Memories – Padmini Kolhapure
As a child star, I started my career with Dev Anand in Ishq Ishq Ishq. I was all of seven years, then and I played Zeenat’s younger sister. Though the film didn’t do very well, it was a lovely experience working with Dev Uncle.
I had always been very fond of dancing. Once, I did a stage performance in Juhu which Raj Kapoor attended as chief guest. Incidentally, at that time he was looking for a girl to play the younger Zeenat in Satyam Shivam Sunderam. He liked my performance and later called me back stage. I went through a voice test and that’s how I got the role!
This was my first major break as a child star. Of course, once you are an R.K. discovery, nobody thinks twice before signing you. So much of publicity and media attention came my way that I went on a virtual signing spree! Today, it is with a lot of satisfaction that I look back at all the roles I did as a child star — be it the one in Satyam Shivam Sunderam, Insaaf Ka Tarazu, Gahraayee or Sajan Bina Suhagan. They were truly roles of a life time!
Talking about the rape scene in Insaaf Ka Tarazu, frankly, I cannot fathom why it was made into such an issue! It was blown way out of proportion. The scene, in fact, was very artistically picturised, without any trace of obscenity. The vulgarity was, probably, in the minds of some of the viewers who made a big hue and cry about it. Otherwise, the film touched people’s hearts as it reflected the atrocities committed against many innocent people in our society. Working with B. R. Chopra and the unit was like a one happy family experience. Later, I went on to do Mazdoor and Kirayedaar with him.
My excitement was at its peak when Raj Kapoor approached me for Prem Rog. After that there was just no looking back! I learnt so much from Raj Kapoor. The man was an institution in himself and there I was like a sponge, absorbing every bit of what he said. Once, I recall, Chintu and I were doing this important scene and I made some mistake. That was it – Raj ji gave me the firing of my life! Since I adored him, I was rather shaken up. Later, when I approached him and told him about my feelings he said, ‘It’s okay, kaam ke waqt yeh sab nahin sochna chahiye’. He was a wonderful person!
I remember when we were supposed to go to Delhi to attend the premiere of Satyam Shivam Sunderam. Raj ji had called me up and asked, ‘Tum kya pahen rahi ho’? I told him that I was wearing some particular dress of mine. Now, it’s a well-known fact that Raj ji was very fond of the color white. He immediately called up the dress designer and had a gorgeous ghagra choli in white and gold made for me especially for the occasion. I was ecstatic! I wore that lovely outfit and attended the premiere.
R.K. premieres were on such a lavish scale with a special band in attendance. Everything was so grand! I couldn’t get over the dress and I took particular care of it. Unfortunately, on our way back from Delhi my suitcase which, contained the dress, got lost. I was really sad. But I didn’t tell Raj ji about it – otherwise he’d have got another one made for me. Even now, I wish I had that dress with me. I would have treasured it!
While we were shooting for Prem Rog in Mysore, Raj ji would have baskets of mogras and gajras delivered to everyone’s rooms, saying `Sabko khush hona chahiye’. He was in a class of his own, with immense style and aura. Raj Kapoor was a born showman!
Before I signed Prem Rog, I had signed Nasir Hussain’s Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai. So, simultaneously I was shooting for Ahista Ahista, Prem Rog and Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai. What’s more, I achieved a hat trick by winning three awards in a row! I won the best actress for Prem Rog, a special award for Ahista Ahista and the best supporting actress for Insaaf Ka Tarazu.
Surprisingly, Nasir Hussain’s film didn’t do well. However, even today when people see the film, they simply love it. I think it was quite an entertainer with good music. Even when I go abroad and I tell people out there that the film had bombed, they simply can’t believe it!
At that time, I used to be crazy about the Neetu‑Rishi pair. My friend Shama and I would catch every film of their’s, literally first day first show. I think Rishi was aware of the fact that I was in such awe of him and that was probably why he would project a kind of remote rudeness. But in reality, he was very co-operative and I got along with him pretty well. We did four to five films together – till I did one film with Mithun and we were considered to be the next hit pair!
Pyar Jhukta Nahin was my major box-office hit. Mithun, at that point of time, wasn’t considered to be a superstar. The film gave considerable boost to his career, as well.
I worked with Yusuf Uncle in Subhash Ghai’s Vidhaata and we got along very well. Even today, we have maintained that rapport and whenever we meet, he pats you on the cheek—his way of showing affection. I can’t think of any of my co-stars with whom I didn’t get along. Except for Kakaji, with whom there were some undercurrent tensions stemming from the fact that I was a great fan of his since childhood.
My mom was working with Indian Airlines, at that time. So, whenever she knew that Rajesh Khanna was travelling, she’would call me up and I would rush to the airport just to have a glimpse of him. He was a rage with the girls! I have seen girls swooning all over him. I have seen girls literally kissing his car. I haven’t seen that amount of craze for any other star.
There was a film called Chalta Purza for which they were on the look-out for a child star. Satyam Shivam Sunderam wasn’t released yet, and I was called for the audition. Learning that Rajesh Khanna was going to do the selection, I was terribly excited! So, you can imagine my disappointment when he did not select me. Imagine getting rejected by the person whom you idolise the most! I was very sad. Nevertheless, I worked with him in Soutan and in one more film which had Tina in it. Soutan was a hit and so was the title song. I keep telling Saawanji that he is such a good lyricist. It was great fun working with Saawanji. Considering the kind of image some people have of Saawanji, I had absolutely no problems working with him.
In Vidhaata, I played a typical kashtewali Maharashtrian girl. Again, the song ‘Saat saheliyaan’ was in the eye of controversy. Though I did feel awkward doing a few dance steps, I got away by saying I couldn’t manage it. Instead of refusing, I think that was the best way out. Imagine that song being picturised in today’s time! I wonder what it will turn out to be!
I was doing films both with Bunty and Sanju who were the best of buddies. Hunting was a big thing for them and they’d often indulge this passion together. Once, Sanju gifted me this hunting trophy. I was thrilled and the next day when I met Bunty I told him how sweet it was on Sanju’s part to gift it to me. Much to his amusement Bunty asked, ‘Did Sanju say he shot it?’ and I said yes. Bunty then told me that it wasn’t Sanju but he, himself who shot that animal! He even showed me a photograph of the occasion which he had clicked as proof. We would really have a lot of fun on the sets.
The same was when we were shooting for Woh Saat Din. I would bring lunch from home, as would Boney and Anil. We would share our food and literally have a party on the sets. Whenever we’d find some time, Sanjay Kapoor and I would go to Open House in Bandra, have a pizza and come back on the sets.
Regarding my friends from the industry, I got along very well with Mithun. He’s a very down to earth person and a wonderful human being. Everybody would call him, Mithundada or Mithunda but I didn’t. Poonam and I have been good friends and still are. It’s sad that she has separated from her husband. I guess that’s life. You never know what’s in store for you. Moreover, you can’t really sit and judge.
I had done films with Shakti even before he was married to Shivangi. He was very protective about me. Villains really aren’t what they are projected on screen. Shakti is a family oriented person. My son calls him Shakti papa. But I can’t get over the incident when he literally scared the life out of me. It was during the shooting of a film in Kashmir which featured Tina, Kakaji, Shakti and myself. Can you imagine, the whole bunch of them, Kakaji included, plotted against me?! They played a prank and staged this mock fight for my benefit. The entire episode was staged to seem like they were all out to bash the daylights out of Shakti. The one who picked the fight pretended to be drunk and caught hold of Shakti’s collar. All this was happening in front of me and I didn’t know how to handle the situation. It went for hours and I was literally in tears. In the end, they all laughed and I howled! To date, I haven’t forgiven any of them!
People simply cannot forget the Prince Charles episode! When Prince Charles visited Raj Kamal studios, we were shooting for Ahista Ahista. I was in my teens then. When he arrived, he was welcomed in the traditionally Indian style with Shashikala applying tikka to him. Prince Charles shook hands with me and I gave him as peck on his cheek. And that was it! There was a huge crowd of photographers, both foreign and Indian, who were present there. The next day morning, it was splashed all over the newspapers to the extent that when I went to London, the immigration officer who stamped my passport asked me, “Are you the girl who kissed Prince Charles?”. The irony was that they made such a hue and cry about it when Prince Charles himself was cool! Can you believe somebody from some place in the interiors even filed a suit against me saying that I had put a stigma on Indian women?
Later, Ra jji had approached me for Ram Teri Ganga Maili which didn’t work out as I had objections to a few scenes. I have no regrets about not doing the film. The only thing I missed out on was the opportunity to work with the great Raj Kapoor again. I have dedicated my school of acting in his memory.
Since the age of 14, I was working round the clock. I enjoyed whatever I did and do not have any regrets whatsoever. I fell in love with Tutu and I got married at the age of 21. At an age when girls begin their careers, I quit films. The decision to quit films was entirely mine. Today, I am happy with whatever I have achieved in life. I had a great career and today, I have a wonderful husband and a very cute son. I am happy with my acting school and now that my son is grown up, I feel I can devote time to acting, as well. Not that I want to reenter the rat race! But if something exciting comes my way, I’ll surely accept it. It makes you happy that your creativity is not stagnating. After all, isn’t happiness what we are looking for, at the end of it? (Interview conducted by Ranjeeta in 1998).