Veteran Bollywood actor Asha Parekh says her Hindi films Do Badan (1966) and Chirag (1969) were the toughest films of her career in the Indian film industry. In an interview on the sidelines of the ongoing 53rd International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa (India), she talks about her films and the filmmakers she has worked with.
Asked about the toughest film in her career, Parekh says it was Chirag – directed by Raj Khosla and featuring Sunil Dutt opposite her. “I would say Chirag was one film and then Do Badan as they had various shades to the character (which were new for me).”
Parekh ruled the Hindi film industry between the 60s and 80s, and was recently honored with the Dadasaheb Phalke award – the highest award in the field of Indian cinema which is presented at the National Film Award ceremony every year. IFFI runs a retrospective screening of films of the Dadasaheb Phalke award winner every year. Parekh chose Do Badan, Kati Patang and Teesri Manzil for the showcasing at IFFI 2022.
Recalling the time she signed the films being screened at IFFI 2022, Parekh says, “Shakti Samantha was directing three films and he had asked me to work with him. I was given the book (The 1971 Hindi film Kati Patang was based on Gulshan Nanda’s Hindi book by the same name, and that itself, was based on American crime writer William Irish’s 1948 book I Married A Dead Man.) to read and I found the character very different, from what I had done. I played a widow which I am not.”
She adds that she took up Do Badan for the pathos that her character had in the film, and the fact that she really wanted to work with filmmaker Khosla. She says that her role was not what drove her to take up Teesri Manzil. “I did Teesri Manzil, more for the fun experience that the film was. I would not say it was the role that made me work in it but (I did it) because it was a fun film.”
Recalling the iconic directors she worked with, Parekh says she had to prepare herself a lot when working with Vijay Anand as he took single, long shots for his scenes while she really enjoyed working with Nasir Hussain. “Nasir used to make fun films, I worked with him in my first film Dil De Ke Dekho (first film as the lead actress) and that was an association where I could talk to him and understand his direction. I learnt a lot working with him.”
Parekh recalls how Khosla would go “off track” at times. “Raj Khosla used to go off track sometimes but was mostly on track and he made beautiful films. When he came to asked me to work in Mai Tulsi Tere Angan Ki, I asked him to show (in the final edit) all that he had originally narrated to me. ‘You will not cut any of it’, I asked him, he promised and he kept his word. All that we shot, was used without any cuts.”
She also says that as the first woman to head the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) – the body that certifies films in India – she faced a lot of negativity. “Just because I was a the first woman, the press really bashed me up. The press was very cruel but I was strict, I did what I wanted to do. I learnt a lot. But yes, the producers were not happy when I used to cut their films. But we did what we had to, we went with the guidelines. There were certain films which I do not think should have passed so we did not pass them.”
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity)