Junior 'G':Bindu (4/7)

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Apr 22, 1994, 1:07:49 PM4/22/94
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Chapter 4 - It's Film Time.

It was my father's wish that I become a doctor. But I was
interested in acting. My mother being a stage actress and
father a film producer, acting was in my blood. I used to take
part in school plays and had even won many prizes. My school
friends would say, "you act so well, why don't you become a
film actress?" "I am too young," I'd reply, "besides, my
father will never allow me."

Although he pampered us a lot, my father was very strict with
us children. We were not allowed to see any films, not even
the ones produced by him. Occasionally, he would take us to
see children's films, mostly those of Charlie Chaplin. It was
only after my marriage that I saw all those hits of Meena
Kumari, Bharat Bhushan and others.

Father was a firm believer in palmistry and astrology. An
astrologer, a certain Mr. Shambhulingam, came at our house
very often. Once, my father showed him my horoscope. "I want
my daughter to be a doctor. Is she destined to be one?" The
astrologer shook his head, "no, I don't think she will even
complete her schooling. But according to her stars, her
destiny is to become an actress."

My father was furious. He threatened to never allow the
astrologer home if he ever repeated what he said. His hatred
for films was deep-rooted in us and that is why even after his
death, we did not once think about films as a career. As I
mentioned earlier, I did a lot of work in the film media but
not a single feature film except Anpadh, which was years ago.
Then, one day after my marriage, we had invited Lakshmikantji,
my brother-in-law for dinner. He didn't arrive till late so we
went to fetch him at the recording room at Filmcenter.
Director Raj Khosla was there too, working on the music of
Anita. When he spotted me, he came up to me and asked, "are
you interested in films?" I was taken aback completely. Of
course, I was interested and had tried to get a break several
times but not been successful. Always, directors would reject
me because they found me either too tall or too thin.
Ironically, later on in my career these same comments changed
to my advantage, but then that's natural.

Back to Raj Khosla, he told me that he wasn't offering me the
female lead. "My film is based on a novel called 'Neelambari'.
I am offering you the title character, but it's a negative
role. The story of the film however revolves around you." He
also told me that the heroine of the film would be Mumtaz. The
film was Do Raaste.

I was too stunned and requested him to allow me 15-20 days
time to think over the offer. He agreed. I went home and
sought my mother's and husband's advice. Their first reaction
was, "It's up to you. If you want to do a negative role, do
it." Later on of course, my husband had second thoughts." "Why
do you want to join films?" he asked. "Because it's a passion
with me and desires like these cannot be suppressed," I
replied. He thought for a while. "Alright. Do this one film
and if it flops, promise me you won't do another," he said
finally. I accepted this condition and said yes to Raj
Khosla's offer.

Now was my chance to prove wrong all those directors who had
written me off without a trial. My screen test was taken on
the sets of Chiraag. The unit had packed up but Sunil Dutt and
Asha Parekh were still there. I had to enact the same lines
that Ashaji had spoken that day in one of the shots. I passed
the test easily and was signed for Do Raaste.

I remember very clearly the first shot I gave for the film. It
was with Balraj Sahni, Jayant (Amjad Khan's father) and Rajesh
Khanna. I had prepared for it, learnt my lines and it went off
very well. Everyone was happy with me. One of them even said
that it didn't look as if this was my first film.

One day, during the lunch break everyone was relaxing on the
sets, when Raj Khosla turned to me and said, "you see, I have
made many films. Some have been hits and some, flops. (In
those days before Do Raaste, Raj Khosla was going through a
bad phase.) You are new to my unit. So, let's see if you can
bring me good luck." Suddenly, I felt scared with this
responsibility. What if the film did badly? What if something
went wrong with the project? So, I began praying and made a
vow that once the shooting was over, I'd take the script to
Tirupathi for the blessing of Lord Venkatesh.

The film was completed and even though I asked Raj Khosla
several times, he'd forget to give me the script. Finally, I
went to Tirupathi with some dialogue sheets that I had with
me. At the temple, only those who have strong influence are
allowed closer darshan. The rest have to brave the crowds. But
I was lucky. The next day, a VIP was scheduled for a special
darshan, so I requested the pujari to allow me at the same
time. He agreed informing me, "come very early so that you can
join the VIP's party." The following morning, at five o'clock,
when the VIP and his entourage performed the first aarti, I
was among them. I whispered to the pujari to touch the sheets
of paper to the feet of the Lord for me. As he did so, I
quietly murmured, "God, please save me." And he did. Do Raaste
went on to become a big hit and even completed a golden
jubilee. This was way back in 1969.

As Do Raaste moved towards a hit, I got my first taste of
fame. Whenever I went out, people pointed towards me and
called out, "Bindu, Bindu." I couldn't believe this was
happening to me. I felt very excited and more than me, my
sisters and friends felt very proud of my performance. Though
I loved every bit of the flattery, I didn't let it go to my
head.

Immediately after Do Raaste, Shakti Samanta offered me the
role of a cabaret dancer in Kati Patang. I told him, "I have
never tried cabaret and my experience of dancing is limited to
Indian classical styles." But I had seen Helenji in cabaret
numbers and I had loved her. So I took it up as a challenge. I
said to Mr. Samanta, "okay, I am willing to try." He said,
"why not? Come with us and we'll give you a trial." So, for 7-
8 days I learnt cabaret dancing under Robert master. I found
it quite weird and very different from Bharat Natyam and
Kathak. That dance number was a hit and Kati Patang raced
towards a silver jubilee.

In the meanwhile, time and again I was getting a bit worried
about my husband's reaction to films. But he didn't take any
objection. There was also the promise he had bound himself by.
My first film was a hit so he couldn't object to my continuing
in films.

After Kati Patang I was established as a vamp as well as a
dancer. Producers use to queue up to sign me. I became so busy
that I had to do three shifts a day. B. R. Chopra signed me
for Dastaan. It was a challenging role and I had to act
opposite Dilip Kumar. Chopra had approached many heroines
before me but all had refused to do the negative role. Some
distributors had heard that Chopra was looking out for a vamp
and advised me to try for the role. When I met Chopra, he only
said, "okay, we'll see." Later, I learnt that they were still
approaching other heroines. Then one day I received a call
from Chopra himself to say that he had confirmed me for the
role.

I don't think I can ever forget the first day's shooting. When
I gave my first shot all three of them (Dilip Kumar, Chopra,
Tilak) clapped in appreciation because they hadn't expected me
to do the scene as well as I did. I won a lot of awards for
this film including the Lions Club Award. But I missed the
Filmfare award. So sad!

Soon, my career picked up in a big way. Producers came with
dancing roles because for them, if Bindu was in the film, then
there had to be a dance number mainly because my dance songs
were becoming very popular. Besides Kati Patang's 'Ina Meena
Anju Manju', there was Anhonee's 'hungama ho gaya', dances
from Souten, Hawas and Buniyaad. 'Dil jalo ka' from the
Amitabh-Jaya starrer Zanjeer was a hit too.

One of my most memorable films has been Imtihaan. It was Madan
Sinha, the famous cameraman's first directorial venture. Sinha
was very worried about how his film would fare at the box-
office and often expressed his anxiety to me. Once when he had
come home, my husband too had consoled him saying that his
film would be a hit. But he was always nervous. He fell ill
and when Vinod Khanna and I were shooting together in
Madumalai for another film, we received the news that Sinha
was no more. Imtihaan completed its silver jubilee, but Sinha
wasn't around to enjoy his success.

I enjoyed my success, I got along very well with all the
stars. Maybe because a vamp is never a direct competition to a
heroine. This happy relationship has continued to this day.
Paradoxically though, I did not have many close friends in the
industry. Sharmila Tagore and Jaya Bachchan were among the few
I considered good friends. Even the rivalry between Kalpana
Iyer and me existed only in the pages of film magazines.

I slowed down on my films in 1977 because I got pregnant. I
refused all dancing roles because I didn't want to take any
risks. Unfortunately, I had a miscarriage. For three to four
years I was under strict medical treatment, and felt very low
all the time. My sister Preeti sensed my pain, and left me her
six-month old daughter, Yehshaswi, for me to look after. My
niece stayed with me until she was eleven and then I returned
her to her mother. Today she is thirteen years old and I have
accepted my fate that I an not destined to be a mother.

A lull entered my career. When I rejoined, I was out of
dancing practice, so I began signing character roles. There
was also a sort of recession in the industry around this time.
The heroine had started playing negative roles herself. Hence
the vamp had become somewhat redundant. Yet, I was fairly
lucky, because I still got to do some good films like Hero and
Biwi Ho To Aisi.

While doing Dastaan, I had also done a Gujarati film called
Jamai Raj. Years ago I had done a Gujarati film Tana-Riri
which was also a big success. I also acted in other regional
films. Now I am doing a TV serial for Asha Parekh which she is
doing making for Ahmedabad television. It's called Kori Kitab.
She has given me a nice, clean role because she knew I was not
keen on playing negative characters. Unfortunately, the film
industry puts you into a slot. Still, I tried to move away
from it.

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