Veteran actor Sharmila Tagore, who visited Gurgaon recently as part of Bangla mela, remembered her visits in Delhi for theatre performances and her transition to films from stage.
Sharmila, who had a culturally laden childhood, says. “I was surrounded with art. I was six when I was a part of a group that used to perform on stage. We would tour Delhi and Mumbai, sometimes we did two shows in one evening.” Remembering her childhood days, she adds, “I grew up in a joint family. January started with Saraswati Pujo, and we were not allowed to have Kul (tropical fruit) before that. We would wear yellow... Every month had different festivals. Every puja had different rituals and everything was made at home. We imbibed aesthetics and art just by being in the house. Poush is the spring month when we relished the bengali delicacies. Looking back, kite flying was a lot of fun. And, our house was full of voracious readers with books everywhere. I used to read, and was called very Pakka (mature). I used to speak in very flowery language that depended on who I would be reading at that time.”
Sharing anecdotes of working with filmmaker Satyajit Ray, she says, “He was my priority. When he called me, I would drop everything and go. For Apur Sansar (1959)Manik da (as Ray is fondly referred to as) was looking for a young child bride. Since Tinku (Her sister — Tinku Tagore) had worked in films before, Ray felt that my family wouldn’t have objections. Moreover, It was Soumitra’s (actor Soumitra Chatterjee) first film also. While we were waiting for Manik Da’s instructions, Soumitra asked me, ‘Are you feeling nervous’. I said ‘No why should I feel nervous’(laughs)And Manika Das voice ran out, and he said ‘light sound, camera action’. I wish Manika Da was alive and I could ask him this, that it was so symbolic. It was Aparna’s (The character played by her in Apur Sansar) first glimpse of where she is going to stay. She crosses the threshold to a new life and somehow it was the same for me. I wanted to ask him if he kept the scene on purpose or not.”
On sashaying from regional to Bollywood films, she says lip syncing to songs was the biggest challenge. “If you’re working in regional language films, it’s obvious that you’d want to go national stage because Hindi films have a better reach. Since Ray introduced me, it helped me a lot. But, I had no idea of the song and dance routine.”
Sharmila, who has worked in the film industry for many years, says she was once on the verge of giving up her career. She says, “Shashi Kapoor came to visit me on the sets of Kashmir Ki Kali. I had a huge crush on him. I had seen Prem Patra (1962) and couldn’t sleep for three nights. Eastman color had just come, and there was white make-up. I had said this is my last film. But then I worked for the next 30 years.”