I remember meeting Neetu ma’m (yes, that’s the way I call her; she is way too senior after all) a year ago on the sets of Do Dooni Chaar. I was least expecting that though since I had actually gone there to meet Mr. (Rishi) Kapoor. Waiting in his vanity van, I was a little taken aback when a middle aged woman in a plain night gown stepped in. It took me about 10 seconds to actually realise that it was Mrs. Kapoor. She was into the character of a middle class woman that she plays in Do Dooni Chaar and it was only after about five minutes that I managed to ease up.
She was at her natural best though it took me a while to adjust to the situation that I was sitting in front of one of the popular actresses of the 1970s and 1980s who had featured in a string of hits like Khel Khel Mein, Priyatama, Deewar, Kala Patthar, Doosra Aadmi and Kabhi Kabhie. Her last major film was Yaarana (1981) with Amitabh Bachchan and though she last made a blink-and-you-would-miss appearance in Imtiaz Ali‘s Love Aaj Kal (2009), it is Do Dooni Chaar which marks her proper comeback into the world of films. Today when I interact with her again, it is an air of familiarity that sets in which makes this a free wheeling conversation.
You have been away from the big screen for more than a quarter of a century. What was the kind of push you were looking for that eventually made you say yes to Do Dooni Chaar?
There was no push as such. It was Rishi who wanted me to be in the movie because he had heard the script and was mighty excited about it. He said that ek baar sun lo and I too just heard it while thinking all the while that I would be saying no to it. I was just curious to know what was so fascinating about (writer and director) Habib’s (Faisal) story that my hubby was getting so excited about it.
20 mins narration changed to 3 hours and soon I could see myself in the character of Kusum Duggal
I am sure it indeed turned out to be exciting enough for you to eventually say yes.
(Smiles) Of course yes. 20 mins narration changed to 3 hours and soon I could see myself in the character of Kusum Duggal. I immediately told Habib that I was doing his film. Poor guy, he couldn’t believe it. He was like ‘Oh my God, are you really sure?’ When I told him that I was indeed serious, he disclosed that I was always on his wish list to play this role opposite Rishi. Even though Rishi had earlier told him that I won’t do the film, he was relentless.
But really, it was such a long wait after all. In fact you were one of the few leading ladies who left when on peak. When others from your generation continued to work for decades, you aborted your journey. Didn’t you ever miss all the glamour and attention that showbiz brought with it?
Honestly, showbiz was there in my house as well since I had married an actor. I was going to the same parties and meeting the same people. It wasn’t as if I was married in London to some NRI who wasn’t related to movies. Here in Mumbai, I was amidst the same talks so there was nothing which was new.
In fact folk fare for people belonging to my generation is that you couldn’t continue with movies since Kapoor women were forbidden to work in the glamour world.
There isn’t anything like Kapoors set out a diktat forbidding women from working. On the contrary it was me who wanted a relaxed life. I had been working for around 15 years and had already played a double role at an age of eight. You have no idea how I did my school. In fact after class eight, I couldn’t study at all since I was already playing a leading lady. I could have gone a little slow then but since Rishi’s leading lady Dimple(Kapadia) got married, there was no other young girl to be paired opposite my husband. I was the only young one who was around and eventually I continued to be busy all over again. After marriage, I just wanted to rest and hence a long break.
Nevertheless, when you eventually stepped into movies again with Do Dooni Chaar, didn’t you ever wonder that you could have made a glamorous comeback with a Yash Raj or a Karan Johar setup?
See, I am not looking at a career per se. Also, I am not in look out for money. At this age you don’t want to come across as someone who is overtly glamorous. Things should fit in well with age and personality. In case of Do Dooni Chaar, the story and character were nice so I didn’t think much about the setup.
You seemed to be conscious though of making a comeback only with your hubby, right?
Yes, this did play in my mind. Eventually there is always a comfort level involved when you work with your husband. Also since I hadn’t worked for so many years, it would have been tough to be in an entirely new setup. With Rishi around, I had some support.
In any case, your ‘jodi’ with Mr. Kapoor is still remembered for years since you had worked in so many successful films together.
You know, I have always found it a little ironical that people feel I worked only with Rishi. The fact is that I had in also worked with Jeetendra in 10 films and with Vinod (Khanna) also in 7-8 films. Still, people remember my ‘jodi’ with Rishi most.
I have always found it a little ironical that people feel I worked only with Rishi
And which are those films featuring your hubby that you remember most?
He has been very good in dozens of films over the last 40-odd years. However, from the recent lot of his films, Chandni and Damini are closest to my heart. These were difficult roles, especially Damini where he had such a huge predicament to face. And he played this role to perfection.
Well, meanwhile your son definitely seems to be doing a lot of things in a near-perfect manner. With his Anjaana Anjaani turning out to be a success as well, is it the Kapoor genes and some training doing the trick again?
As I stated earlier, all that we have discussed at home is movies. As a kid who wanted to get into the world of films, he learnt a lot from these talks. At home when we talked about films, it ranged from everything to looks, dances, dialogues etc. It was a mix of everything. Ranbir’s grooming happened subconsciously through these talks rather than any training or explicit advise coming from us.