“She was so loved by everyone…It’s hard to imagine she is gone.She was my entire universe.Beautiful memories seem so painful at the moment.
I think everyone’s mom is very special. But she was special to not just me but all of Bengal , and beyond.I can’t think straight right now…But yes, I’ll tell you whatever I remember right now…What was she like? She was very undemanding as a person.
She was the closest to me. But she knew I had my life to lead and came to terms with that.She liked being alone.But it’s not that she didn’t like meeting people.She liked meeting interesting people. As a child I remember her always working. I was put in boarding school in Darjeeling and then in England. It was a big joy and privilege for me to come back home for every holiday…thrice a year to spend time with her.Every time I was home I realized how special she was. When I left to go back to boarding school in Darjeeling and later in Surrey she’d cry more than I did. I was very spoilt and pampered.Later when I was studying in Kolkata even when she was at work she would ring up twice a day to find out about me, my meals etc…As I grew older I realized how special she was. During my vacations she’d bring me down from boarding school in England to any part of India.
I remember my father driving me to the Taj hotel from the airport in Mumbai when she was in the city shooting for Aandhi.I had to be content with those three annual visits.After school during college I lived with her in Kolkata.We were very very close.When I got married(quite late) and moved out, it must have been very difficult for her .I looked after her when I was there. My going away must have been very hard for her. But she never expressed her anguish.I have a very kind husband. Every morning I went to see my mother and my husband never minded.My husband has always given me a lot of space…. My mother not only dealt with the film industry on her own terms and also look after the home and me. She did everything that a man and a woman combined could do in a family. She was both father and mother to me.We slept in the same room,ate together and did everything together. I remember I’d be doing my studies and she would be in the next room just back from her shooting relaxing sipping tea and keeping an eye on me. I knew she was always there for me…I can feel her presence now too.When I was not in boarding school she would make sure she was home when I needed her, although she wouldn’t pick me up or drop me to school.
She didn’t have time for that.We had a nanny for all that. Sometimes she would come to school to pick me up. People would not accost her. They respected her privacy all her life in Kolkata. When did I realize she was an iconic star?As a child I knew her as my mother at home and as the actress in the studio.She started the star-system in Bengal. No one had an aura like hers.But our most fun times were when I was in boarding school in England. Both my parents would come to pick me up and we would drive to Scotland and other destinations. There was no question of her privacy being violated during those precious family holidays in and around England. Even in India everyone respected her need for privacy. But it’s a myth that she didn’t meet people. She met everyone she had to and was extremely polite and easy-going in her social interaction. Of course she had a fierce temper which my daughters and I have inherited. She was very choosy about her friends and a stickler for punctuality. If anything didn’t go well while shooting my mother would be extremely upset and would make no effort to hide it.That’s because she was very particular about the quality of her work. One reason why she quit acting in the 1970s was the kitschy mediocrity that overtook Bengali cinema in the 1970s and 80s.Many of the directors she knew well and felt comfortable working with , passed away.The scripts that were offered to her were awful.Uttam Kumar passed away and she’d say, ‘Whom am I going to work with?’ Once she left acting she left it behind completely. When I started acting she would hardly ask about the film industry except maybe an odd question about how GulzarSaab was doing. She was extremely fond of him.
Otherwise she was totally out of cinema both Bengali and Hindi. She let her stardom go quite easily. But stardom never let go of her. I remember I was on a flight with Andhra Pradesh’s eminent producer D Rama Naidu. He said to me, ‘Tell your mother I’ve a blank cheque waiting for your mother whenever she decides to work with me.’ And Salim Khan Saab told me she refused Yash Chopra’s Deewaar.
It made no difference to me if the Hindi film industry thought I was wild because I wore a swimming suit.Now the Mumbai film industry has grown up a bit. During my days it was different.My behaviour seemed unconventional inMumbai.I’d keep shuttling between Mumbai and Kolkata