By: Subhash K. Jha, IndiaFM
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
"He was a fellow-Libran. He called me Chinnapunnu the Tamil term for 'Little Daughter'. ...I did some of my best work with him. There were directors like Manmohan Desai, Muzzafar Ali, my discoverer Mohan Segal or Hrishida - they saw the person behind the actress in me. They were therefore able to project me in a humane natural light. Hrishida was like a father-figure. He would give me dirty looks if I behaved loudly. Please remember, I was only 13 when I came into the industry. I remember him calling me to his home. "I see you in this role as a little daughter. You aren't just a mischievous brat but you don't want to be told what to do. But you've great values. So you do the right things.' That's how Hrishida conceived the character in Khubsoorat for me. Then later he made a kind of sequel in Jhoothi ...I didn't have to depend on dialogues or scenes. We shot Khubsoorat in his house, so I didn't feel I was shooting a film.
Did I imitate Mr.Bachchan in Khubsoorat? When you're working in ten films with Mr.Bachchan you're bound to absorb some of his mannerisms. But I didn't do it consciously. In Khubsoorat I also imitated Shammi Kapoor in the song 'Inquilaab zindabad' and also Gulzar Bhai wearing the kurta and chashma. Hrishida was such a fantastic editor. Before he reached the sets he had already completed the editing in his mind. That's when I realized what a fantastic craftsman he was. That's when I got interested in editing.
Hrishida could concentrate on chess on the sets and still shoot the perfect shot. It didn't mean he wasn't paying attention to the actors. I slowly understood and appreciated him. My first film with Hrishida was Namak Haraam. I was part of this gang that included Amitji. We all used to gate-crash into Hrishida's place and smother him with a beer. Every year we made his life hell (laughs). And you know there was a holi sequence in Hrishida's Namak Haraam and Alaap. We South Indians don't play Holi. I only remember it as something we -Amitji, his Dad (Harivansh Rai Bachchan), his Mom (Mrs Teji Bachchan) and Hrishida would get together to celebrate.
I relate to Hrishida as with everyone else only through emotions. Hrishida always had that pain in his legs...he lived with unlimited pain. His house was filled with cats, dogs and children. That's when he saw me relating to kids and made Jhoothi. His home looked so unkempt. But Hrishida was happy living in the chaos. ...He said, 'Sure my pets smell. But that doesn't mean I love them any less.' Hrishida encouraged me to get my first pet Pishti and was a godfather to her. He taught me unconditional love for pets. He advised me to keep a ticking clock or a nightie for Pishti to cuddle so she wouldn't miss me when I'm in a shot. Today I value every living being, including a blade of grass.
Hrishida connected me with the woman in me. I shared a one-on-one relationship with him. He was like a father and friend. He gave me space to have fun and yet taught me a lot. I met Hrishida off and on, but not as often as he'd have liked to. I always do whatever comes spontaneously to me. I've learnt a lot about filmmaking, editing and life from Hrishida. For him no artiste was indispensable. He managed no matter what. He didn't stand out with his clothes but with his personality. Like Bismillah Khan Saab, Hrishida never lost his spirit till the end. His love for life was immense. He wouldn't let me bring my cat Shiva near him for fear that it would get an infection. And his own kitty-cat who jumped from the high-rise and was paralyzed limped around his house till the end. There was just his television, computer and pets.
When he lost his son and wife he became very depressed. But his sense of humor, often corny, saw him through. He was very protective of me. He'd crack dirty jokes with Amitji, not me. I didn't go for Hrishida's funeral. I don't go for funerals. That doesn't make me any less caring. Hrishida is always there. Sorry I couldn't see him in his last days. All the wonderful people like Sunil Dutt Saab, Raj Kapoor Saab, Mohan Segal Saab and Hrishida who have such an impact on my life....I want to make them proud."