She was the original wing-tip eyeliner girl, long before Amy Winehouse made it a style statement. Asha Parekh could slip into the persona of the lehenga-clad village belle and the London-returned bade baap ki beti. It is to her credit that a generation of Indians first learned that sayonara is Japanese for good-bye. Effervescent on screen, the actor is reclusive in person and uncomfortable talking about herself. She has finally revealed her story in the book, The Hit Girl (Om Books, Rs 895).
“We come from a generation when all of us, including Sadhana and Saira Banu, were very private. Journalists in those times were friends, and they knew where to draw the line. Not everything they saw and heard would end up as news. Can you imagine today’s stars being friends with any mediaperson? The book is my attempt to bare my soul and life. I was ready to share my story and was egged on by Khalid Mohammed,” says Parekh. Written with Mohammed, the book travels through Parekh’s childhood, early start in films as well as gives glimpses of Bollywood as it changed over 50 years.
She describes getting lost in a jungle near Igatpuri, Maharashtra, and Sunil Dutt coming in search. Geeta Bali, wife of Shammi Kapoor, helped her with makeup on the first day of a shoot in Ranikhet. At one time, Bali even suggested that they adopt her. “Shammiji and I had a special bond, maybe, because I made my adult debut with him in Dil Deke Dekho. He could challenge me with his energetic dancing,” says Parekh.
The winged eyeliner has been replaced by subdued kohl and the once-flawless face has wrinkles in the right places. Her wardrobe has given way to Kalamkari and Kasavu saris, after the tight churidars she sported in her heyday. “A lot went into creating the looks for us. The kohl-rimmed eyes and the hair were because of Shashidhar Mukherjee. As for the clothes, we had Bhanu Athaiya and ample resources of Madame Pompadour showroom at the Taj and the Sylvie store in Colaba at our disposal. I had adopted the bouffant and Sadhna had her fringe,” says Parekh.
When Parekh looks back, she sees a life well lived though there are a few regrets. “I wish that K Asif’s project with me, Sasta Khoon Mehanga Pani, had finished. Same for the film with Uttam Kumar we had shot halfway. I also lost out on working with Dilip Kumar in Zabardast.
I, sometimes, feel that mine was a stolen childhood as I started out as a child actor in Bimal Roy’s Maa in 1952. I was in fifth standard then. I wish I had completed my schooling and gone to college,” says Parekh.