Simi Garewal was always ahead of her times. When Indian actresses were demure dainty and shy Simi was a whiff of fresh air. There was no pretence about her personality, That’s why she was stellar in the works of India’s greatest filmmakers : Mehboob Khan(Son Of India), K Asif (Love & God), Satyajit Ray(Aranyer Din Ratri), Raj Kapoor(Mera Naam Joker), K A Abbas(Do Boond Pani) and Hrishikesh Mukherjee(Namak Haraam).
Though her most popular role is in the mediocre Karz, a trashy adaptation of the trashy novel The Reincarnation Of Peter Proud which had only one thing to be proud of and that’s Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s magnificent music, Simi excelled in other films like Conrad Rooks’ Siddhartha, Raj Khosla’s Do Badan and Girish Ranjan’s Dak Bungla.
As Simi celebrates her birthday on October 17, I recall her words from an old interview with me where she said, ” I don’t like my birthday to be an occasion for fanfare. In fact I hate it when too much fuss is made about it. I spend my birthday at home close to the people who matter to me. That’s the way I like it.”
Known to be an incurable reclusive Simi spoke about her reluctance to be in the limelight: “I’m a very private person. Even the New Years’ are spent away from crowds, though there would be some friends whom I like bringing in the new year with.”
About her age, she joked, “How old am I? Well…on a bad day I feel 23. On a good day I feel 17. Today is obviously a good day. I look back on my life with much satisfaction. I’ve never been satisfied with doing just one thing. I was never only an actress, or a tv anchor or whatever. And when people said I was ahead of my times I took it as a compliment. It meant I was doing things that weren’t in vogue. ”
Her favourite roles? “As an actress many people remember me by Mera Naam Joker to this day. For others I’m more the conniving evil woman in Karz and for the rest I may be the mysterious woman in Conrad Rooks’ Siddharth or in Satyajit Ray’s Aranyer Din Ratri … When I took to tv with It’s A Woman’s World I never thought it would be so fulfilling. Rendezvous With Simi Garewal has been my most fulfilling endeavour.”
About her well-known penchant for white clothes: “I’ll continue to wear white. My fascination for the colour has been with me for as long as I can remember. Even as a child my best party dresses were white. Today I can shop for clothes in other colours. I just bought myself two black suits. But I can never wear them. “If I wear any colour but white I see a stranger in the mirror.”
How does she look back on her life and career? “With a sense of tremendous fulfillment. But I’ll be honest. I do feel a gnawing sorrow sometimes. I didn’t do that one great glorious film by which I’d be remembered forever. But hey, I did a lot of other things that got me immense recognition, including a talk show(Rendezvous With Simi Garewal) which is being emulated by all and sundry. It’s very flattering.”