It’s a difficult time for me. Someone very important in my life is no more. Yashji was family to me, my second family. I attribute my career — that changed my life — to Yashji. I still cannot believe that he won’t be around. We met over dinner just few days before he was hospitalised. A few friends of Yashji, his wife Pam aunty and I went to see a movie and then we went out for dinner.
I remember how Yashji convinced me to do my debut film Trishul (1978). I was in the 10th standard and had just won the Miss India title. He told me to return to Chandigarh after completing this film and resume my studies. I agreed and as planned went back to Chandigarh after Trishul was completed. I had passed my tenth exam and joined college when Yashji approached me to act again this time in his film Noorie (1979).
I was simply not ready for it. It angered him a bit, because he said other actresses were vying for this (role) but because he had envisaged me in this role, he wanted me to do it. I did it and the rest, as you know, is history.
In my early years in Mumbai, I used to stay in Yashji’s house. I never felt any kind of
negative vibe from the industry, unlike other newcomers who have horrible things to say. I was looked upon as this privileged actress who was like
Yash Chopra’s family. He
was my second family. Whatever I have achieved is because of him.
At my last meeting with him, I told Yashji that I was planning a small get-together for him at my house with just few friends. I was supposed to cook (for them) as well. And then I heard he was hospitalised. He he never returned from hospital. You are special to me, Yashji, and will always remain in my memory.
(Poonam Dhillon was a Yash Chopra discovery)
—As told to HT Café