Years ago, Bindu, as Rita, shimmied to ‘Hungama Ho Gaya’ in ‘Anhonee’ (1973) and it’s been a testament to her stardom that the club number continues to rock dance floors till date. Shabbo in ‘Kati Patang’, Mona Darling in ‘Zanjeer’, Kamini in ‘Hawas’… an antipode to the coy heroine, Bindu was brazen seduction. Rum eyes, a Rubenesque figure that gamboled in thigh-high gowns and hot pants with equal ease, Bindu was pure wanton. Spelling charm for the hero and alarm for the heroine, she was both dreaded and desired. Few would know that Bindu fell in love with neighbour Champak Lal Zhaveri at 15. She married him at 18. And in a marked departure from stereotype, the much-married Bindu entered films to reign as the iconic vixen of Hindi cinema. Personifying hate on screen and heart off it… ETimes unravels the real Bindu in this week’s #BigInterview…
How did you end up choosing films as your career?
After my father (noted film producer Nanubhai Desai) passed away, being the eldest, the responsibility of looking after my eight siblings–seven sisters and one brother–fell on me. I began modelling for sarees. I also featured in short films. I played Mala Sinha’s daughter in Mohan Kumar’s ‘Anpadh’ (1962).
And you got married at 18…
My husband (businessman Champak Lal Zhaveri) was my neighbour in Sonawala Terrace at Tardeo. I was around 14-15 when our romance began. I was doing ‘Anpadh’ those days. Initially, we faced opposition. But he being a likeable person, the family agreed. We then went on to have a complete three-day wedding with mehendi, grahshanti rituals, and a reception.
Was it easy to work after marriage?
When I was offered ‘Do Raaste’ (1979), my husband said, ‘Kya zaroorat hai? (What’s the need?)’ We were comfortable financially. But he respected my shauq (passion) for acting. At first, people didn’t know that I was married. (Smiles) Mujhe bhi fayda ho gaya (I, too, benefitted from that)! But gradually, people came to know. Raj Khosla’s ‘Do Raaste’ was based on Chandrakant Kakodkar’s novel ‘Nilambari’. Khosla saab said that though I was playing the vamp, my character was the protagonist of the film. He didn’t want to call my character Nilambari as it had a mythological connotation. He chose Neela instead. I was hesitant to play Neela. I feared gaaliyan milengi (I’d be abused) and that the image of a vamp would stick with me. The film didn’t receive a great response in the first week but the positive mouth-of-word turned it into a massive hit. Till date, I regard it as my best film.
And then, ‘Kati Patang’ presented you in a glamorous avatar…
I had signed ‘Ittefaq’, ‘Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke’ (both in 1969) and ‘Kati Patang’ (1970) around the same time. Director Shakti Samanta asked me if I’d play a cabaret dancer in ‘Kati Patang’. I like to take on challenges. I admired Helenji’s dance. Maine bhi tukka lagaya (I winged it)! The song ‘Mera Naam Hai Shabnam’ was directed by Robert Master, who choreographed Helenji as well. Though when I saw the rushes of the dance, I didn’t like it much. I requested Shaktida, ‘Dobara shoot kariye na (Please get it reshot).’ (Smiles) Magar woh kahan sunne wale the (He was not one to listen)! The number began with a dialogue and people loved it. Then there was no looking back with films like ‘Dushman’, ‘Garam Masala’, ‘Raja Jani’, ‘Joshilay’, ‘Imtihan’, ‘Hawas’ and… ‘Dastaan’ opposite Dilip Kumar saab.
You got along famously with both heroes and villains…
The heroes would confide in me. They knew I’d never break their confidence. Men, being men, they’d compliment me saying, ‘Oh you’re so sexy!’ Some praised my eyes. But no one crossed the line. Balraj Sahniji once remarked, ‘You’re so beautiful… like a statue’. He liked my Urdu diction, too. He couldn’t believe I was a Gujarati. My mother (well-known stage artiste Jyotsna) was born and brought up in Hyderabad. So, I picked up the Urdu talaffuz (pronunciation) from her.
On seeing me walk in with my hair-dresser, makeup person, and other chaperones, Prem Chopra would joke, ‘Bindu ki battalion aa rahi hai’. Ranjeet, largely vegetarian, would keep having chaas or milk on the sets, while Amjad Khan would down cups and cups of sweet tea. He’d say, ‘Yehi meri sharaab hai (This is my liquor)!’
What about the heroines?
The heroines were nice towards me. I played the vamp. Had I been a heroine, then jealousy could have crept in. Occasionally, some would glance at the costume I was to wear. Some even complimented me saying, ‘Oh you’re so beautiful, so sexy!’
Did your husband feel possessive about his ‘sexy’ wife?
My husband never felt insecure or possessive because he knows how much I love him. We have a great understanding between us. He’s good-natured and gets along with everyone. I’m proud to have him in my life. He’s the pillar behind me. I was friendly with my co-stars. But I knew how to keep people at a distance. They respected me. I never attended a party alone. My husband accompanied me. And we never stayed up late.
How did you maintain yourself?
I’d avoid eating while shooting the dance scenes. I’d skip lunch on the sets–no roti (breads), no chawal (rice), only buttermilk, juices, or fruit. After pack-up, I would diligently do yoga and exercise. Like Helenji, a skin-coloured nylon/georgette fabric was stitched along with my blouse to cover bare skin.
Did you ever wish to be a heroine?
Honestly, I’d wonder why I couldn’t be a heroine. But I would dismiss the thought. I was once shooting ‘Lagan’ (1971) in Mysore. ‘Pakeezah’ (1972) was also being reshot there. Both the units were put up at The Oberoi hotel. I went across to meet Meena Kumariji. She had a fever that day. But as per habit, she’d washed her hair. After lunch, she had zarda paan (the zarda was brought from Lucknow), which had coloured her lips red. She looked so beautiful!
The paan had such khushboo (fragrance), I was tempted to have it. She gave me a lighter version of it. But before I could realise, the room started spinning. I spitted it out. Meenaji couldn’t stop laughing. Anyway, in the course of the conversation, she advised me, ‘Heroine banne ke chakkar mein mat padna (Don’t fall in the trap of becoming a heroine). The vamp category is empty. Tum wahan raaj karogi! (You’ll rule the vamp category)’ That advice remained with me.
Did the vamp image spill into real life, too?
Oh yes! Once Raakhee and I hugged each other with affection in public when I heard someone in the crowd remark, ‘Why is Raakhee hugging Bindu?’ They thought I was evil. Gaaliyan toh dete the theatre mein bhi (People used abuse to me in theatres). But I took it as praise for acting well. The gaalis were my awards. Having said that, during my qawwali, ‘Raaz ki baat keh doon toh’ (‘Dharma’, 1973) with Pran saab, viewers excitedly threw coins at the screen in the theatres.
When male fans would come to meet me, their wives would pull them away. Women would hide their husbands from me. They feared dore daalegi (I’d hit on their men). As though the husbands were so handsome! I’d laugh it off. But today people have understood the difference between reel and real. As a person, I’m soft-hearted. I feel sorry if someone has been hurt because of me.
Did you have any crazy fan experiences?
There were many. One crazy fan would write letters in blood. I’d feel scared to open such letters. Funnily, he even mentioned his blood group. What did I have to do with his blood group? Another crazy fan wanted to marry me. He wrote, “Agar aap balcony mein aaogi toh mai samajh jaaonga aap mere se shaadi karne ke liye tayyar ho (If you appear in the balcony, I’ll take it that you’re ready to marry me).” (Laughs) I stopped going to the balcony.
Tell us something about Rajesh Khanna, whose superstardom you witnessed from close quarters.
Kaka (Rajesh Khanna) would crack jokes and have fun on the sets of ‘Do Raaste’. And when Rajesh began laughing, he couldn’t stop. Once Raj Khoslaji, in good spirit, announced a pack-up. We all drove to Taloja, had biryani and returned. After ‘Aradhana’, ‘Ittefaq’, ‘Do Raaste’… Kaka’s popularity knew no bounds. When we were shooting ‘Mere Jeevan Saathi’ (1972), college girls would come bhar bhar ke (in droves). Kaka would perform with josh on seeing them. Girls would kiss his car. I never witnessed such a craze for any star.
Kaka’s lunch came from home. He was fond of matka dahi. Five to six matkas of malai wala dahi would be sent for all of us. Once, we were shooting at Mehboob Studio when Anju (Rajesh was dating actor/model Anju Mahendroo then) called to say she’d bought crockery for the house. Kaka rushed home during lunch break just to have a look at it. Those days, Anju did all his shopping.
Hamein hawa lag gayi thi (we had got a wind of it) … but we were still shocked when Kaka got married to Dimple Kapadia. It’s all destiny. Anju maintained a great friendship with him till the end. She was always helpful towards him. Dimple and Anju shared a good relationship too. When we went for his prayer meet, they all stood together as family.
What memories do you have of Amitabh Bachchan?
‘Gehri Chaal’ (1973) was one of my early films with Amitji. We were shooting for it in Madras. Those days Jaya (Bachchan) was also shooting for ‘Gaai Aur Gori’ (1973) there. We all were put up in the same hotel. We’d go out for dinner together. That’s when we came to know about their romance. He used to enjoy music, especially ghazals. Woh seedhe saadhe nazar aate hai (He seems pretty innocent) but Amitji is extremely naughty. Chedh kar chhup ho jaate the (He’d get playful but gracefully)!
I had two other releases with Amitji in 1973 – ‘Zanjeer’ and ‘Abhimaan’. In ‘Abhimaan’ my role was of a sensitive woman, who loves Amitji’s character but wants him to be happy with his wife. In ‘Zanjeer’, I played Ajit’s girlfriend Mona. The character ‘Mona Darling’ grew popular after Ajitji’s demise, as his style was mimicked.
We shot ‘Ganga Ki Saugandh’ (1978) in Rishikesh. The cast would drive for one-and-a-half hours to the famous Kwality restaurant in Dehradun for dinner. We’d reach there by 11 pm. The tables would be kept reserved for us.
A word on today’s superstars, Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, with whom you’ve worked as well.
Salman Khan (‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun…!’) is bindaas. So is Sanjay Dutt (‘Jai Vikraanta’). They do junglee masti on the sets and are fun-loving. Shah Rukh Khan (‘Main Hoon Na’, ‘Om Shanti Om’) is reserved and polished.
Do you have any regrets in life or career?
Motherhood was not in my destiny. Main maa nahi ban saki (I couldn’t be a mother). I was expecting a baby in 1977. I’d even stopped shooting. But some complications arose. I lost the baby on the day I’d completed six months of pregnancy. The next day we were to have the godh bharai (baby shower) ceremony. It was sad. Sunil Dutt saab and Nargisji came home to give their condolences. Sharmila (Tagore) wrote me a beautiful letter. I can never forget these kind gestures.
Later, we tried for a test tube baby. I went to London and was under the treatment of Dr Patrick Steptoe. But it didn’t work for me. I stayed there in intervals of one and a half months, three months… But I was told to stay for a year. It wasn’t feasible.
Every woman craves to be a mother. But I realised that one must not push too hard for something and be content with what destiny offers. Laxmikantji (of Pyarelal), who was also my brother-in-law, once mentioned that I was not his ‘saali’ (sister-in-law) but his mother. I cried when I read this. I love my sisters and their children deeply. I find happiness in them.
Credit Source – https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/hindi/bollywood/news/bindu-women-would-hide-their-husbands-from-me-biginterview/articleshow/88097095.cms