“I’ve Never Feared The Future”
Courage is something I learnt from my father (district collector Mohammed Abdur Rehman). As a child, when I was learning Bharat Natyam, my relatives asked him, “Kya Musalman ladki ko nachaaoge?” His answer was, “Art is never bad. It’s the human being, who errs. How you conduct yourself is important.”
I lost my father when I was 13. At 17, I came from Visakhapatnam to Mumbai with my mother (Mumtaz Begum) to do Guru Duttji’s CID (1956), directed by Raj Khosla. I laid down my conditions before signing the agreement. That I’d not change my name (the makers wanted a commercially viable name). That I’d only wear costumes, which I approved of. I told my mother that if they didn’t agree, we’d go back. Raj Khoslaji was taken aback that a young girl was so unbending. I told him I was ready to work for 24 hours if need be. But certain things would be in accordance to me. It’s not slavery. We respect you; you should respect us.
“Guru Duttji Was Extremely Sensitive”
I’m proud to be part of Guru Duttji’s films. Even 50 years later, they’re talked about. They’re classics. I’ve made no contribution towards them… I just happened to be part of his great films – Pyaasa, Kagaz Ke Phool (1959), Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960) and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962). Guru Duttji spoke little. He’d just observe. But he was extremely sensitive. If I had difficulty in saying the lines, he’d ask writer Abrar Alvi to change it. He believed no matter how beautiful the lines, the actor should be able to say it.
In Pyaasa, I had to let out a scream on reading the news of Vijay’s death. I couldn’t bring myself to do that. Guru Duttji joked saying, “Girls scream for anything. Strangely, you’re finding it hard.” Then he said, “Okay, just crush the newspaper and we’ll slide down the camera.” The subtlety worked. He encouraged me to read.
Just after the silver jubilee of Pyaasa, my mother suddenly passed away of a heart attack. It was the darkest phase of my life. For one year, I dreamt that she was alive and we’d buried her in haste. I was plagued by these thoughts. I was doing Solva Saal (1958), with Dev (Anand) then. I told him I wanted to go back. I didn’t want to work anymore. He said, “I know it’s shocking. But you can’t walk off like that. Complete the film and think in the meantime.”
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