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My art, my women

In London, he has been at the canvas creating images of Madhubala. But there are 10 movie heroines who are a constant in his life and art. MF Husain talks about his favourites in an exclusive interview with RA Irani.

entertainment Updated: Sep 01, 2007 21:47 IST
RA Irani

In London, he has been at the canvas creating images of Madhubala, inspired by Mughal-e-Azam. He was bowled over by Amrita Rao in Vivah and raves once in a while about Vidya Balan. But there are 10 movie heroines who are a constant in his life and art. MF Husain talks about his favourites in an exclusive interview with RA Irani

Miss Gulab
It's sad.. no one remembers Miss Gulab, not even the chroniclers of Indian cinema history. She and a Miss Emily were the movie queens during the silent era. As a kid, I wasn't allowed to go to the cinema hall in Indore.. but I sneaked in one night and was astounded by the sight of Miss Gulab very daintily hanging on to her sari in a storm tossed boat. The boat's planks were giving way, the winds were ripping the sails apart. That was probably the first wet scene of Indian cinema.

Raj Kapoor pushed Zeenat Aman and Mandakini under waterfalls. Dimple Kapadia was drenched from head to toe in Saagar. But I can never get over Miss Gulab on that boat in a wet sari.

<b1>Ruby Myers
I'd painted this film hoarding of K L Saigal and Jamuna. The features of Jamuna were a delight, large sorrowful eyes and a sad mouth. The early talkie cinema had scores of beauties like Jamuna and Kanan Bala.

In the 1950s, there was Naseem Banu. Though there wasn't much difference in their age, she became the mother-in-law of Dilip Kumar. And then there was Sulochana ‘Ruby' Myers, who was a class apart. I've tried to hunt for photos of Ruby from collectors but have drawn a blank.

Geeta Bali
She didn't get her dues, she was mostly cast in B-grade movies. Fortunately some of them became enormous hits, like Albela in which she matched dance steps with Bhagwan dada.

Geeta Bali married Shammi Kapoor and wasn't seen much on the screen after that. She died prematurely when she was in her 30s, from chicken pox. I remember she was making a film based on Rajendra Singh Bedi's novel Ek Chaadar Maili Si.

Mumtaz
The black-and-white films of Bombay during the 1950s boasted of superb actresses like Nargis, Meena Kumari, Nutan, Madhubala and Waheeda Rehman. When films changed to colour, the heroines became more playful and voluptuous. I loved Mumtaz. My friend Bal Chhabda and I would clap, whistle and throw coins on the screen when Mumtaz made an entry. She would make us forget all our worries.

Even if most of her films were lousy, she was always entertaining. Even today, whenever I meet her.. she came over to my 88th birthday party... I feel like her fan.

Smita Patil
What a face, what a wonderful girl! Smita seemed out of place in the commercial film set-up. Right from her days as a Doordarshan newsreader to her introduction in the parallel films of Shyam Benegal, she came across as an intelligent and naturally sensual young woman.

She was to act in a film in which I was to play myself. She was to play a journalist. The film didn't take off which is just as well because I wouldn't have been able to act.



Sridevi


One Sunday afternoon, Bal (Chhabda) and I saw

Chandni.

We were bowled over. I saw

Chandni

15 times just for her

tandav

. Whenever I think of

Sridevi

I think of that dance. I wish she hadn't tried to make a comeback some years ago in a TV serial.. I couldn't even see it for five minutes.



Madhuri Dixit

No one compares to her. I have painted

Madhuri

countless times but I've never shown her full face. I first met Madhuri in 1994 at a film award function. I was sitting between

Jaya Bachchan

and

Parmeshwar Godrej

when I was called on stage to present the Best Actress Award. I opened the envelope, I paused because I hadn't seen any of the winner's films, I had closed my ears to her song

Ek do teen

(

Tezaab)

which was blaring from loudspeakers all over the country. I took a deep breath and announced, "The award goes to Madhuri Dixit." I was disappointed because I was quite fixated on Sridevi those days.

<b3>Then I saw Hum Aapke Hain.. Koun!, I was converted. I saw the film over 70 times for her dances. She would take five steps back wards and shake her dynamite hips. Since I have never known my mother, I see her also as my Ma..dhuri. A sensible book should be written on Madhuri, her performances have been extraordinary but no critic has done her justice. If no one else writes the book, I will.

Tabu
Sometimes I feel Madhuri's an illusion while Tabu's down to earth.. If Madhuri's real, Tabu's ethereal.. Most of today's actresses are bimbettes. But Tabu is well read and well behaved.

Urmila Matonkar
I hope to make a comedy with Urmila some day.. I'd seen her in Rangeela, Kaun and Bhoot. Her body movement, personality and sense of comic timing remind me of Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl.

She'd put on some weight but then she came over for an Id lunch I had hosted, and she looked so thin that I had to insist that she eat an extra plate of kheer. Urmila's one of our sexiest actresses.. but what is she doing in Ram Gopal's.. I don't even remember its name. Sholay? Zalzala? Angaar?

Kajol
I've never met her in person. Yet I feel I've known her for years. I liked her especially in Baazigar and as the Punjabi girl in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.

I would love to cast her in my film.. if she agreed, I would throw away my paints and brushes and start shooting the very same day .