Hobnobbing with Stars of yesteryears
Stars of yesteryears was a series I did for DH.. The first of it was on Sohrab Mody. He must have been in his late eighties when I met him at his house in Cuffe Parade. Tall and ramrod straight even at that age, he was very courteous. His voice had the same sonorous boom which made him come alive on screen. When I took leave of him, his firm handshake nearly broke my knuckles!
Durga Khote was writing in agony on her bed when I went to meet her. Her son and family had gone on a holiday and she was alone at home. Something she ate at poisoned her system and her butler was frantic as he did not know what to do. I called my friend Pushpa, a doctor in the Navy, who leaved blocks away. She attended to the suffering actress. Naturally, I could not interview her that day, but she gave me another appointment and thanked me profusely for the timely help.
Leela Chitnis was a rage during the 50s. When I met her, she was old, tired, and lonely. After the interview she came to see me off at the bus stop, wearing a duster coat! There was a sad note in her voice when she recalled how she would have been mobbed at one time. That in short, is a tale of many an ageing Star.
I got cured of asthma, thanks to Ashok Kumar. He was a Homeopath by hobby. I met him on the sets of a movie. He had given me an appointment at a certain place and when I arrived, was told the location had shifted to actor Pran’s house. But Ashok Kumar had left his car and driver to fetch me. While I was taking notes, he asked me if I was asthmatic. He wrote out a prescription and asked me to see him six months later for a change in dosage. I took the medicine and met him six months later, for a fresh prescription. I have not had another attack since then. Besides the medicine he had asked me to inhale steam every morning and night and jog, to develop an even breathing pattern. He himself was a chronic asthmatic and when I asked him how come he could not cure himself, he answered with his characteristic twinkle in his eyes, ‘ I smoke and drink unlike you who have a disciplined lifestyle!'
As a teenager, I was an ardent fan of Dev Anand. I saw his movie Hum Dono in which he had a dual role, six times, three for each role! When I told him that during the course of our interview he was amused. He had my article on Welham School in front of him as his son was an alumni of the school. He said he agreed to see me only because I was the person who wrote that, as he shied away from journalists.
Bharat Bhushan, the poet-like hero, lived in an unassuming apartment, Nirupa Roy, screen goddess, surrounds herself with stone statues of gods, in her large home with a spacious garden. Her front door looks like the mahadwar of a temple, with its intricate carving. Rehman, whom I met at the Cricket Club Of India, spent most of the time cribbing about the bad deal he had in the industry. Nalini Jaywant, looked as beautiful as she did in her heydays. Suraiya, the singing star refused to be interviewed. Kamini Kaushal, a popular heroine turned character actress, preferred to talk of her new found passion with children’s cinema.