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Last Updated 07.12.2021 | 11:08 AM IST
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“You can’t underestimate the power of commercial Hindi cinema”, says Sharmila Tagore

Bollywood News

You’ve spoken in the past about how mainstream Hindi cinema has getting short shrift for too long. How do you feel about this now?
You can’t underestimate the power of commercial cinema. It’s so easy to rubbish popular cinema. Often I’ve been a part of popular cinema and the other side, Satyajit Ray’s world. Of course both can’t be compared. But they definitely have a contribution to make in their own ways. 

“You can’t underestimate the power of commercial Hindi cinema”, says Sharmila Tagore

Your films like Aradhana and Chupke Chupke cut across all cultural religious and political boundaries?
I have seen my film Aradhana being appreciated with equal enthusiasm in Gauwhati, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata… everywhere people react to the film’s emotions in the same way. I was in South Africa once. Over there they told me, ‘Your films were our only link to India in the 1960s.We used to dress up and go to theatre every Sunday to watch your films.’ In this way I became a part of their lives. What a wonderful tribute to the power of commercial cinema. 

True. Indian actors have a fan base in every part of the world?
Dilip Kumar’s popularity cut across boundaries. In Pakistan they gave him their highest civilian honour. Dilip Kumar was so popular everywhere in Tanzania, Bangladesh, and the West Indies. 

Do you feel Indian cinema helps to shape the Indian mind-set?
I’m part of two film industries, in Bengal and Mumbai. And they contribute so much to the society. One can switch on to a commercial film any time to uplift one’s mood. One forgets the value of these cinematic entertainers. Of course there are good films, bad films, and indifferent films. But there’s so much diversity to choose from. I mean, you like Rajesh Khanna. I may prefer Sanjeev Kumar. Someone else may be partial to Dilip Kumar or Amitabh Bachchan. There’s so much to choose from! Now we have Satyajit Ray in Hindi commercial cinema with Manoj Bajpai doing an adaptation of a Ray story Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa. 

I don’t think Satyajit Ray would’ve been able to recognize the stories in the Ray anthology as his?
It doesn’t matter. It was a tribute. There are so many ways to interpret Ray’s vision. You know, a lot of people from the Hindi film industry didn’t appreciate Ray when he first started. There was that famous incident of Nargis Dutt criticizing Ray in parliament for exporting Indian poverty to the West. But in fact, he dignified poverty. Except for Pather Panchali, Apur Sansar and Aparjito, the Apu Trilogy, and Ashani Sanket none of his films was based in a milieu of poverty. Charulata and Jalasagahar were not poverty-based. His cinema is grounded in human values. 

Which among your own performances do you rank as the best?
I know you like me in Amar Prem the best (laughs). I am good in it. During the lockdown I got a chance to watch all my films for the first time, and I mean ALL, even the less known ones like Badnaam Farishtay and Shaandaar. I think my performance in Ray's Devi still ranks as my best. It was all the great man's doing, of course. I knew nothing about acting back then.  

What about Saif?
What about him? 

Which of his performances do you rate high?
I think Vishal Bhardwaj's Omkara was a game-changer for him. He proved he could transform into a character completely alien to his own personality. I also like him in some of his lighter roles like Yeh Dillagi and Hum Tum.

Also Read: Sharmila Tagore, Soha Ali Khan and Inaaya visit Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi’s grave on his 10th death anniversary


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