I'm at her Eden Hall apartment which has a glorious view of the Haji Ali dargah.. Although the house is in a mess because of renovation, she’s anything but.
She instructs the kitchen cabinet what to rustle up for dinner. Meanwhile her pet parrot asks, “Kaun hai?” on seeing a new face. Seems parrot bhai loves listening to the radio all day long. Chuckles later, I ask Bindu aka Mona Darling...
This is your 45th year in the film industry.
No, not really. Well, I did enter the film industry in 1962 with Anpadh. But I was a child star in that film..I played Mala Sinha’s daughter. I re-entered the industry with Do Raaste in 1969.. a major role.
People recognised me after that. (Laughs) I was fully grown-up then.Then I did various films like Kati Patang, Zanjeer, Dastan ..oh so many I’ve done 400 films so far.
What would you say are the obvious differences in filmmaking today?
Our films are so much more advanced..technically. Also because of television, we get so much more exposure. To date, people come up to me and say they loved me in my old films. Today’s films don’t stay in our memory for long..unfortunately.
Are you saying that today’s films aren’t up to the mark?
Not all of them. There are films like Lagaan, Munnabhai and Black. Song picturisations today are totally different...they’re item numbers. In our days, as a cabaret dancer I had a character to play .
Now-a-days, almost every heroine does an item song. And there are no inhibitions.. with the clothes or anything else. Everything is so in-your-face.
<b1>But during the 1970s, your outfits were considered bold.
Sure, they were bold. We too had to show a little bit of legs and tummy. A cabaret can’t be done in a sari. But the dance was never repulsive. Of course, even then the censor board used to cut two-three shots.
Today, there are no limits..a family can’t watch an item song together without grimacing at the skin show.
How did you cope with criticism then?
See, I was doing cabaret dances..I couldn’t have said I won’t show my legs. I was okay with that..but up to a limit. Initially my family wasn’t too happy .
When they saw I was getting popular and I had a fan following, they didn’t mind what I was doing anymore. I still get fan mail for
Mera naam hai Shabnam...
Your image as a vamp stuck, didn’t it?
(Laughs) I don’t have any regrets really I’m. recognized as a vamp. Even now film producers come up to me and say that they want Bindu, the vamp, in me. I tell them I’d have to go back 20 years (laughs).
That’s quite a compliment, isn’t it? You got the tag of ‘Mona darling’ with
Zanjeer. Are you still called by that name?
(Laughs) Yes, I am. When
was released, Mona darling didn’t become popular. I think it did after Ajit
s death. It’s only then that people started replaying and telecasting his films on TV that I became known as Mona darling.
Do you think the sympathetic role in
Abhimaanchanged your image?
To a certain extent. When Hrishikesh Mukherjee signed me for the film, the industry was surprised that he had signed me for a positive role. When I made my screen entry, people said,”Oh my god, she’s going to do something bad.” Hrishida had told me that I would be remembered for the role.
Did you see a competitor in Aruna Irani?
No, no, she entered the film industry long before I did. We were friends then, we are friends now. In my time, Padma and Asrani’s wife Manju were my competitors..to a degree. The media chose to hype up a competition between Kalpana Iyer and I..but I refused to be provoked.
<b3>What would you say of the media then?
Film magazines would gossip about me. Initially, the nasty remarks used to shake me up. Then I said to myself, “ As long as I’m happy with my husband and vice versa, it’s okay. There were even rumours that I had five children. Absurd!
Are you in touch with your colleagues?
Yes..with Asha Parekh, Mumtaz and Sharmila (Tagore). Whenever Mumtaz is in town, she drops in to catch up on old times. Sharmila, who is mostly in Delhi, sends her regards with someone or the other.
Are veterans respected in the film industry?
Oh, there’s lot of respect for us. At present, I am doing three films.. Mehbooba, Aur Phir Ek Din and Om Shanti Om. Shah Rukh respects me a lot. Whenever I’m standing in between shots on the sets of Om Shanti.., he rushes to get a chair for me.
Do you miss not having any kids around?
That’s the only thing God didn’t give me. But I have my sisters’ children who are like my own. They are even scared of me. My sisters’ threaten them with, “We’ll tell Bindu mau.” Mau means maushi (mother’s sister).
Lastly, how would you describe your marriage?
Champak (Zaveri) and I understand each other very well. Jayaji (Bachchan) used to always says, “You are so lucky I was about .” 15 when I fell in love.
We were staying at Poonawalla building, we’d play together.We’ve been married for 35 years. I was underage — 17 years — when I got married. Do you know, I entered the film industry after getting married?