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Sharmila Tagore: “In Two Days I’ve Lost Two Of My Favourite Actors”

The  legendary Sharmila Tagore is devastated by the  double  blow that  Indian cinema has received on two successive days.

“Why are these  younger  actors  going and the older ones are  still around?First, we lost  Irrfan who  was an absolute favourite  and  now Rishi Kapoor who was  not only a  fabulous actor but also part of my  family. In fact I’m trying to call(daughter-in-law, Rishi’s niece)   Kareena since morning. But can’t get through,” Sharmilaji has  barely been   able to get over the first  tragedy before the second struck.

“I took Irrfan’s death very personally. He  was an actor I related deeply to. His  performances in films  like Maqbool, Paan Singh Tomar, for which he  won  the National award, and The  Namasake  were so  subtle  layered and brilliant…I’ve lost track  of how many  times I’ve seen  The Namesake. Irrfan transformed  into a Bengali gentleman. He learnt Bengali for the film.My daughter Soha  has done three films with Irrfan. I’m very envious  of her.”

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Sharmilaji remembers  meeting Irrfan at an international  film festival some  years ago. “I remember  him as very silent, not saying much  but very observant. He spoke  about how  important it was  for an actor like who believed  in realistic acting to bridge the  gap between  niche and  populist cinema , and how realistic acting  became boring after  a point. Irrfan wanted to change that. If you  watch his performances keenly he always ended  his scenes on an  ambiguous  note…a quirky twitch  of  the eyebrow  , a cryptic smile. His performances  intrigued me. I wanted  to know what he was  going to do next. What  was he  hiding?”

With Rishi Kapoor  it was just the opposite. Says Sharmilaji, “He came on the screen like  a bright light  and embraced the audience. Unlike Irrfan who always seemed to withhold something,  Rishi  spilled it all out and  connected unconditionally with the audience. No matter what he  played, the loverboy or the  old father in 100 Not Out he was completely  into character. I remember this  film of his  with Dimple Kapadia,  Pyaar Mein Twist where he  was shown walking his  dog. He looked so properly and gentlemanly. In Hum Tum he came into the  plot midway. But the screen  brightened  the minute he walked in.Rishi  had a rare ability to immerse  himself in every  character completely.And he was a people’s person. He  could connect  with the audience immediately.”

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Sharmilaji remembers  receiving a joint award with Rishi some years ago. “We were both given Filmfare awards for Lifetime Achievement. Rishi openly grumbled about why  he was  being bracketed with me since I was  around for so much longer. That’s the he was .He spoke his  mind  regardless  of  the  repercussions. Recently he tweeted about liquor shops being  opened during the lockdown. People were outraged. But he  had a point. Those addicted to  alcohol are bound to get restless sitting at home.”

Sharmilaji  feels the unfairness of  the  double loss very strongly. “Irrfan and Rishi had both gone  for treatment of their cancer. They came back and we all hoped  that they would be fine. That was  not to be. I don’t  know what  greater calamities this year has in store.”

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