Waiting for stars might be most film journalists’ bane, but when it’s the legendary Dilip Kumar and Saira Bano, the hospitality more than nullifies it. Late Saturday afternoon, their abode, Solitaire, was abuzz with the media as they played perfectly gracious hosts for the press meet of Ab To Banja Sajanwa Hamaar, the Bhojpuri film produced by Sultan Ahmed for their banner Sharp Focus and directed by Arshad Khan.
A little after 5pm, Bano arrived looking radiant in a colourful sari, sending the shutterbugs into a tizzy. After exchanging greetings, she settled down for the Q & A. Recalling the foray into production, she said: “We actually began production way back in 1962 with Palkon Ki Chhaon Mein with my mother and brother at the helm,” and added, “I was new and had no other commitments, but due to others’ date hassles, it suffered a delay and we shelved it.” But years later they returned, but not before first establishing Sharp Focus as a producer of content for television.
|Yesteryear actor Dilip Kumar kisses wife Saira Banu at the press meet of their new Bhojpuri film.|
Asked why a Bhojpuri film, and she countered: “Why not Bhojpuri?” and proceeded to answer: “It is one of the pretty languages we have, it’s very grounded.” Recollecting her first tryst with Bhojpuri she said: “In
, I played the
daughter, who fools the blind Bhola (Dilip Kumar) by disguising herself as a Bhojpuri-speaking
, way back in 1976. There’s something special about Bhojpuri,
woh latak-latak ke bolna
. Besides, seeing
left an impression in my mind, with its screenplay and dialect, which is very understandable as it’s fairly close to Hindi. Back then, even Mehboob Khan felt and asked Dilip
the same question you are asking today.”
She attributed her adieu to acting to “changing priorities. Being a Pathan,
has an open house, with people coming and going. So I need to be there at home. But I neither have any regrets nor do I see it as a sacrifice. I have lived every phase of my life to the fullest. I wanted to get married to him before he could slip out of my hand,” she said.
While she admitted to being the thespian’s fan long before she ventured into films, she said Shagird was her first film that he saw at a trial. “I was nervous, wondering what he was thinking about my performance. So when he said: ‘I can see that you’re enjoying the work so much that it would be criminal to ask you to stop it, because you’re a good actress’, I was naturally thrilled.” But when she was on the verge of quitting acting, Manoj Kumar went to them with the script of Purab Aur Paschim. “Manojji came with his wife Shashi and they told Saab that if I couldn’t work in the film, they would shelve it right away. Saab liked the story and agreed to let me work in it. Apart from this, he also allowed me to work in Hera Pheri and Victoria No 203 at the time.”
On her first on-screen pairing with the legend, she divulged: “We were actually supposed to work together in another script, based on Pygmalion, My Fair Lady, but the script didn’t shape out as expected. Eventually, we worked together in Gopi.” She named Ganga Jamuna, Devdas and Mughal-E-Azam as her favourites of her actor husband. “We should be talking more about the Bhojpuri film than about Saab and myself now,” she said suddenly and introduced her leading lady Mona Thiba, who is “honoured and privileged to work under such a prestigious banner.” Soon the thespian himself arrived and the cameras went into action again.
For someone who explored acting without any reference point, Kumar has been and continues to be an inspiration for actors across generations. Many have tried to ape his style, but none has come close. Asked about that he said: “It’s not my fault. I had no clue about it,” with a straight face, but without hiding the mischievous gleam in his eyes. “Certain things can’t be discussed so frivolously, lest they don’t get the respect they deserve. I’ll talk at length to each one aaram se some other time.”