The movie’s stars were just as charming off-screen as they were on-screen, and these rare photos—and the memories attached to them—prove just that.
When Amitabh Bachchan was out of press
As Amitabh Bachchan turns 80 this year, I remember crossing paths with him many times, the most memorable for me being when he released two of my books (first on his own and second, jointly). with Aishwarya Rai) and the time he interviewed Rajesh Khanna.
When I took this picture of Bachchan in the mid-1980s, he was still not talking to the press. The fight dates back to before I became a journalist, so as a rookie, I was excited to photograph the superstar and see him in action. Bachchan attended the muhurat of family friend Romesh Sharma Diljala (1987). He didn’t have an army of bodyguards around him in that innocent era but I do remember him deftly handling the inevitable crowds his entrance generated.
I remember calling Amitabh years later, the next morning Kaun banega millionaire first aired, and praising him at this point in his life. When he asked me, “Why don’t you participate as a contestant?” I replied, “No thanks. I like to put others in the hot seat.”
Asha Bhos shyly played with her stove
Although I interviewed and photographed film stars as a reporter, I also actively pursued the best in parallel cinema fields. I was over the moon when RD Burman agreed to a joint interview with his wife and musician, legendary singer Asha Bhosle.
Frankly, I was surprised by the dynamic between the two. Pancham, as he was affectionately known, was rather serious, belying his jovial image courtesy of many of his numbers in my generation. On the other hand, a conservatively dressed, make-up-free Asha was given to a raucous laugh as she coyly fiddled with the top of her stick. But that voice! It was he who took Helen (Piya tu aba to aja1971), point (My name is Shabnam1970) and Aruna Irani (My dreams are broken1975).
Madhuri Dixit loves a good laugh
I took this photo of a very thin Madhuri Dixit at Anil Kapoor’s outdoor shoot. Ram Lakhan (1989). Madhuri wasn’t a star then… but the next few months made a difference in both of our lives. I became the editor of a movie magazine in October 1988 and within a month Madhuri Dixit danced and became a big star. One two three on acid (1988). We were among the first to feature her solo on a magazine cover.
Madhuri and I have had many casual conversations over the years and she wants to give up her famous tinkling laugh in real life too. Once, I was describing how I managed to lock myself out of my own car and she found my use of the word ‘manage’ amusing. However, he is bound by steel.
When Rekha and I met
Rekha and I first met during the shooting of Deepak Shivdasani fight (1989) at Mehboob Studios. She was a photographer’s dream. When my colleague Patrick Biswas introduced me: “This is Dinesh. He is…” Rekha touched, “Journalist.” He added, “I can smell it right away.” I chuckled back, “You must have a good nose for eternity. That’s what I’m wearing now.”
Five years later, I met her again, this time making an appointment for a detailed interview after she turned 40. She broke the ice in her Bandra office by saying: “I have met you before. in the set of fight. You were with Patrick. You were staying with Dimple. You were wearing a beige shirt.” Her memory is amazing.
Manmohan Desai and his dry wit
I captured this moment when filmmaker Manmohan Desai and his director son Ketan were having an intense creative conversation. It was around 1985, and the senior Desai was practically the king of the box office, directing blockbusters. true liar (1970), Dharam Vir (1977), Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), and fate (1981). Later, however, Desai faced a reversal of fortune.
I prefer to remember her wittily in her prime when I saw her on set Porter (1983), one of the first shootings I attended as a reporter. Amitabh Bachchan had to pick up the skinny Rati Agnihotri for a scene in the film, while Rishi Kapoor had to pick up Anand in the show. Director Manmohan Desai rigged Rishi, “If you can’t lift Shoma, I will lift you.”
Dipti Naval, Poet
Deepti’s sense of style, like her choice of films, is very individualistic. She wears quirky sarees and I found her Versova residence to be truly one-of-a-kind – lots of plants, curtains instead of doors and a glass centerpiece with stacks of books.
We were similar to the late legendary actress Nadiraji—we were both close to her. Nadiraji was very possessive of her library where Keats and Mirza Ghalib sat side by side with the books I had written. I once borrowed a book of poems written by Deepti from Nadiraji, and committed the cardinal sin of losing it. Nadira did not show me the book while cleaning on Diwali and did not let me hear the last word until I returned it. Deepti’s poems, some of them profound, gave me an insight into her mind.
Shammi Kapoor and Sanjeev Kumar’s Strange Friendship
I took this group picture [above] With many of the top stars of the day Mahurat who Allah keep (1986). Seen from left to right: Sanjeev Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Meenakshi Seshadri, Jackie Shroff, director Ketan Desai, Anupam Kher, Rakhi and Rati Agnihotri.
Shammi Kapoor-Sanjeev Kumar’s friendship was decades old by then. They first came together in the 60s as friends of opposing ideologies the truth (1969). Shammi then cast Sanjeev as the leading man in his first directorial venture entertainment (1974) continued to work together in films like Author (1982). Sanjeev couldn’t keep Allah due to health reasons and there was a big change in the cast, but it was good to see the camaraderie between the two veterans. Mahurat.
Jackie Shroff – Always Grounded
It amazes me to know that I have known Jackie for 40 years! To his credit, he has kept it real all these years and remains grounded. I could ask him to pose in a very clean field in the middle of a busy shooting location… and he would oblige.
Three years ago, he was a guest at my media workshop… and he was in no rush to leave until he had well and truly charmed every participant. Reflecting the camaraderie, he spoke about the need to be mentally prepared in this profession, the importance of breathing techniques and accessible philosophy. Ajay, an aspiring actor, had driven from Pune in his newly bought car; Jackie sat in her car…and made her week.
Anita Raj is that (hat) girl
The 1980s were a time when every star worth his salt was splitting his time between two dozen movies. Anita Raj was one such busy bee whom I used to meet regularly at the studio and exchange pleasantries. I saw her sporting this hat once and she emphasized the pose because I thought it changed her angular face in a very attractive way.
Later, I met her at Breach Candy’s Snowman’s Ice Cream Parlor and we both cried like two Red Indians. Although I only interviewed him once, he was always warm.
Danny the well-dressed villain
Unlike his junior, Gulshan Grover, Danny Denzongpa doesn’t really believe in exotic outfits to signal danger. in the set of Oonche log (1985) featuring Rajesh Khanna and Salma Agha, Danny wears an equestrian jacket and boots with leather elbow patches. Despite directing Khanna and his then-girlfriend Kim in the thriller, Then that night (1980), Khanna and Danny did not confab between shots and sat in different corners.
Dinesh Raheja is a distinguished film historian, columnist and TV script writer who has been writing on cinema for over three decades.
From HT Brunch, July 23, 2022
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