In the 90’s, Reema Lagoo cemented herself as the Bollywood mom, even though she was just a couple of years older than many of the actors she played mother to, much to chagrin of many. She starred in several iconic blockbusters of the era, including Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Maine Pyar Kiya and Hum Saath Saath Hai. She immortalised herself as the demure and sweet mother. Her co-star and on-screen daughter Renuka Shahane believed that there was so much more to her and it was a pity that she didn’t get the opportunity to explore her talent, beyond the maternal avatar.
Speaking to Cinestaan in 2017, Renuka said, “I don’t think the Hindi film audience knows her talent,” she said. “She never got the kind of roles commensurate with her talent, except maybe in Vaastav (1999). But apart from that she never got too many strong roles. She had such versatility. But she was always relegated as the sweet, understanding mother. I have seen her in Savita Damodar Paranjpe and Ghar Tighancha Hava. These are shades she has expressed on stage, which are outstanding. People never explored that aspect of her on screen, which was a shame. Yet, she was never really upset about it.”
Renuka shared a close relationship with Reema Lagoo, to the extent that when Renuka’s character died in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Lagoo couldn’t stop crying.
“She could switch on and off with ease. But during the sequence when I die in the hospital, it affected her so deeply that she couldn’t stop crying even after Soorajji [Barjatya] said ‘cut’. It took her a long time and I got up and hugged her very tight and said I am alive. Her emotions in the sequence were so real.” Renuka also added that Reema Lagoo was ‘protective of her’, and that they shared the same makeup room and even had the same tiffin box.
After Reema Lagoo died in 2017, Renuka had penned an emotional tribute. She wrote, ” Hum Aapke Hain Koun”….I played your daughter. I would joke with you that I wasn’t suited to play your daughter since you are so beautiful….”मी नक्कीच looks department मध्ये Anupam Kher वर गेल्ये”. You would laugh full throatedly at this comment, slap me playfully and say “काहीतरीच काय!” If an actor became too friendly you would help me get out of any such situation…..I could spend hours watching you get ready. Though you would want to get ready as fast as possible because you didn’t much care for spending time on make-up. You didn’t need it much because you were naturally so beautiful.”
At the time, Mohnish Bahl, who had played her on-screen son in Hum Saath Saath Hai had written a note about his bond with her as well. “Not many know that she was only a few years older than most of the actors she played mother to. As far as I’m concerned, my camaraderie with Reemaji was crackling,” he had written. Mohnish also reminisced that she would live in the building opposite his, and his wife and she would converse through gestures. He also added that he would always regret not starring in more films with her.
Reema Lagoo died at the age of 59 in 2017, after suffering a cardiac arrest. She had starred in Bollywood as well as Marathi films and the popular television comedy, Tu Tu Main Main.