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10 years of Cheeni Kum: Amitabh Bachchan says Zohra Sehgal was a rocket on take-off

As Cheeni Kum, the story of an unusual romance, completes 10 years, lead actor Amitabh Bachchan remembers his co-star Zohra Sehgal (Bachchan’s on-screen mother i the film), with whom he worked for the first time in his life.

bollywood Updated: May 25, 2017 07:44 IST
Samarth Goyal
Samarth Goyal
Hindustan Times
Amitabh Bachchan,Zohra Sehgal,Cheeni Kum
Amitabh Bachchan gave Zohra Sehgal a crate of champagne after they finished shooting for Cheeni Kum.

Amitabh Bachchan and Zohra Sehgal worked together for the first time in the film Cheeni Kum. As the film completes 10 years today, Bachchan recalls the time he spent with Zohra, who died in 2014. “I worked with Zohraji for the first time in the film, though the association with her goes back to my parents’ time and Prithvi Theatres,” says Bachchan in an e-mail interview with us, adding that finally “working with Zohraji was an absolute honour for me”.

In the film, Bachchan, then 64 years old, played a man his exactly his own age (who fell in love with a 34-year-old woman, a character played by Tabu), and Zohra, then 95, played his mother.

There were also rumours that Zohra asked for a glass of whiskey from the film’s director, R. Balki, after every shot. However, after the shooting for the film was over, Bachchan also gifted her an entire crate of champagne. “Zohraji was a rocket on take-off, each day of the shoot. Her energy and joie de vivre (joy of living) were unmatchable. I cannot remember her asking for a whiskey after each shot from Balki, but yes, she did enjoy her champagne and because she had expressed a desire to be given some after the film was over, I did send across the ‘bubbly’ to her,” he adds.

Late actor Zora Sehgal and actor Amitabh Bachchan in a still from Cheeni Kum (2007).

Bachchan reveals that he said “yes” to the film because R. Balki was directing it. (Incidentally, Balki later also directed Bachchan in Paa, in which he played a boy suffering from a rare disease called progeria.) “It was the director R. Balki that made me say yes to the film. Having worked with him on various endorsement campaigns, when he asked me [to work in the film], I agreed. The script and the character came after I had already said yes,” he says.

While Cheeni Kum was a box-office hit, Bachchan says that he does not like to evaluate a film’s commercial success. “While making a film, I do not evaluate or anticipate its fate at the box office,” he says. “During its shoot, a film needs the attention and attitude of the actor and the director. Once that is done, it is left to the fate of the box office window.”

Do You Know?
  • Shooting for Cheeni Kum was completed in 45 days.
  • The film was shown at Cannes for a private screening with the cast and crew’s close associates and some media people, before the national release date.
  • Director R. Balki, a Tamilian who is not fluent in Hindi, had a friend who helped with the translation of his direction/dialogues from Tamil into Hindi.
  • R. Balki wanted Amitabh Bachchan to sport a ponytail for his character.
  • All the tracks composed by Ilayaraja have been used by him in Tamil and Kannada cinema. Ilayaraja recycled his original work and polished them up for this movie.
Memorable Dialogues
  • Dil mein joh hai woh bol dena chahiye ... aaise dabake nahi rakhna chahiye ... acidity ho jaati hai: Tabu
  • Aadmi budha tab hota hai ... jab uske andhar jeene ki ichcha khatam ho jaati hai: Amitabh Bachchan
  • Jab log kisi ke kareeb aa jaate hai ... toh ek doosre ki tarah baatein karne lagte hai: Zohra Sehgal
  • Khana banana duniya ki sabse badi kala hai: Amitabh Bachchan
  • Life mein insaan ko ek galati maaf hai: Amitabh Bachchan

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First Published: May 25, 2017 07:43 IST