April 18, 2010

Moushumi Chatterjee: “I am a flirt”

Moushumi talks of her disagreements with Gulzar, Hrishikesh Mukherjee in this interview

‘Dil to bachcha hai jee’ written by Gulzar (Ishqiya) is her current favourite number. And it sums up the child-woman perfectly. “I am a flirt by nature. I can flirt with a six-year-old and a 60-year-old. I am a warm person. I love to talk.” She doesn’t want life to shortchange her at any turn. “The other day I was smoking a cigarette from my husband’s packet. My daughter told me not to. I said, ‘I am 50 plus. Let me do whatever I wish to. I am not a regular smoker anyway’,” she says.

The Japanese Wife
Initially, the film gave her the jitters. “The language spoken in the film is not Bengali. It’s the language used in the Sunderbans. I got cold feet at the workshop as the pronunciation was difficult. I didn’t want a black spot on my career. I told Sohagdi (Sen, acting co-ordinator) that I wouldn’t come from the next day. But Reenadi (director Aparna Sen’s pet name) came up to me and said, “If I was expecting 60 per cent from you, you are giving 110 per cent. I can’t imagine anyone else doing this part. You can keep listening to the dialogue cassette before and after the workshop’,” she narrates.

The willful Taurean often encountered differences with her directors. “Once during Anuraag, Shakti (Samanta) uncle yelled at me, ‘Green eye shadow for a blind girl? Who asked you to put it?’ My make-up person had suggested it.” she laughs. She remembers having a ‘huge ego problem’ with Gulzar too. “I shot for three days for Koshish (1972) and then stepped out. He later cast me in Angoor (1982). We never talked about our differences. Sometimes you don’t need to say sorry. He was a family friend.”
There was also rancour between the late Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Moushumi because she refused his Guddi (1971). “A few years before he died, Hrishida told me, ‘When you refused my Guddi, I had decided that I’d never work with you’. But we later did the TV serial Talash for my husband,” she recounts.

Having a pretty and successful wife must have been unsettling for her husband. But she denies this saying, “Babu never put any bandish (binding) on me. He knew exactly where and with whom I was. Even if a guy liked me, I would tell him. He would have been upset had I exposed because he comes from a conservative family. I remember, the first time I wore a ghagra choli in Kachche Dhaage (1973) I started howling. That’s why I began playing roles of a bhabhi and wife very early in my career. While my peers Neetu Singh and Dimple Kapadia wore midis I wore saris and bindis. But with my husband I would wear skirts and happily party.”

She does admit that she had to deal with a lot of unnecessary male attention. “Even some of Babu’s friends were interested in me. I’d tell them, ‘If he comes to know, you will lose our friendship. Do you think it’s worth a fling?’ I cannot be the reason to break anyone’s family. Unknowingly, I may have hurt people. But the minute I understood the repercussions I said no way. Every person goes through a phase of loneliness, when they might slip,” she says with candour. Did she ever slip? “Yes!” she answers with honesty adding that her husband knew it all. “There was nothing to disclose. I never hid anything from him. He understood that if I didn’t have admirers, who would? But he believed in his love,” she states. “There was someone in my life who wished to marry me. But he told me, ‘You will never leave Babu not because you love him but because his love for you will never let you go’,” she shares. “No man ever came to me for cheap thrills. They all wanted to marry me. They were willing to break their own marriage. That sounded good at that point of time. But you can never make your home by breaking someone else’s. Divorce affects children. They go through torture when uncomplimentary things are said about their parents.”

Farhana Farookh