The Legendary Iconic Mumtaz On Her Favourite Co-star Rajesh Khanna & Her Love For The Colour Orange
The iconic actress Mumtaz, the heartthrob of millions danced her way into immortality with iconic numbers like Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche(Bramhachari), Bindiya chamkegi(Do Raaste) and Jai jai shiv shankar(Aap Ki Kasam). Most of her most famous songs featured her in orange costumes.
When I spoke to her ,Mumtaz happily admitted to an orange fixation. “Indeed orange was my favourite colour. I am a very fair-complexioned girl of Persian origin.Bright colours suited me. I especially loved orange. I’d sit with my costume designer Bhanu Athaiya and make sure the orange colour figured in the songs and dances.”
The sizzling Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche song-and-dance with Shammi Kapoor had Mumtaz making one major adjustment. “I remember we opted for an orange saree instead of a gown . Normally I would dance in western outfits for western-rhythmed song like this. But on this occasion the Sippys(producers of Bramhachari) insisted on a saree. So Bhanu and I created a specially designed saree . The song had a lot of jerks and movements. So we had to make sure the saree remained in place.”
The actress whose performances in Khilona,Tere Mere Sapne, Aap Ki Kasam, Jheel Ke Uss Paar and Aaina established her as one of the two topmost actresses of the 1970s(the other being Hema Malini) is now in Mumbai.
Where’s Mumtaz’s headquarters these days? “Well, I’ve homes in London, Nairobi and Mumbai. So you tell me where my home is.”
Why did she quit and leave at the peak of your career just because she got married? “Maine industry hi nahin chhoda. Shaher aur mulk bhi chhod diya. I got married to the man I loved. I had two lovely daughters. Now I’ve four beautiful grandchildren and they’re the loves of my life. I couldn’t have asked for more. No regrets about leaving the industry.”
Mumtaz’s last films were with Rajesh Khanna whom she admits to being very fond of. “He was my favourite, no doubt.And I was his favourite.I can’t remember how many films we did together. But we were constantly working together, right till I quit the industry. Unke filmon mein heroine ko zyada kuch karna ko nahin hota ttha(in his films the leading lady didn’t have much to do). But I like that film which featured the song Duniya mien logon ko dokha kabhi ho jata hai ….Apna Desh.I had a well-etched role in that. Then there was Aap Ki Kasam where both of us were equally important. It had a very controversial subject where the wife leaves her suspicious husband although she’s pregnant. I remember Kakajee and I had heated discussions with the film’s producer-director J Om Prakashji about whether the film will work or not. Eventually it was made and it was a big hit.”
Ask her to name her favourite film from her vast repertoire and she answers, “I can’t name my favourite. But I can tell you which was the most difficult . It was Vijay Anand’s Tere Mere Sapne. I had to underplay my part all through the film. It is very difficult to do this in our cinema where actresses had to do a lot of loud rona-dhona. Let me tell you, underplayed performances are far more difficult than the dramatic ones. So yes, Khilona and the other well-known performances of mine were all good. But Tere Mere Sapne was the toughest.”
Mumtaz’s last film Aaina before she married and quit at the peak of her career, also starred Rajesh Khanna. Mumtaz was smashingly powerful as a daughter of an impoverished Brahmin family who takes to prostitution to make ends meet.
She recalls the film fondly. “Yes, that was the only film of ours where Kakajee took a backseat. But that was his guest appearance. That was a very powerful subject , directed by a very powerful and influential director of the South(K Balachander). The film flopped. People could not accept the heroine’s character. Many years later Yash Raj Films made the same subject(Laga Chunri Mein Daag). Lekin wohbhi nahin chali(that didn’t succeeded either).
Although Rajesh Khanna had the reputation of being temperamental Mumtaz says she had no problems working with the Superstar. “The only time he’d get upset with me was when I signed films with other heroes. He would go and sulk in the corner.It was okay for him to work with other heroines.There are separate rules for men and women. He always treated me with the utmost affection and care. He affectionately called me ‘Moti’. Because I was always on the plump side. That’s the way it was. And I didn’t mind.As far as being moody is concerned, I was the friendliest person on the set. I sat and chatted with all the technicians between shots. I never behaved like a star. So why would anyone behave like a star with me?
Mumtaz is now in Mumbai catching up with old friends spending time with her daughter Natasha and son-in-law actor Fardeen Khan. “I am spending time with my loved ones here in Mumbai as long as I’m here. Who know where tomorrow will take me? My world revolves around my beautiful grandchildren”