She touched the heights of fame as a Bollywood actress in the seventies,but Sharmila Tagore has said she was considered a “bad influence” on girls and asked to leave school when she stepped into the film world.
Sharmila,who made her movie debut with Satyajit Ray’s ‘Apur Sansar’ in 1959,said she had to face a lot of criticism in those days,but people’s perceptions have changed now.
“I am amazed at how things have changed. Acting in films those days was not considered respectable,much less a career option,but today Bollywood is so popular that many can look at it as a career option,” said the 64-year-old at the the Jerusalem Cinematheque before the screening of her film,’Kashmir ki Kali’ as part of the three-week India festival.
Narrating how she was spotted by Ray for ‘Apur Sansar’,Sharmila said that while it brought her fame,on the downside she was seen as a “bad influence” on other girls.
She faced opposition at college as well,when she was inundated with offers,and decided to quit studies following nagging questions regarding falling attendance.
Sharmila’s father Gitindranath Tagore,however,always backed her choice right from the beginning when he agreed that she would act in Ray’s film.
She said her decision to later move to Mumbai was met with severe criticism in native Bengal,but the actress has no regrets as “it gave her wider visibility and she also had her fair share of meaningful roles”.
Her bikini act in ‘An Evening in Paris’ (1967) is today seen as path breaking in Bollywood,but Sharmila received flak at the time,being the first actress to have donned a swimsuit on screen.
Sharmila tried to change her image in the wake of intense criticism following the scene,but her then boyfriend,cricketer Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi stood by her.
“Then there was a lot of criticism,though it is seen very differently now. In order to win the hearts of the audiences,I tried to change my image,” said Sharmila.
When asked how Tiger Pataudi reacted to it,the former Censor Board chief said he was supportive,adding,”I looked good.”
Reminiscing on their affair,the actress recounted how they used to telegram each other those days and during Pataudi’s Australia trip and she “talked more to the operator than him as the calls would go through London.”
Accompanied by her husband on her first visit to Israel,the noted actress will be meeting and talking to Bollywood enthusiasts here.
Renowned names like Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia,Zila Khan,Namita Gokhale,Reba Som,Tarun Tejpal and Urvashi Butalia,besides several other dance,theatre and visual arts group would also be performing in what is considered the biggest Indian cultural festival in Israel till date.
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