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Raakhee Gulzar: “Lataji and Dilip Saab Are The Two National Treasures”

Raakhee Gulzar: “Lataji and Dilip Saab Are The  Two National  Treasures  Of  Hindi Cinema… I Only Did  Shakti For Dilip Saab”

A  flood of memories opens up  for  the  enigmatic Raakhee Gulzar when we  speak about  the death  of   the great  Dilip Kumar. “When I heard  he had finally  passed  awayI  knew he was finally  at peace. When I  came to this film industry there were two  artistes I hero-worshipped  Lata Mangeshkar and Dilip Kumar. By the grace  of God I  got to sing many beautiful melodies  of Lataji on screen. With Dilip Saab I  had the opportunity to work   only once in Ramesh Sippy’s Shakti , and I cherish every single moment  of  the experience.”

Raakheeji ranks Dilip Saab among the  greatest actors  in the world. “There are actors I watched to learn my craft. Dilip Kumar was  one  of them. Sidney  Poitier,  Spencer Tracy, Katherine  Hepburn and  Audrey Hepburn are my other screen idols. Dilip Saab is my ultimate  actor. I’ve lost count of the  number of  times I’ve seen Ganga Jumna  and Mughal-e-Azam. I’ve  shown my grandson Samay , Dilip Saab’s dancing  in  the songs Nain lad jaihiyen(Ganga Jumna) and Mere pairon mein ghungroo(Sungharsh). He  tries  to copy the steps.Luckily all  the old  classics of Dilip Saab are  shown on satellite  television. So generation to come can see his  magic  on screen.”

She remembers  how she was  discouraged  from doing  a mother’s role so early  in her career. “I was shooting  simultaneously  for Shakti and Bemisal. In one I was playing Amitabh’s mother and  in  the  other I was his leading lady. I was told my career  as  a heroine was  over. That  I’d get only mother’s roles after Shakti. Even if  it was true—and  it  wasn’t—I didn’t care. To me working  with  the God  of acting was all that mattered. Dilip Saab turned out to be everything I imagined  him to be as a co-star: kind considerate generous thoughtful  extremely  intelligent and  knowledgable. We spent many hours on the sets together. Maze  ki baat yeh hai ki jab  shooting nahin ho rahi hoti  to Dilip Saab filmon  ki baat nehin karte. He  could speak on every subject. Being with him was like being in a learning institution. I came away  a much better  actor  and a far wiser human being after Shakti  because of Dilip Saab.”

Raakheeji remembers  Dilip Saab as a massive foodie.  “He enjoyed good food. He  loved my cooking,  though he asn’t allowed  much of it by his  wife Sairaji  who monitored  his diet closely. But still he would partake of   the  studio food and my cooking. When  the Shakti team had their meal Dilip Saab joined us. He would squat  with us  and say, ‘Bhai mujhe bhi khilao’ .And Sairaji’s  carefully prepared dabba would return home  untouched.”

To give an example  of what a  big foodie  the Thespian was ,  Rakheeji shares this incident: “It was the first  sequence that I shot with  Dilip Saab.It was that  shot where  I  fry  aloo tikkis for him in  the kitchen while he eats them. In the  quest for the  perfect take he polished  off  10-15 aloo tikkis. But the takes continued. The masala  for the tikkis was finished. So I   just fried them without masala and gave it to them. He  complained, ‘Kye kar rahi  ho? Why are  you spoiling the  tikkis?’

She remembers being  whisked away by him in his car to a nearby dhaba during the shooting. “When they told him  the dhaba was closed he asked for eggs which he boiled himself.To him the perfect shot and  the perfect  boiled egg were of  equal importance. Not that he  took himself seriously all the time. There was a  mischievous fun side  of him which very few saw. When all  his  close associates  and friends like composer Naushad Saab, lyricist Shakeel Badayuni and actor  Johnny Walker  passed away he became lonely. His prolonged  illness further  isolated  him.”

Raakheeji’s heart reaches out to  Sairaji.  “I  will  visit her soon. This is the  time when she needs  people around her. Sadly  it is also an opportunity  for the wrong kind of people to ingratiate  themselves to her. Sairaji must guard against opportunists. She  must use  the  free time she now has to  give herself the attention she  never did.”

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