Shammi aunty, as she is fondly called by almost everyone, is in Hyderabad for the shooting of ‘Tera jadoo chal gaya.’ I go to interview her for a couple of reasons. One, she used to be a pal of my mother’s and there is no harm in earning more brownie points with my old lady;-) More importantly, I am curious as to how this yesteryears actress is faring and what she thinks of the way movies are made nowadays.
This is a south Indian production, and a dance sequence is being shot when I enter, so predictably, there are plenty of garish dresses around. Keerti Reddy, the lead actress, is vapid, and this movie goes on to prove her dud foray into filmdom. Abhishek Bachchan is clowning around; when he is told there is a journalist on the sets, he hikes up his clown quotient, which fails to impress me. He is dressed in a loose white kurta pyjama; I think this is his second movie, and it is difficult for him to control his exuberance. Hell, I would be excited too if people were offering me movies with those kinda looks and zero personality!
Shammi aunty, who is waiting for me quietly in a room, is pathetically grateful that I’m there to meet her and tells me to go and interview Abhishek. “Mark my words he will be a very big star one day. What are you doing with an old lady like me, you came to meet me for your mummy’s sake now go and interview him ,beta,” she urges. Naaah, I tell her, I’m fine. I’m not too thrilled with what I see and if I miss my chance and this is the Bollywood badshah of tomorrow (shudder!) well then, so be it.
Let’s talk about you, I tell her. How is it, coming out of hibernation after such a long time, and what do you think of movies today? Shammi aunty may be a kindly soul, but she’s also more tactful than I am 🙂 “Today’s youngsters are more clever, they have learnt well,” she says diplomatically.
She has been in films for over five decades (at the time of the interview) and has thoroughly enjoyed it. She is interested in anything to do with films; while techniques may have changed, she is happy that people still respect old-timers like her. “While I enjoy working, it is also partly for security,” she confides. “I have been in situations where I didn’t have a penny. I probably should have bought more jewellery,” she muses, “because the Indian concept is that it is useful for a rainy day. But I am not very fond of jewellery.” Her take (sic!) is that people who work in secure jobs know how much to save and how much to spend, whereas for those in films, it rains money suddenly and then people go berserk.
Not that I mean to laugh unkindly or anything, but I am somewhat amused to know what an old lady would splurge on. “Perfumes,” she says promptly. “I like to wear different ones at different times. Other than that, it’s more of window shopping for me now; earlier, I used to shop for make-up material whenever I was abroad but nowadays everything is available here.”
Hmm. I ask her if she has ever known money to be a detrimental factor in relationships. “That depends on your mental attitude,” she says philosophically. “It is the psyche of some people or how they’ve been brought up; maybe they have suddenly come into money and that makes them show off. I personally would not use money as power, nor would I call it evil, per se. It is just a security.”