‘I was in love with Shammi Kapoor during Brahmachari’ - Mumtaz interview to TOI
Mumtaz is the evergreen heroine of Bollywood. She worked with Rajesh Khanna in about eight films. She reigned as the bollywood queen in the period 1969-76. Below is her interview to TOI where she talks about Rajesh Khanna, Sharmila tagore and many other of her famous colleagues.She also talks about love, marriage and also how she battled with her illness. Here is an excerpt...
• Your recollections on Rajesh Khanna?
I met him on the sets of Do Raaste. He was choosy about his friends, very reserved. I was flattered to be his close friend. I was voluptuous so he’d call me ‘Aye moti, idhar aa…’ He was a perennial latecomer.
He wasn’t strong on dance or rhythm, so combination shots main sambhal leti thi. The dance masters would cheat with close-ups of his too (laughs). We had trouble doing the Chal dariya mein doob jaaye (Prem Kahani) song.
• Your last meeting with him?
Rajesh wasn’t meeting anyone. Thanks to Dimple (Kapadia) and Anju (Mahendroo), I got to meet him in his bungalow Aashirwaad. We spoke about me surviving cancer and chemotherapy.
Dimple said they’d order all things he liked to eat, but he wouldn’t eat. She joked that they ended up eating all the stuff. I gave him duas and said he’d survive his ailment.
• Coming back to you, you quit at the peak of your career?
There’s a time for every woman to get married and you should seize that. Many girls of my time didn’t get married. They still remain unmarried. I found a good man who loved me. So I just chucked it all up.
I was fed up of films. I planned my marriage in advance. A year after I got married Prem Kahani, Roti and Aap Ki Kasam released. I refused Safar, and Haathi Mere Saathi because I was hell-bent on getting married. But the phone’s never stopped ringing whether I was in Mombasa or in London.
• You and Sharmila Tagore never got along
I had no rivalry with Sharmila. She was born with a golden spoon. Her first film was with Shammi Kapoor (Kashmir Ki Kali). She was an instant star. I started with supporting roles with Shammiji in films like Brahmachari.
May be because we did so many films with Rajesh Khanna, the press wrote rubbish. But fact is, heroines then or now cannot be friends. We didn’t do dinners or hang out together. It’s always been like that.
• You had great songs like Aaj kal tere mere along with fashion statements…
All credit to Bhanu Athaiya. I was too uncomfortable to dance in a saree. So she made the saree with readymade pleats and a zipper on the side. It became the Mumtaz saree. Funnily, Aaj kal tere mere was a song composed for a Nasir Hussain film for Dev Anand. Devsaab rejected that and we used it for Brahmachari. Kismet dekho! The style is aped till today.
Recently, Manish Malhotra told me he had made something like that for Priyanka Chopra. I loved my fish net stockings in Raja oh mere raja (Apna Desh). That was copied by many heroines.
• Apparently, producers told every heroine including Rekha and Neetu Singh to ape you? Any actor today you think imitates you?
I don’t think actresses today resemble or ape me. I had too much of a pug nose. The only one who has some sort of a pug nose is Shah Rukh Khan’s wife Gauri. I’m told the director of Dhadkan told the heroine (Mahima Chaudhary) to imitate my steps in Zindagi ittefaq hai(Aadmi aur Insaan) for a dance number for the film (Aksar is dunia mein). I’m told Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar are my fans. (Laughs) No, I don’t ask them if they were in love with me. They treat me with respect.
• Reportedly, stars like Shammi Kapoor and Jeetendra were in love with you…
I was lucky that men wanted to marry me. There were attractions but I didn’t act upon them. I’d wake up at 4 am everyday, reach the studios on the dot of 9. I had far too many responsibilities to have affairs.
There was no time for love and romance. Of course I was fond of Jeetu. Dharmendra was such an attractive man. Devsaab was so handsome. But it’s not necessary to have an affair with your costars. You can admire them from a distance (Laughs).
• But Shammiji was keen to marry you…
I was all of 18, I was in love with Shammi Kapoor during Brahmachari. He wanted me to give up my career. I had my family to look after. I had lost my mother during Boond Jo Ban Gaye Moti.
• Supposedly, a lot of heroes refused to work with you because you were a stunt heroine…
Yes. Dharamji said no because I was stunt film heroine. Later we did films like Loafer. Shashi Kapoor refused Sacha Jhuta because of me. Then when I was getting married, he was keen that I work with him.
We did Chor Machaye Shor just before I left. I’m grateful to Dara Singh who did all the stunt films with me. He could have easily said no like the other heroes. I’m also eternally grateful to Dilipsaab who agreed to act opposite me in Ram aur Shyam.
• Did the star wives get jealous of you?
I don’t know if I made any star wife insecure. Magar ek aurat doosri khubsoorat aurat par zaroor jalti hai. On the face of it, everyone was nice to me. I never bothered to find out what they said behind my back.
• For a superstar, marriage must have meant a lot of adjustments…
Yes. I first moved to London, then Mombasa. My husband coming from a Gujarati family loved his Gujju food. I learnt to make dal dhokli, undhiyo, khandvi…today I’m a very good cook.
• You had a tough pregnancy too…
After a series of miscarriages, I conceived my first child. I spent six months of my pregnancy in bed staring at the ceiling. So my kids mean a lot to me.
• Your daughter Natasha is married to Fardeen Khan. What advice did you give her?
I told her there would be lots of gossip and rumour mongering and told her to deal with the pressures of being a star wife calmly. I had heard some gossip about Fardeen doing drugs. I never believed it. They have been married for five to six years. He’s a good son-in-law, like a son. He’s coming to London to spend my birthday with me on July 31. I hope they start a family soon.
• There was a tough phase where you battled with cancer?
I survived cancer thanks to the support of my family. For eight months my sister Mallika was by my side. My husband, who travels all over the world, dropped everything to stay by my side. It was their constant encouragement that helped me deal with cancer, chemotherapy and its awful side effects.
• Your marriage hit a rough patch when your husband got involved elsewhere…
I’m a practical woman. I had two beautiful daughters and a husband who loved me immensely. I was not going to give up a marriage just because of a stray incident. My husband is not a flirt; he’s a good looking man. He made a mistake. I didn’t dump him. I chose to be by his side and we tided the rough weather together. I’m his wife at the end of the day. That’s what matters.
• Will you return to the movies?
What will I gain my doing movies now? I don’t want to play Shah Rukh’s mom or Akshay’s aunt. I had my time. You can’t fight your destiny; you can’t fight your audience.
• Any last words on Rajesh Khanna and Shammi Kapoor?
Jaise meri life mein doosra Rajesh Khanna nahin ho sakta hai… waise hi doosra Shammi Kapoor bhi nahin ho sakta!