Fashion shows these days usually bring a sense of deja vu but a recent one organised by Mumbai designer Shaina NC in aid of Cancer Patients Aid Association witnessed quite the Kodak moment. The reclusive yesteryear actress Sadhana Nayar didn’t just step out, she stepped out in style and sashayed down the ramp with young heart-throb Ranbir Kapoor for company. Kitted in a pink sari, she cut a fashionable figure even though the famous Sadhana-cut (the fringe) was missing.
Few people from the younger generation know her for memorable movies, her legendary hairstyle and the fact that in her prime, she was a hugely popular star. But there is a lot more to her. For starters, she is a skilled raconteur of tales, a connoisseur of food and a very good cook. Over cups of chai, some sandwich and a kebabs she had made personally, she narrated several anecdotes — one about how she and costume designer Bhanu Athaiya got her look down pat in Yash Chopra’s film Waqt!
Yours truly also had the good fortune of spending a few hours with the enigmatic Madam Re — in fact, much to my surprise and delight, after our thoroughly enjoyable tete-a-tete at a suburban five star hotel in Mumbai, she even slipped behind the wheel and dropped me off to a cab stand on her way home. Who could have imagined that the glamorous Rekha could handle the mundane, with such ease? Well, she certainly accomplished the aforementioned with great aplomb despite the fact that everyone within the vicinity was gawking at us and constantly coming in the way.
You know what they say about wine improving with age? Well, I would say the same about actresses. Let’s face it, heroines of a certain vintage are delightful company, far more fun than their young successors. Having been there and done that, yesteryear actors are usually far more secure about themselves. They hold their opinion and are not trying too hard to please powers that be. They are also well past that stage of their career when they need to play safe and trot out predictable lines like, “I only compete with myself.” No wonder then that they are often brimming with quotable quotes and are willing to tell the tale with mirch and masala.
Dream Girl Hema Malini and Moushumi Chatterjee will have you in splits with their matter-of-fact commentary on the film industry and ways of the world. Sharmila Tagore who visits Mumbai less frequently now is always an interviewer’s delight. Besides being intelligent and calm, she is someone who can put the media or just about anyone in their place by merely raising an eyebrow and never her voice. Jaya Bachchan, famous for speaking her mind on all occasions is vivacious and fun too. What all these wonderful ladies have in common is that each makes for great copy and company.
Waheeda Rehman is yet another example of gracious charm coupled with a subtle sense of humour that surfaces time and again. At the launch of her biography, she admitted, much to everyone’s shock and surprise, that she had never in her life worn a sleeveless blouse, not even in a Guru Dutt film because she thought her arms too ample for such outfits. She went on to narrate stories of how vexed co-star Raj Kapoor was when in Russia, they ignored his instructions of not talking about the local companion even in Hindi as Russian officials were well versed in several languages. But obviously, her refreshing candour left the audience enthralled. No wonder that filmmaker Rakeysh Mehra, a self-professed fan of the actor, still wants her to be a part of every film he makes.
When it comes to Bollywood’s retro divas, age certainly is just an irrelevant detail.