When the ever-affable Dharmendra returned my call on Sunday evening he was deeply grieved. “I just heard Shashikala is no more,” he mumbled sadly before I could raise the topic. “We have done some of our best work together. I can’t remember all the films we worked together in. But three of my most favourite films Anupama, Devar and Phool Aur Patthar had Shashikala in very prominent roles,” recalls Dharamji.
“She was my senior; she had done many films when I started my career. I think the first film we did together was Anpadh where Mala Sinha played the title role. The movie is remembered to this day for Madan Mohan Saab-Lataji’s melodies. I was a nervous semi-newcomer, Shashikala put me at ease. ‘Ae Dharam, aao hamare saath khana khao,’ she would ask me to join her for lunch during shooting. For a newcomer such warmth from a senior is never forgotten. She taught me to be nice to newcomers,” Dharamji.
“She was typecast as a vamp. And her most famous role as a vamp was with me in Phool Aur Patthar where her song ‘Zindagi Mein Pyar Karna Seekh Le’ became a big hit specially the catchphrase ‘Phishigala phishigala’. Hrishikesh Mukherjee changed her image in Anupama one of my most favourite films. She was nice in a positive role. I wonder why she didn’t play more positive roles. She was a gem of a person in real life. Aise hi unhone Pran Saab ko typecast kar diya (they similarly typecast Pran).”
Dharamji regrets losing contact with Shashikala.
“She cut herself off completely from the film industry and moved to Pune with her family. Luckily she didn’t have to die a lonely death like that other fine actress Lalita Pawarji whose decomposed body was found in her home days after her death. Fame is fine. But family is more important,” Dharamji signs off thoughtfully.
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