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Bollywood forgets yesteryear comedians

Hindi cinema lost two of its most enduring comedians, Rajendranath and Manorama, this month but very few in the industry knew that they had passed away.

entertainment Updated: Feb 28, 2008 18:38 IST

Hindi cinema lost two of its most enduring comedians, Rajendranath and Manorama, in the last fortnight but no one in the industry, not even those who knew the two, observed a minute's silence in their memory.

Insiders said very few knew that they had passed away. But that's the way with Bollywood. Stars of yesteryears have always faded away unsung.

"Funny, because Rajendranath had very prestigious connections in the industry," said Asha Parekh, the golden girl of the 1960s.

"Rajendranath and I did our first film together. It was Nasir Husain's Dil Deke Dekho and then we went on to do a series of musicals," she recalls.

<b1>Rajendranath immortalised the character of Popatlal in the movie Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai and acted in over 300 movies during the 1960s and 70s.

Asha is full of fond memories of Rajendranath, one of Bollywood's most down-to-earth comedians.

"Poor fellow, he always used to get beaten up by me in all our movies. He was Mrs. Raj Kapoor's brother. Premnath, famous in his own right, was his elder brother. Rajendranath was married and had a son and a daughter. So, at least he had people who were close to him," the actress said.

But Rajendranath was a recluse. "He was very quiet and non-humorous in real life. I don't think I was in touch with him for the last 20 years. He lived on the other end of Mumbai and did not want to meet friends," the actress rued.

Continued the pensive actress: "We lost another comic talent. Manorama squandered all her money on cards. She died in a hospital. Her husband was an actor named Rajan Haksar and I think there was a boy named Sam who took care of her. But where was the rest of the industry? The problem is that only a handful of stars make money," Asha said.

The Bachchans and the Khans have their financial advisers and they invest wisely, she said.

<b2>"But the smaller character-actors have not been able to be wise about their money. I wonder if you'll ring up people about me after my death like you're calling me to know about Rajendranath ji and Manorama ji," her characteristic laughter rings over the phone.

Manorama was known for her comic and negative roles and her last movie was Deepa Mehta's Water, which received an Oscar nomination.

Character-actress Shammi has her own story to narrate. "I worked with Rajendranath in numerous movies. He was a sweet, gentle and shy soul. But since we worked together in so many movies, he had opened up to me," she recalled.

"In some of Suraj Prakash's films, we were paired together. I didn't even know Manorama ji had passed away! We used to meet at Sunil Dutt's house off and on. It's sad that the television channels hardly mentioned anything about the death of the two comic talents," she said.

"Rajendranath was a very prominent actor of his times. He used to be a part of several big-banner productions. I guess I too will be forgotten in the same way," sighed the 78-year old actress.

Shammi keeps herself busy with television shows. "I've one daily soap Ghar Ek Sapna on hand. I do it because it keeps me connected to my colleagues. It's nice to go out to work every day. It gives you a sense of purpose," the actress said.