Films: A photojournalist’s album of stars
I was a snap-happy photojournalist for a few years in the 1980s before I became the editor of a magazine. I have dug out some more pictures I shot at that time that tell a story redolent of that era.
Ran like a gazelle to avoid a ghazal
One of my favourite action films, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, had three mainstream staples of that era – horses and Dharmendra and Vinod Khanna astride horses. So, when I got an opportunity to click Dharmendra on a horse, I grabbed it with both hands and the camera lens.
I had met Dharmendra in Nasik in 1988 when he was shooting with Rekha for Kasam Suhag Ki. Glamour photographer Rakesh Shrestha and I were playing rummy past midnight when we heard a knock on the door. It was Dharmendra. He said, “One fan just barged into my room with his wife. And he is insisting I hear his wife sing a ghazal for me. I can’t handle it, so I came here.”
Not an ‘Ice Maiden’
I was happy to have captured this expression flitting over Meenakshi’s face. I plead guilty to labelling her an ‘Ice Maiden’. I had observed her at the shoot of Hero (1983) in Ooty where she was polite to a fault, but after every shot would stay coolly aloof from everyone. The Ice Maiden label, unfortunately, stuck. She reminded me about it when we met 20 years later in 2015 and asked if she was still boring. I told her, “You were never boring, but one of a kind.”
Who else would have a “shut-eye” between shots (her mom’s quaint expression for sleeping) or call me on Diwali with the very formal: ‘Season’s greetings!’
Going going saved
I captured this picture when the actress was shooting for Zamaana with Rajesh Khanna. I had met Poonam earlier at her Pali Hill apartment to interview her after Sohni Mahiwal – a success for her after a spate of flops. We discovered a common love for Charlie Brown, and since my article titled, ‘Going Going... Saved’, spoke about rekindled interest in her career, we began on the right note.
The swings of fortune
This picture of Govinda beaming with happiness while sharing a light moment with a young Satish Shah and an almost unrecognisable Johnny Lever was taken circa 1985 when he was a promising newcomer shooting at a suburban bungalow for Love 86.
Years later, I had a bizarre daydream in which Govinda and 1960s glam gal Saira Banu were going through random star photographs and making hilarious comments. I recreated this daydream with Pooja Bhatt and Govinda.
Should have smiled more often
I shot this picture of Deepti Naval at her Versova residence. The actress was strikingly unique. Deepti and I spent a lovely evening discussing poetry, philosophy, spiritualism and death. I asked Deepti why she tended to scowl when she had such a beautiful smile. She reflected, “I will check in the mirror tomorrow.” In her next interview, I read words to the effect: “Someone told me you have a beautiful smile. I must smile more often.”
The least narcissistic actor
I snapped this picture of Sanjeev Kumar at the shooting of the whodunit Qatl in 1985.
When I met him, I decided he was the least narcissistic actor I had ever met. I was cooling my heels with Smita Patil on the sets of Kaanch Ki Deewar when late lateef Sanjeev Kumar drove up in a non-flashy Fiat and hastily emerged wearing a lungi-kurta, his curly hair dishevelled. He told the relieved director, “Chalo, shooting karte hain.” When the director reminded him of the costume change, Sanjeev earnestly asked him, “Can’t I shoot in this?”
A king on the throne and in exile
Profiles have always intrigued me and I was happy to shoot Rajesh Khanna’s famous face from this angle on the sets of Oonche Log.
In 1990, my magazine pulled off a coup of sorts by bringing superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna together for a joint photo-session cum interview. Khanna was charm personified. A king, he said, remains one whether on the throne or in exile. The marathon interview went on till 4am. I reached home with the morning milk, but a happy man.
Simple and Dimple
Peas in a pod
I shot this picture of the Kapadia sisters, Dimple and Simple, at a bungalow in Juhu. Simple, the former actress, was Dimple’s costume designer, companion and confidante.
Since I met Dimple a lot in the 1980s, by default I became close to her late sister too. Simple was vivacious, witty and fun, always ready for a rummy session or a laugh. Her jet-black tresses were as lovely as Dimple’s auburn hair. So, I was deeply distressed when I saw her bald while I was interviewing Priyanka Chopra at a Juhu Hotel years later. She smiled, “I had to chop off my hair because I was undergoing chemotherapy for the Big C.”
Simple’s birthday falls on August 15, and I am reminded of her independent spirit and pluck.
I shot this picture of Jackie Shroff at a sweltering hot wedding hall in Dadar, Mumbai. He was rehearsing his steps for the title song of Ketan Desai’s Allah Rakha.
Jackie loves fast cars and was quite a speedster – he told me he had driven from Mahableshwar to Mumbai in three hours flat, a drive that takes me five hours. He saw my look of disbelief and smiled wryly. I wondered why.
One day, after I had finished interviewing him, Jackie offered me a lift in his car. I agreed. The next 10 minutes I prayed fervently to God and requested Jackie to ‘Stop, stop, stop.” He grinned and relented. I got down reeling from the after-effects of the unofficial Grand Prix race I had just survived while Jackie swerved his car and vamoosed.
You understand, na?
I shot this picture of Anil on the sets of his home production Mr India (1987). Anil loves himself and makes no bones about it. Once I caught him tweezing his moustache and smiling at his own reflection in a mirror. I asked him, “Anil, do you love yourself?” A bit taken aback at my candour, he answered immediately, “If I don’t love myself, how can I expect others to love me?”
His enthusiasm is infectious. I reached late for the preview screening of Eeshwar and it was packed. Anil yanked me in and made me sit on the carpeted stairs of the preview theatre, plonking himself beside me.
During my many interviews with Anil in the ‘90s, he would punctuate his conversation with “Tu samajh raha hai, na?”. When I interviewed him at his residence after Slumdog Millionaire and 24, “Tu samajh raha hai, na?” had morphed into,
“You understand, na?” with a slight American accent.
I am rather fond of Anil Kapoor – just as he is fond of himself.
Dinesh Raheja is a reputed film historian, columnist and TV scriptwriter who has been writing on cinema for over three decades
From HT Brunch, September 5, 2021
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch