Sharmila Tagore: My Grand Kids Have Taught Me To…
She exudes a charming elegance and sophistication which remains unmatched. A decorated career spanning over six decades, Sharmila Tagore continues to be a scene stealer.
Having faced the camera first as a 13-year-old in Satyajit Ray’s Apur Sansar and now at 78 years she made her comeback after a hiatus of nearly 12 years with “Gulmohar,“I didn’t realize it had been that long. I was busy doing other things, restoring Pataudi as well as my several other commitments. Also no one came to me with a script that genuinely excited me. I was living my life and had not stopped everything, just waiting for a film”, she says matter of factly.
Her timeless romance with the the movies evident, she reveals she has never been conscious in front of the camera and reveals she had not watched most of her films until the pandemic.
“We used to joke that it wasn’t enough working in films and now you want us to watch them too. Back in the day we all had our reasons to do films, either to pay rent or to help out a colleague. When we got a good narration we were happy to do a film, money was no consideration. So now when I revisit my filmography I want to apologize to the audience”, she says with a laugh.
A trendsetter as well as an actor who challenged stereotypes in her professional and personal life, Sharmila Tagore reveals she always had a streak of independence.
“I went against the grain of what the typical Hindi film star was perceived as. I was never chaperoned to the sets, didn’t wear white and smiled a lot at people. A lot of people back in the day felt liberated seeing me,” she says flashing her dimpled smile.
She also did the unthinkable by choosing to get married at the peak of her career. Her dreamy romance and marriage to the dashing cricketer and titular Nawab of the Pataudi Family, Mansoor Ali Khan (Tiger) Pataudi in 1968, remains Bollywood’s favourite love stories.
“When I married my husband, I was told I was stupid to get married at this stage of my career. They warned me saying I would no longer be accepted as a heroine. I was also told my marriage would break up if I continued working. So much so that even my husband was told to rethink his decision to marry an actor. The end of my marriage was predicted even before we took our vows.”
She narrates the time when she shot the famous cover for a film magazine in a bikini. She had sent an urgent message to Tiger Pataudi, her fiance then warning him about the same. “He just reverted with a I am sure you are looking good. Tiger encouraged me to work.”
Giving her career’s best post marriage with jubilee hits such as Aradhana, Amar Prem, Mausam to name she reveals it took an effort to balance career and family post the birth of her children Saif, Saba and Soha.
“I couldn’t give up work and couldn’t give up my family. I came back home one night and everyone was asleep. That day I realized I needed to wake up people if I needed to talk to them. I knew at that point I could not be a single career person. Family was very important and I wanted both. It’s not easy always, you need support, but if you need something you need to work for it.”
The constant scrutiny and social media frenzy around her grandchildren Taimur, Jeh and Innaya has been a cause for concern for the family. The family had expressed a strong reaction when Taimur had been brutally trolled when he had asked the paparazzi to stop filming him. Sharmila Tagore confesses things were far tamer when she was raising her children.
“I remember Saif would have his cheeks pulled and asked“ ‘will you be an actor or a cricketer?’ Now it is different, but what I have learnt from Sara (Ali Khan) is to accept and not fight. That it’s the reality they have to live with. Jeh and Taimur will take it in their stride. But they feel the attention of the media, they feel very important and very special. How that will pan out, we don’t know. Its not their achievement, its that of their parents achievements, but then who knows”, she says questionably.
Playing the family matriarch in “Gulmohar” Sharmila Tagore says there are aspects of her in her screen character.
So is she the person the family turns to whenever in a dilemma ? She remembers fondly getting a letter from her five year old granddaughter Innaya saying, “you are super, stay super“ after helping her in a situation.
“I remember taking Soha to school, and one boy came and pushed her. I was all set to get involved, but before I could do anything Soha pushed the boy. I realized I don’t have to get involved here. When you have a family you stay tuned and try and help each other. As a senior person you have to leave your doors open and if they want to talk to to you they will and if they don’t they won’t. But you need to be aware of what’s happening and throw hints here and there. You need to convey you are available and as the elder in the family keeping your door open is important”, she responds practically.
With rave reviews pouring in for “Gulmohar” can we expect more of her. “My decisions are very organic, if the right story comes along, why not”, she says.