The image of the coy beauty seated primly in a makeshift kotha singing Raina beeti jaye in Lata Mangeshkar's soulful voice pervades our senses as now. The gorgeous Sharmila Tagore, who played the prostitute in Shakti Samanta's Amar Prem, is deeply grieved by the death of the maker of some of the most sensitive romantic cinema of the 1970s.
"Shaktida was very straightforward, very honest. He'd tell me what he wanted to in my face. No mincing of words. And he chain-smoked in that special style with the cigarette clamped in his fist. We went back a long way. When his son Ashim called to tell me about Shaktida's death, I remembered all the times we shared," Sharmila told IANS.
Sharmila remembers her beginnings in Hindi cinema with Samanta's Kashmir Ki Kali.
"It didn't require much persuasion from Shaktida for me to agree to his film. There was that whole Bengali collection... the writer Sachin Bhaumick, the music director Sachindev Burman and his son Panchamda (Rahul Dev Burman). Shaktida was my mother's friend and they remained friends till the end," she said.
After her debut in Kashmir Ki Kali, Sharmila went bold with a vengeance in An Evening In Paris.
"You know I remember a funny incident. As you know I wore a one-piece bathing costume in An Evening In Paris and not a bikini as is generally believed. But I wanted to wear a bikini. Shaktida put his foot down. He forced me to wear a one-piece.
"I was very unconventional and self-willed during those early days. Shaktida would drill the dos and don'ts in my head. I remember at a party once I got up and started dancing with a man. Shaktida gently told me such behaviour is not allowed in our film industry," said the veteran actress.
Samanta also taught Sharmila to be wise with finances.
"He gave me Rs 25,000 for Kashmir Ki Kali and suggested I buy land in Vile Parle. I laughed it off saying what would I do with that marshland. Today, the same land is worth Rs.8 crores (Rs. 80 million). He finally persuaded me to buy a flat in Mumbai. I insisted on staying at the Taj hotel. If it wasn't for him, I'd have continued to stay there," she said.
Sharmila met the man, who gave us some of the most memorable musicals in the 1960s and 70s, for the last time in January this year.
"This was just before he suffered that stroke that finally took away his life. I was in Mumbai dubbing for a film. And it was wonderful catching up with him. He was still very much the patriarch in charge, scolding his son Ashim, getting the office to be faster with the work... I was part of most of his films in the 1960s and 70s except Kati Patang, which I didn't do for some silly reason.
"I loved even our unsuccessful films like Charitraheen. But if you ask me to choose my favourite film with Shaktida, it would have to be Amar Prem. What lovely songs, music and what an era that was! God, I will miss Shaktida so much!"
The veteran filmmaker died Thursday after month-long hospitalisation in the Nanavati Hospital. He is survived by his wife and two sons. He was 83.