Farha – Interview
Let’s talk about your anger and eccentricity. You’re the local Bruce Lee-cum-Raaj Kumar rolled into one.
Anger… yes, let’s talk about it. I think anger is part of your basic character. I won’t blame it on my mother. She’s a very stable, strong person. She’s not quick to lose her temper, but once she’s angry, she can tear a person apart! I think my mercurial temper is my father’s gift to me. I’m told he had violent rages. Mine also comes like a storm, then I use the foulest language, even threaten to hit the person, but in two minutes flat, it wears off. I’m telling you, if the same person were to return within five minutes, I’d probably say, ‘Aa baith, chai piyega?’ But this reputation I’ve come to acquire of using my fists freely, baffles me, I’d like to ask these people who accuse me to please bring all those I’ve beaten up, and line them up before me. See, main hoon bahut bak bak karnewali. When I’m mad, I say ‘milega to maroongi, haddi pasli tod daloongi‘, but it’s just talk. Do you think I actually beat people up? Besides, I’ve changed now.
But there are stories about how you beat up Farooq Nadiadwala—because he said something vulgar.
I’ll never hear the last of that one! I didn’t ‘beat’ him up. I just snubbed him. Told him to behave himself. He said sorry and that was it. The rest of the details were filled in by the press later—that I threw him down and danced on his chest… Main koi pagal thodi na hoon. You people have given me such a reputation. Bus mujhko pakad liya hai… copy achchi miljati hai na…
So, tell us about the ‘nice’, normal Farha. About the good deeds you’ve done…
Now, I’m not going to talk about it. That would be very petty. Like I read somewhere that Govinda had donated Rs. 10,000 to the Tirupati temple—chee! I was appalled! How could they talk about it? We have a saying that when you give, don’t let the left hand know what the right hand gave away…
I’ve seen hard times. And I can’t see anyone in hardship. I do my bit, but that’s because I feel I must, not because I want people to say, ‘What a nice person Farha is.’ It doesn’t matter…
You were saying you’ve changed. In what way?
When I came in I was very young, and didn’t know the first thing about life. Didn’t know about love—and sex was unheard of. We were told things like, ‘Don’t even look at dirty pictures’ so that when I passed a hoarding which had kissing or nudity, I’d look away—bus, my world was my karate school, my mother and my sister. From such a sheltered life I had to come to Bombay. It’s a whole new world. There’s fierce competition, there are jealousies, insecurities, people talk… Earlier, when I heard lies about myself, it used to baffle me, and then came the anger. Bloody***! Why should they talk like that? And why should I take it? And why should I live to please others? We’ve grown up with a set of rules: ‘You mustn’t do this’, ‘You mustn’t do that’… so I said, to hell with the rules. But then, that was a phase. Life is like a river flowing on…. you can never recall the time you’ve lost, nor can you stop the flow. You’re-just drawn along. As it moves, you have new experiences… Maybe what I liked yesterday doesn’t matter to me today.
What matters today will not be important tomorrow.
What is it that you want out of life? Have you thought about it? Or are you letting life carry you along?
Oh, I know what I want. I want my family to be well provided for. Main chahti hoon ki meri ma ko bete ki kami kabhi mahsoos na ho. She was divorced by my father because she gave him only two daughters… no son! No heir! I think today I’ve proved to be more than a son for my mother. I’ve earned more than a son could ever hope to—besides, I love her and I’ll always be there. If she had a son, he’d be hers only till he got married. Once the joru came, she’d kick her out. Bas I want my mother to have all that was taken away from her. That’s why I agreed to come to the movies when Yashji called me up at Hyderabad. My mother said, ‘Think carefully, life will never be same once you join films.’ But I’d heard how people like Mithun came from small backgrounds and made it, so I said, ‘Let me give it a go…
Once I landed up here, it wasn’t as if I ended up in the lap of luxury. My day began at 6 in the morning, I went to learn riding, then dancing, then around 1.30 I had my diction class, as soon as the diction teacher left, Taneja saab came for my acting lessons and that went on till 8 p.m. I had told myself, main haraam ki nahin khaoongi—but Yashji was like a father, between him and Pamji, they made me feel so loved and special.
Faasle got me Rs.25,000. I can’t tell you how happy I was! I felt I was a raja! But since it was a lot of money. I told Yashji please give me only Rs.1,000 a month— out of that, I sent Rs.500 to my mother in Hyderabad, Rs.300 I gave to the lady who kept house for me, and Rs.200 was my pocket money and I was thrilled with it.
Yashji had given me permission and I’d signed Bokadia’s film, Pranalal saab’s film … things were looking good. But that’s when the interviews started coming in, that Farha is mad, she starts beating up people… kal tak muh mein zabaan nahin thi, aaj do char film kya mili dimag kharab ho gaya hai. My mother would read all those interviews in Hyderabad and she’d make frantic calls. ‘Kya kar rahi ho, Farha?’ she’d ask. I’d tell her it’s lies, lies, lies… ‘Mummy, ‘dekho, there are girls who are jealous, they spread all these stories. But she found it hard to believe… ‘Why should people talk like that?’ she’d want to know. I spent half my life explaining things, giving excuses… and then we had all those inquisitive relatives coming over—they’d say all sorts of things to Mummy and she’d get all worked up. She was so worried, she’d accompany me to the studios to keep an eye on me and I was finding it difficult to work with her sitting there. After all, she’s my mother, it’s not easy doing romantic scenes in front of her. It was awful. We were having frequent flare-ups at home, but one day I decided enough was enough. I told Mummy, you have to have faith in me. She said she did—so, I said, in that case, you stay at home and take care of things here, and I’ll take care of things at work. You are not coming to the studios with me, from now! She agreed. And that’s when some semblance of order returned to our lives.
You must be one of the few actresses who’ve ventured into the studios without the umbrella of ‘respectability’ mothers seem to bring…
We are respectable people, my mother doesn’t have to hang around studios to prove it. She has better things to do. Besides, don’t other girls go to work? Do their mothers go to offices with their daughters? I am safe. I can look after myself. I’m a friendly person, yes. I laugh and joke around, but if someone thinks he can get away with budtameezi, he’s mistaken. If I sleep around with guys to get films then I’m no better than that girl who walks the Juhu streets at night. I’ve decided that work and home are not going to overlap. And I seem to be handling the two my way, quite successfully.
Pran Airy, your secretary, has accused you of being ungrateful. Isn’t it true that he was very caring and supportive of you when you started out. You even stayed with him. What changed things so suddenly?
Yes, I’ll admit he was very good to me and he did do a lot for me. That’s why I tolerated him for such a long time. Par kya karoon, unke liye jaan de doon? He was so slipshod, I lost several good offers because of him. Ramesh Sippy wanted me for Zameen, but Mr. Pran Airy wanted Ramesh Sippy to come and see him about the role. Shakti Samanta wanted me for a film and he quoted such an exorbitant amount that we never saw him again. We lost Surya because of him. Producers would call him and he just wouldn’t go and see them. I had so much faith in him, that I always believed the excuses he came up with, but gradually, it occurred to me that I was shooting for only four or five producers constantly when I had more than fifteen films. So I asked him why we were giving dates to only those people. I wasn’t able to finish their work, he said, and because the others weren’t ready with their schedules. I believed that too—till one of the producers told me that he was asking for money in return for my dates! Goodness! My reputation was at stake. I had to ask him to go.
Besides, because of my faith in him, I used to discuss all my problems with him—I was going through a rough patch with my mother, and instead of reconciling our differences, he was making things worse. Anyway, I’m glad it’s all over and I’m trying to make up the damage he’s caused to my career.
Hasn’t the Rajesh Sethi factor in your life contributed to the unhappy state of your career? Your now on, now off relationship with Rajesh probably makes your producers nervous. There’s always the possibility that you may decide to get married and go off movies like a lot of other girls…
I’ve always told my producers that I’ll give them at least four months’ notice before I leave. Besides I’m not going to get married right away. Yes, I will marry Rajesh, but only after he’s made something of his career—it’s just taking off right now. I too have to plan for my family, I can’t just walk out on them. So, both of us are surrounded by problems. We’ll wait till we sort them out. There’s no point going into a marriage in this frame of mind.
Talking about problems, you’ve acquired quite a reputation for slashing your wrists each time you feel overwhelmed by problems. You’ve slashed your wrist at least twice….
Take a look. (She holds out her hand—it’s disfigured from wrist to elbow with gashes).
Why do you do it?
Look, I don’t do it to kill myself. Nobody dies of a slashed wrist. I know my family won’t let me die. It’s just that, when I’m awfully hurt by something either my mother or sister or Rajesh has said, I see red. Believe me, I don’t even know what I’m doing or where I manage to find a blade. And when I cut, it doesn’t really hurt. I mean it’s bearable, besides, it takes my mind off the problem that was gnawing at me. Like I said I slit my wrist only if my mother or sister has hurt me deeply—it’s my way of hurting them back. If I were to hit out physically they’d forget, but this way each time they see my scars, they remember they’d hurt me…
Is that fair on them?
It’s not, I know. I’ve seen a doctor about it. He says it’s a kind of disease. But he says I’m not a freak, a lot of people have these tendencies and they can be overcome. I’m even trying out homoeopathy. My nani dabbles in it and she’s assured me I’ll get out of it. Rajesh too finds my hysteria quite annoying. If we have an argument, I just burn my ankle with a cigarette stub, and he can’t understand why I do it.
Does he ever lose patience and get real mad at you?
No, he never loses his temper. That’s his best quality. He is so patient. I’ve had this image of the man I’d like to marry, of a soft spoken, seedha-saadha, confident man. Rajesh is all that. He seems to have a solution for all my problems.
Doesn’t your star-status give him a complex?
Never. Like I said, he is very confident. Besides, I’m not the sort to put on airs. I’ve seen newcomers sign one film and bus, full make-up, car shaar, zameen par paon hi nahin padta. I hate putting on airs. I’d feel stupid doing it. And Rajesh is mature beyond his years to let these small things affect him. His time will come too, I am sure…
And now for your pet peeve. You said you don’t harbour grudges, then why are you always sniping at Poonam Dhillon? What started it all?
Look, when I came into the industry, people started saying I resembled her. I didn’t think it was a compliment, but I let it pass. When someone asked her to comment on the fact that this newcomer called Farha resembled her, she said, ‘I’ve nothing to be afraid of. When there’s an original, why would anyone need a copy?’ As if that wasn’t enough, in another interview she said something like, ‘I’ve got class. I don’t go down to the street-level of the likes of Farha…’ Bas mera to sar hi ghoom gaya… I said I’d bash her up if I ever saw her. She can only talk, I can do it. What does she think of herself?
Have you ever met her and tried to sort things out?
No, she’d be scared to see me. I was told she was also shooting at Film City one day when I was there and I kept threatening to go down to her sets and bash her up. You should have seen my staff!
And then you complain about your reputation!
(Laughs) But I didn’t hit her, did I? What’s wrong with a few gaalis?
Yes, that too, where have you picked up such a large collection of gaalis?
In Hyderabad it’s a tradition. It’s accepted. It’s quite harmless really.
Tabu has signed Shekhar Kapur’s film after all. Are you unhappy about it?
I’d have liked it if she had waited a while. She’s still so young. I was able to steer my way. I didn’t want all this to happen to her, but if she’s made up her mind… well… she’s my sister, I’m going to stand by her – This interview was conducted by Madhulika Varma in 1988