Did you know that yesteryear actress Asha Parekh made her debut as an actress at the age of 10 in Bimal Roy’s Maa? At Pune International Literary Festival (PILF) 2017, she spoke about her autobiography The Hit Girl. The session was moderated by Khalid Mohammed (co-author of the book) and publisher Ajay Mago. The award-winning autobiography was launched by Salman Khan in Mumbai sometime back.
Asha ji said that she has a special bond with Pune as her mother, who was a Bohra Muslim studied at Fergusson College, and her father, who was a Gujarati Vaishnav, used to come and meet her here. “My father proposed to my mother in Pune. If it hadn’t accumulated into marriage, I wouldn’t be here. But it wasn’t easy as they had to face a lot of challenges. My mother was also beaten up. It was my daddy’s friend who got them married. There was a lot of turmoil because this kind of marriage was unbelievable in the 1940s. They were cut off from their families,” said she adding, “We had a tough time in spite of my father having a successfully running store near CP Tank.”
Talking about her entry into the film industry, she said that it happened because of her dancing skills. “As a child, I used to dance to records. We had a Charter Accountant neighbour who worked for actors like Premnath ji, Beena Roy, Madhubala, Nimmi and many others. One day, our neighbour Sudarshan ji called me home and asked me to dance. Premnath ji was present there and liked my dancing. He called Madhubala and many others to see my dance.”
Asha ji further added, “We had a programme in school and they wanted a few actors to grace the occasion. My mother went to invite Premnath ji but he said, ‘If Asha dances, I will come’. My mother was, ‘Asha can’t dance on stage because she is not trained’. So my mother took me to Kathak dancer, the late Mohanlal Pandey, and told him that he has to train me in seven days.”
After which she did several stage shows and the late Bimal Roy also liked her performance during one of the shows. “He asked me if I wanted to act and I said yes,” said the legendary actress.
At the PILF session when Khalid asked her if she would dance to today’s music, Asha ji said, “Not at all. Today’s dance is not dance. It looks more like acrobatics.”
Back in the day, Asha ji and Shammi Kapoor made a great onscreen couple and starred in several films. She says that Shammi ji was very protective about her. “Though I enjoyed working with all my leading actors I enjoyed working with Shammi ji the most because he was my first hero. He was also very protective about me. His late wife Geeta Bali ji used to say, ‘Let’s adopt Asha’ and after that I used to call him ‘chacha’ and he did not mind.”
She even clarified the fact that though she was dying to work with Dilip Kumar, she never got the chance. “During an interview I had said that I work with people with whom I share a mental rapport. It was misquoted and made to sound that I didn’t want to work with Dilip ji. So, I called up Saira Banu and told her, ‘I want to work with your husband and I have been misquoted’, which she understood. It’s unfortunate that I have worked with everyone else except for Dilip ji. I feel sorry even today.”
When Khalid asked her about her love life, she said that she was in love with her mentor Nasir Hussain with whom she had collaborated on seven projects including Dil Deke Dekho, Teesri Manzil, Caravan and others. “Yes, I was. But I didn’t want to be the second woman, so I didn’t marry him.”
The Kati Patang actress even admitted that she had got into depression after the death of her parents and was on medication for almost six months. “After my father passed away in 2003, I had no purpose in life. I was a single child and was pampered a lot by them. I suddenly felt lonely. My close friends realised it and asked me to take medical help.”
She said that she is better now and keeps taking her medication.
But she finds managing the home and kitchen a tough job as running the house is not her forte. “But I am trying,” said the actress before signing off.