Within one week, Hindi cinema lost two of its enduring comic talents Rajendranath and Manorama. And Bollywood couldn't care less. In fact, those who knew them faintly had no clue they were gone!
"Funny, because Rajendranath had very prestigious connections in the industry," says the 1960s' jubilee gal, Asha Parekh. "Rajendranath and I did our first film together. It was Nasir Husain's Dil Deke Dekho. We went on to do a series of musical films. Poor fellow, he always used to get beaten up by me in all our movies. He was Mrs Raj Kapoor's brother. Premnath, very famous in his own right, was his elder brother. Rajendranath was married and had a son and daughter. So, at least he had people close to him. But he was a recluse. Very quiet and non-humorous in real life. I don't think I was in touch with him for twenty years. He lived on the other end of Mumbai and he didn't want to meet friends," Ashaji trails off sadly.
Continues the pensive actress, "We lost another comic talent. Manoramaji squandered all her money on cards. She died in the hospital. Her husband was an actor Rajan Haksar. I think there was a boy named Sam who took care of her. But where was the rest of the industry? The problem is, only a handful of stars make money. The Bachchans and the Khans have their financial advisors and they invest wisely. The smaller character-actors aren't able to be wise about their money...I wonder if you'll ring up people about me after my death, like you're ringing me up about Rajendranathji and Manoramaji," Ashaji's laughter rings across the telephone line.
Character-actress Shammi has her own story to tell. "I worked with Rajendranath in numerous films. He was a sweet gentle shy soul. But since we worked together in so many films, he had opened up to me. In some of Suraj Prakash's films we were paired together. I didn't even know Manoramaji had passed away! We used to meet at Sunil Dutt Saab's off and on. It's sad that the TV channels hardly said anything about the death of these comic talents. Rajendranath was a very prominent actor of his time. He used be part of many big-banner productions. I guess I too will be forgotten in the same way," sighs the 78-year old actress. "I keep myself busy doing television. I've one daily soap Ghar Ek Sapna on hand. I do it more because it keeps me connected with my colleagues. It's nice to go out to work everyday. It gives you a sense of purpose."
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