‘What are you doing here. Jeetu is going to propose to Hema, rush down as fast as you can.’ Sure enough Dharam reached there and we all know the end to the Jeetu-Hema story. I enjoy the Kapoor brothers’ company.
Another person I really liked was Raj Kapoor. Whenever we met, he would chat with me about all his girlfriends, Nargis, Vyjaynthimala, Padmini… He used to say, `Bindu, in my next birth I will ask God to make me a woman. And then see, how I wrap the men around my little finger. You women, don’t know how to do it’. I have never known a better human being than Raj Kapoor. I do try and keep in touch with everyone but they are all busy with their own lives and I am busy with mine. One thing I do know is that I will always keep in touch with films. This is where I am happiest – Mini-Shubha