Tanuja talks about her top ten Hindi Films
Hamari Yaad Aayegi (’61)
A perky little street waif with few possessions and fewer scruples (Tanuja), is picked up from the streets by the hero (Ashok Sharma) and fed and sheltered in his own house. He grows exceedingly fond of her and even she reciprocates his feelings but the luster of lucre puts a spoke in the wheel. When Ashok’s boss comes visiting, he is enamored of Tanuja and seeing this as a step forward, a mercenary Tanu too waltzes off with him, leaving a heartbroken Ashok behind. When he dies, heartbroken, she is left to contend with a curse `Woh bijli rakh kar jaayegi tere khwab ki duniya, na phir tu jee sakegi na tujhko maut aayegi’.
Tanuja: “Before I did this film, I had already acted in Chabbili. But that was a family affair, and for me the film was kick-up-your-heels picnic.
“Coming to Hamari Yaad Aayegi, I would like to acknowledge Kedarji, my director for being the one who really groomed me. To begin with my Hindi (I had just returned from studying abroad) was atrocious. I was more fluent in English, French, German. So for six whole months Kedarji prepared me. I was always confident of my talent but talent has to be groomed. I would be lazing around when Kedarji would stomp in, make me jump off the table and teach. He could say even a word like `kab’ in 10,000 ways. For one tragic sequence I was supposed to burst into tears but all I could do was giggle, despite using up a whole bottle of glycerine. Finally Kedarji strode across and gave me one tight slap across my face. Right in front of the whole unit. No man, not even my father, had ever slapped me before (mom of course delighted in walloping me) and I burst into tears. I stomped off the sets, got into my car and went straight home. But what do you know? Mother packed me back into the car, drove straight to the studios and told Kedarji, ‘I give you full permission to slap this monkey anytime.’”
Aaj Aur Kal: (’63)
A prince no more, Ashok Kumar obstinately continues to live in the make-believe world of his past glory. He cocoons his children, Nanda and Tanuja, from the outside world. Nanda, the introverted cripple meets and falls in love with a young doctor Sunil. Mortally scared of her father’s reaction, she is goaded by her sister (Tanuja) to declare her love for Sunil Dutt to her father — the outcome be damned!
Tanuja: “The director being Vasant Joglekar, this was another Maharashtrian set up which gave me a very family feeling. For the outdoors at those gorgeous Mysore palaces, I had taken my Pekinese along and would feed him cold meats all day long. The dog came back so fat, he could hardly waddle. I also became great pals with Joglekarji’s daughter Meera (who later did Ek Kali Muskayee with Joy Mukherji). I still bump into her sometimes at the Grant Road vegetable market buying fish, meat and bhindi. We look at each other, see a typical housewife mirrored in the other and giggle away to glory.”
Chaand Aur Suraj (’65)
Wanting to realize his father’s dying ambition, elder brother Ashok Kumar slogs to make younger brother Dharmendra a doctor. Ashok’s comely student Tanuja falls for Dharam but the even rhythm of life is disturbed when tragedy strikes. Ashok is wrongly accused of embezzlement, loses his job and commits suicide so that Dharam can benefit from the insurance money. An infuriated Dharam drops out of college and promises to become a rich man and take revenged. But there still remains a loose end. Who is that mysterious stranger in his bhabhi’s (Nirupa Roy’s) room?
Baharen Phir Bhi Aayegi (’66)
The backdrop is the hum and buzz of a newspaper, inherited by Mala Sinha from her enlightened father. Waiting in the aisles for Mala is the suave Rehman, but Mala develops a soft corner for her young dedicated news editor Dharmendra, who in turn loves Mala’s tomboyish younger sister Tanuja. The focal point narrows to the strained conflict between the two sisters. The hassles of the press and boardroom plus the emotional setbacks take their toll on Mala’s nerves. Musically O.P. Nayyar comes up with the soothing `Aap ki haseen rukhpe’, the melodious, `Woh huske mille humse…,’ and the catchy, `Koi kehde kehde zamane se jaakar.
Tanuja: “Though Dharamji finally did the film, we had shot 11 reels with Guru Dutt under his direction before his untimely death. I was very fond of him and his well-stocked library. I would always tell him, ‘Aye Guru, tu marega toh library mujhe chhod ke jaana.’ How was I to know that soon afterwards, he’d commit suicide. Would you believe we had even planned to go to a movie together the next day. He was a very short-tempered and oversensitive man and would often be depressed. He would chew his own brains up. Whenever I came on his set I would crack a couple of jokes, ask him, ‘why take life seriously yaar’ and generally lighten the atmosphere. He too grew quite fond of me. Once on returning from Calcutta, the moment I entered Guru Dutt studios I could feel the tension. The lightmen came upto me and said, ‘Saab bahut gusse main hain, aap hi kuch kijiye.’ I saw him sitting rigid in his chair, went up behind him and closed his eyes. I could literally feel the tension draining. ‘Tanu … where were you for 10 days?’ he shouted. But I knew he was bluffing. He had called me for no other reason but because he wanted to see me.
“Another time, we were shooting and I saw his man Ratan bringing him a nice filigreed glass covered with a napkin. ‘Ratan kya leke aaya?’ I asked. Kuch nahin,’ Guru spluttered, ‘tum jaake shot deke aao.’ I realized it was a alcohol and I personally cannot stand it if someone consumes alcohol on the sets. I feel it’s sacrilege. So I spoke plainly, ‘Look, you drink and I walk off the sets. If you want we’ll both drink after pack-up but not now.’ Guru gave in then and after that I never ever saw him drink on the sets again.”
Jewel Thief (’67)
Vinay, (Dev Anand) a brilliant diamond-cutter working for Tanuja’s dad, is shocked when at a party, a stranger Shalini (Vyjayanthimala) claims she is his fiancée. She is supported in her claim by her brother Amar (Ashok Kumar). The plot thickens as his ‘double’ turns out to be a jewel thief.
But as the pace mounts, the existence of the double is suspect.
Who is the jewel thief?
Exciting chases in Sikkim, and a bevy of semi-clad beauties, Helen, Faryal, Anju Mahendru add to the glamour of this racy entertainer. Tomboyish Tanuja is a livewire, especially in the Burman beauty; ‘Raat akeli hain,’ with which she tries to seduce Dev.
Tanuja: “Here my role went happily upto a time and then they forgot all about me until in the end Vijay (Anand) thought, ‘Chalo Tanuja ko bhi bula lao.’
“But it was very exciting working with Dev Anand. He is the most dynamic person I’ve met. Know something? He offered me Hare Rama Hare Krishna but I refused because it was a sister’s role. Of course I regretted it later but I loved watching Zeenat do the role anyway. “Jewel Thief had Vyjayanthimala. I have worked with Mala, Nanda, Jayalalitha (such a sweet kid then, and a bigshot now!) But I was never jealous. If the other heroine was getting more I told myself it was because she deserved more. I’ve always been happy, whatever age I have been.”
Jeene Ki Raah (’69)
Mental depression restricts the pretty daughter (Tanuja) of a rich doctor to a wheelchair. She has not responded to the treatment from the best of doctors. However, nobody has contended with the magic of the young educated guy (Jeetendra) who has come to work for her father. He succeeds in inspiring her to move out of the wheelchair and break into a run. And a song. She starts losing her heart to him. On his part he remains silent about his wife and children back home in the village. Unwittingly Tanuja befriends the wife, Anjali Kadam. Now, everyone is walking on thin ice, ensuring that Tanuja doesn’t go back into the throes of depression. This L. V. Prasad film is fine entertainment. A radiant Tanuja and spirited songs from Laxmikant Pyarelal; `Aane se uske aaye bahar’, `Aap mujhe achhe lagene lage’, `Aa mere humjoli aa’ keep you engrossed till the end.
Tanuja: “Just before this film, I was involved in a car accident. My car banged into a man, he hit a stone and died. There was a hullabaloo. People said I was drunk (which was ridiculous since it was 11.30 in the morning) and that I would go to jail. All the producers shied away but Prasadji was one person who came forward and signed me for Jeene Ki Raah.
“The film was a big hit and established me as a big star — finally. Also I was doing a serious role for once and the audience didn’t have to laugh at me all the time.
“For the song ‘Aa mere humjoli aa’ the dance director gave me some real weird steps. Aisa karna Tanu, tu apne pair upar kar aur phir Jeetendra ka pair ghasitke neeche se leke jaa.’ For ten days we argued, finally, I walked upto Prasadji. He wore his spectacles, picked up his dhoti and I did the dance the way I wanted to.”
Essentially the story of a newspaper Editor (Sanjeev Kumar) and his lovely but neglected wife Tanuja. The Editor is deeply immersed in his stories, subjects and deadlines forever under pressure and he is unable to give time to his wife.
She suffocates in her loneliness. The rift begins. An old flame Dinesh Thakur enters her life and stirs romance. She finds solace in his attention. The husband starts resenting his presence. Confrontation is inevitable, as is a bit of soul-searching. Does this marriage crisis resolve itself?
Very sensitive performances from the artistes that match the director’s masterful touches (especially his handling of a typical middle class home) and three outstanding songs rendered by Geeta Dutt (who had sung these after a long hiatus) including the naughty, playful ‘Meri ja mujhe ja na kaho meri jaan’ ‘Koi chhup ke se aake sapnon mein aake mujhko jagaye ki main aa raha hoon’ as well as Manna Dey’s haunting `Phir kahin koyi phool khila’ all composed by Kanu Roy make Anubhav a great experience.
Tanuja: “Sanjeev and I have done umpteen films together. He called me chota bachcha and I called him Daddy, Basu (Bhattacharya) shot the whole film in my flat. Every morning he’d land up in my bedroom and I’d throw him out, ‘Get out of my room.’ Sanjeev and I shot for it whenever we had the time.”
Pyar Ki Kahani (’71)
A tragic but telling tale of the repercussions of casting aspersions on a relationship — especially when it’s a woman, married (Farida Jalal) or unmarried (Tanuja). The latter (Tanuja) a bubbly innocent girl, loses faith in humanity when her father succumbs to the pressures of society and labels her wanton. In a fit of despair she commits suicide.
The scenes between Amitabh, Anil Dhawan and Farida Jalal evidence a camaraderie, missing in most films today. Tanuja is a treat to watch.
Tanuja: “This was Amitabh’s big break. I remember the first time I met him. It was in a discotheque called Blow Up. And I thought to myself, Wow what a handsome man.’ I always knew he would make it big. His charisma is unmatched. Years ago, I remember he was feeling low once and I went upto him. ‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘Have patience. You’ll make it big.’ More recently we did Khuddar together and he said, ‘How can I call my first heroine bhabhi?’”
Haathi Mere Saathi (’71)
When Rajesh’s father is on his death bed, he beseeches his four baby elephants to look after his son. In due time, all five playmates grow up as inseparables. Rajesh marries effervescent Tanuja who after marriage, and her rosy honeymoon with the husband and the animals, begins to resent the fact that she has to share his affections with the elephants. A heart-tugging climax where Rajesh’s favorite tusker Ramu sacrifices his life for him and his kid, makes Tanuja repent.
An enjoyable children’s film, `Chal chal mere haathi’ became as popular as Hatari’s baby elephant tune. Also the animal party, with the tigers, elephants and lions having a feast, was a kiddies delight.
Tanuja: “In other animal films they incorporate animals into the scene by stitching up their mouths — without anaesthesia! But it wasn’t so in HMS. The lions were not so bad but the tigers were very cantankerous. Rajesh ki kaisi phatti thi. Whenever the tiger came near Rajesh would jump a mile away.
“Incidentally all the haathis were actually hathnis (the males are rogues). There was one called Champa who we played football with. Whenever she’d get the ball she’d put it between her feet and not let go. Then we’d all call out, champa let go of the ball.’ Champa was just too cute. To get friendly to her, the mahout told me to give her a mosambi. I held it out to her though it was yeech to feel her nose touching my fingers. But the next thing I know, she puts it right back into my lap. ‘You must peel it and give it to her,’ the mahout advised. I was in splits. “Some years after the release, the circus came to town. My daughter, Kaajol was around two and I took her to the circus. The moment I got down from my car there they were — all standing in a line and trumpeting. I was touched to the core of my heart.”
Do Chor (’72)
Two thieves, Dharmendra and Tanuja, after their initial skirmishes with each other, start operating together and fall in love. On the run from the police they land in Goa and camouflage themselves as hippies. A `raaz’ to be revealed at the end, behind Tanuja’s thieving instincts, is used as a bait to keep you glued at your seats. `Yaari ho gayee yaar se’ inspired by the success of Dum maro dum, `Chahe raho door chahe raho paas’ and ‘Kali palak teri gori’ spice up an otherwise bland fare. Plus there is tomboyish Tanu playing — you guessed right — a boy (This interview was conducted in 1991).