In those poignant yet powerful three minutes of Vaastav, Raghu is set free by his mother, both mortally and metaphorically. Reema Lagoo lent anguish and vulnerability to Shanta, mother to Sanjay Dutt’s Raghu, in the stand-out scene from the 1999 crime drama, and it went down as one of the best in the history of Hindi cinema.
Director Mahesh Manjrekar, however, has a different history to share — of what transpired behind the scene as the classic scene was being shot with his two of his favourites — Sanjay Dutt, and Reema Lagoo who passed away Thursday morning. The filmmaker recalled that he lost his cool on the veteran and as he thinks about it now, when she is no more, he feels he was unfair.
“First we shot a scene inside, where Sanju is with the whole family, this is the scene before he dies. We did this in one take, and I wanted this so that the emotions come out. Then we had to shift outside for Reema’s scene. Now that took a little time because of the lighting and all… When the shot got ready and Reema came out, I got so angry with her. She had slept! I asked her why did she do that. This was ‘her’ scene! Due to sleep, her eyes got swollen and I wanted resolve in her eyes for she was about to kill her son. So, we did some make-up. I was angry. Now, when I think I feel it was unfair. We took some time for that shot and it was late in the night so, poor lady must have been sleepy.”
Among the various shades of a mother that Reema portrayed on screen, her idealistic and fierce Shanta from Vaastav was distinct and most impactful. Mahesh, who had known the actor since their theatre days, said she was the perfect choice for the character. “Reema has been one of the greatest actors of all times. For Vaastav, I wanted an individual strong enough to play a woman who stands by her ideals. Reema was that. The film was set in post-Mills strike movement, and during those times women worked very hard to make ends meet. They were very strong. So, this character was also like that. Reema was brilliant in that part.”
The duo collaborated on several projects and with their growing professional affiliation, deepened their personal ties. “Reema was family. She was not actor Reema for me. I went to her house for dinners, meetings. I had a personal bond with her. She was a fantastic human being, always warm. She came from theatre, which has no place for hierarchy. She was a product of that space, so, she treated everyone same. She never had any airs about herself.”
It was perhaps this friendship that assured Mahesh she would be a part of his Natsamrat. Reema was Mahesh’s first choice for the role of Natsamrat’s wife, which was eventually played by his spouse, Medha Manjrekar. “I wanted her to play that role but she didn’t agree. She thought the role didn’t have anything for her. I really wanted her in the film but when an actor is reluctant, you can’t help. But for me, it was like… I have known her for long and I thought she would say yes… That was the last time we spoke.” The director, however, didn’t hold any grudge against her and in fact was meaning to sign her again.
“Just two days ago, I came across a picture of her from our show Tu Maza Jamena. Someone had posted that photo on Facebook. I started thinking about her and felt I should get a role for her and do a movie with her again. It had been long we hadn’t worked together. And today, I got this news. It is very sad and a huge loss to all of us.”
Reema Lagoo died on Thursday after a heart attack. She was 59.