Bollywood Flashback: Asha Parekh shares about her leading men!February 14, 2022
Yesteryear stars shone as brightly as those of today. Blockbusters, romances, scandals, fights, eccentricities…you name it, they had it since the earliest decades of Bollywood history. We dig into some of the juiciest gossip and snippets from the past for your eyes only. We begin with none other than the original Spice Girl, Asha Parekh – the hit machine of the 60’s who holds the record of an incredible list of blockbusters and chart-busters as well. The queen of spitfire heroines and melodramas, Asha worked with all the top heroes of that era and was part of some of the evergreen and big-bang entertainers like ‘Teesri Manzil’ (remember her do Rock n Roll on Aaja aaja main hoon pyaar tera). “I was definitely in the top slot. I gave maximum hits, got some of the best songs, producers queued up for me… All my heroes would keep a distance from me for reasons best known to them. Yes, I was reserved. I would carry books on sets. I would also knit sweaters to kill time…”
Asha remembers her five leading men:
Shammi Kapoor : ‘He started getting over-friendly with me at a party’
Shammi was my very first hero (‘Dil Deke Dekho’,1959) and there was a lot of understanding between us. I enjoyed working with him because he was gregarious, full of life, had a great sense of humour and was very fond of music. He had the best collection of music and also had great sense of music so much so that he would sit on music sessions with the composers. We would play many games on the sets and one of those was guessing the music director while we played songs one after the other. But once he got me into trouble and as a result we became the fodder for the gossip press. There was a party and Shammi started getting over-friendly with me. He was just pretending, playing it up…he put his hands across my shoulder giving everybody an impression that we were dating. Devyani Chaubal, who was known for her scandalous writing was present in the party. She went back to write under screaming headlines that Shammi and I was getting married. Those days Shammi was having an affair with someone else. I got very upset and called Gulshan Ewing, the editor of Star & Style about the false story. I told her that Devyani should have checked with me since we were friends. Later Devyani called me and apologised.
(Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh films: Dil Deke Dekho, Teesri Manzil, Pagla Kahin Ka, Jawan Mohabbat)
Sunil Dutt: ‘He told me to beware of policemen in Delhi’
Not many know but I did maximum films with Sunil Dutt, who was a thorough gentleman and enthusiastic about everything. He loved making tea for everybody on the sets and that is how I formed habit of having four to five cups of tea in a day. Every two hours or so he would come up with a tray and ask us, ‘Chai peeyenge?’ I would cut down to two tea cups when I was not working with him. There were quite a few emotional scenes to be shot for our film ‘Chirag’ and he was of great help. He saw to it that the surroundings were quiet and that nobody disturbed us when we performed. I remember, we were shooting for ‘Hum Hindustani’ at the Bhandardara dam. All of us were supposed to meet in Igatpuri but my car broke down in the night and I was stranded. Sunil reached Igatpuri but then he realised I had not reached there, he returned to check what had happened. He was very concerned and protective about his heroines. When we went for a cricket match to Delhi, he told me and some of our other female colleagues to beware of policemen as they might misbehave and pinch our bottom.
(Sunil Dutt and Asha Parekh films: Hum Hindustani, Chhaya, Chirag, Bhai Bhai, Zakhmee)
Dharmendra: ‘He hated being called ‘Uncle’’
Dharmendra was very shy and introverted. He took some time to open up. One day I decided to harass him. When the shot was ready, I told the assistants to call him and to address him as ‘Uncle’. Dharmendra hated being called ‘uncle’. He got very upset and fired them for doing so. When he came to know that I had played mischief, he asked them to call me ‘aunty’. But I took it in my stride and didn’t react the way he did which made him even more mad at me.
(Dharmendra and Asha Parekh films: Aaye Din Bahar Ke, Aaya Saawan Jhoom Ke, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Samadhi, Shikar)
Jeetendra: ‘He rattled mostly about film business and box office collections’
In the beginning, Jeetendra and I were not comfortable with each other at all so much so that we would avoid each other. As soon as I would reach the studio, he would pack up and vice versa. Finally we had to shoot for a Holi song together for ‘Naya Rasta’ which was being picturised at Mehboob Studio and there we got friendly with each other. Jeetendra loved talking commerce and business. All the time he would tell us about which film worked and which ones bombed. Then he would even give us box-office figures, these numbers would be on his finger tips.
(Jeetendra and Asha Parekh films: Naya Rasta, Caravan, Rani Aur Lalpari, Udhar Ka Sindoor)
Rajesh Khanna: ‘He would fire producers and drive them off the sets’
Rajesh was also quite introverted. I did three films with him, all of those were in theromantic genre. I was in top form when he entered the industry and he was not very comfortable talking to me. I would be left wondering that how I will do a romantic film with a hero who is so aloof, he was almost frightened of me. Later he became a bit friendly but still he won’t talk much. He would say hello to me from a distance as soon as he entered the sets. He’d a very peculiar dislike about the presence of producers on the sets. He just didn’t like the idea of the film’s producer hanging on the sets and he would express his displeasure openly. Sometimes he would come and tell me, ‘I fired that producer, he won’t come on the sets again’. Once when we were shooting in Kashmir, one of the producers told me that he was going fishing since the film’s hero didn’t want him to be present on the sets.
(Rajesh Khanna and Asha Parekh films: Baharon Ke Sapne, Aan Milo Sajna, Kati Patang)
Asha Parekh started her career as a child artist in the film ‘Aasmaan’ (1952). Legendary director Bimal Roy saw her dance at a stage function and cast her at the age of 12 in ‘Baap Beti’ (1954). Asha did a couple of more child roles and later went back to resume her schooling. At 16, she decided to debut as a heroine in Vijay Bhatt’s ‘Goonj Uthi Shehnai’ (1959) but she was rejected as Bhatt felt she was not star material. Very soon, film producer Subodh Mukherjee and writer-director Nasir Hussain cast her as the heroine in ‘Dil Deke Dekho’(1959) opposite Shammi Kapoor which made her a huge star. The rest is history. Asha was in the A league between 1959 and 1973.