‘After pack-up, Sridevi took a shower in the studio itself, changed, and returned to the set with a wad of notes.’
‘She distributed it amongst every technician who had worked on the song Na Jaane Kahan Se Aaye Hai.’
Pankaj Parashar got the opportunity to direct Sridevi in her personal favourite film, ChaalBaaz.
Interestingly, he had conned her into doing it!
The director takes us behind the scenes, and tells Rediff.com Senior Contributor Roshmila Bhattacharya, “I finally picked up the mike and announced, ‘If you have stopped admiring yourself, we can take the shot.’ Sridevi looked up at me and retorted, ‘Sir, where will you find a heroine like me? Tall, beautiful, an excellent dancer.’ That was the only time I saw her praise herself.”
‘Sridevi was a natural born actress’
I had directed National School of Drama actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Neena Gupta.
I had done intense workshops in FTII with Om Puri and other seniors.
I was well versed in the Konstantin Stanislavski method acting theories.
But Sridevi was a natural born actress and on a different level.
We had just shot the scene (ChaalBaaz) in which Anupam Kher, who plays her uncle Tribhuvan, whips Anju mercilessly.
Sridevi had come rolling down the stairs herself.
Buoyed up by how well the scene had turned out, I suggested we shoot the tandav, which actually is the reason Anupam whips her in the film.
I got Saroj Khan’s dancers, who had rehearsed the dance on their own, to perform it on Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s somewhat violent piece of music.
But Sridevi refused to do it.
We were all clapping, completely mesmerised
She argued that Anju would never dance, she was too terrified of her uncle and aunt.
I pointed out that we had already established in an earlier scene, when she dances before her younger brother and the family retainer, that Anju is a trained classical dancer and that she enjoys dancing in secret.
The music could make her dance again, this time in front of others.
She had cowered behind a Shiva statue earlier.
I told her I would intercut the dance with shots of Nataraj, making the scene more dramatic.
I could see she was softening.
Saroj urged her on, telling her I was a new-age director and understood technique.
Sridevi asked Saroj if she could tone down the steps.
Saroj refused, saying, ‘Trust me, trust the director. We will cut portions out if you feel it’s out of character, but you do the dance with full intensity.’
She finally started dancing and boy, did she give it her all!
We were stunned by her intensity!
I would rate it as her best tandav performance across her 300 films.
After two-three shots, we were all clapping, completely mesmerised.
Sridevi just lit up the screen.
We had just three days to finish Na Jaane Kahan Se Aaye Hai
After she heard the song Na Jaane Kahan Se Aaye Hai, she threw me a challenge: ‘You keep talking of this cinema and that cinema, FTII and advertising, let us see what you can do with this song.’
I went to my ad agency and made a whole story board and showed it to her.
She had never seen one and was impressed.
We had just three days to finish the song, before a strike brought shoots to a halt at Mehboob Studio.
On the set, it was one big competition.
Saroj would suggest an idea, I would add to it and Sridevi would come up with some funky dance steps.
We were thoroughly enjoying the process.
Even Sunny Deol joined in, saying I can do this step.
It was probably his best dancing in films.
Sridevi had fever, but she had to shoot, that too in the rain
On the second day, Sridevi developed a fever and her temperature climbed up to 101 degrees.
But there was no option, she had to shoot, that too in the rain.
She did so uncomplainingly.
My mother dropped by and cupping Sridevi’s face in hands told her lovingly, ‘You are so beautiful.’
To her shock, Sridevi’s skin was burning and she exclaimed, ‘You have fever!’
Sridevi knew that if her mother learnt she was unwell, she would not let her shoot.
So she told me quietly, ‘Give your mother and my mother Gold Spot and lock them up in the make-up room, otherwise this song will not happen.’
At 2 am on the third day, we wrapped up the song.
After pack-up, Sridevi took a shower in the studio itself, changed into salwar kameez, and returned to the set with a wad of notes.
She distributed it amongst every technician who had worked on the song.
By then, it was 2.30 am, but I was not allowed to go home.
I was told that Sridevi and Saroj had planned a surprise for me.
It was like sitting through a Chitrahaar of Sridevi’s songs
We drove to Gemini cinema in Bandra (north west Mumbai).
Sridevi had booked the theatre and (the well-known exhibitor) Manoj Desai had left it open for us.
Once we were there, I learnt that all day, the producers of her under-production films had been contacted and told to send rough cuts of their songs.
Since Sridevi wanted to see them, everyone from Yash Chopra to Harmesh Malhotra, sent the songs across in cans.
And that memorable night, from 3 am to 5 am, all the songs were played on screen, with us, including Sridevi, shouting and clapping.
It was like sitting through a Chitrahaar of Sridevi’s songs.
One big party!
Long before Na Jaane Kahan Se Aaye Hai won the Filmfare Award for Best Song that year, Sridevi, the visionary that she was, knew we had shot a classic song and wanted to show her appreciation to me.
The next 10 days she was ill and in bed!
That was the only time I saw her praise herself
When we were shooting the Tera Bimar Mera Dil song at Filmistan Studio in Mumbai, we had placed a mirror on the floor.
Sridevi was supposed to sprawl on the ground and we were to pour water on her reflection.
She kept looking at herself in the mirror.
She seemed carried away.
I finally picked up the mike and announced, ‘If you have stopped admiring yourself, we can take the shot.’
Sridevi looked up at me and retorted, ‘Sir, where will you find a heroine like me? Tall, beautiful, an excellent dancer… Sir, I can dance and I am a super actress.’
We all laughed.
That was the only time I saw her praise herself.
I insisted she mention my name when accepting the Filmfare Award
I told her she would win the Filmfare Award for ChaalBaaz.
Since she was four, Sridevi confided with a laugh, her directors had been telling her this.
Then, one morning, I got a call from her at 7 am.
‘Congratulate me, I have won the Filmfare Award for Best Actress this year. You have to come for the function,’ she informed me excitedly, adding that they were not telling her if it was for Chandni or ChaalBaaz.
‘Of course, it’s ChaalBaaz. In Chandni, you only wore beautiful chiffon saris and danced,’ I joked.
She laughed and reminded me that Chandni was a Yash Chopra film.
I was confident that the award was for ChaalBaaz.
I insisted that Sridevi mention my name when she was on stage accepting the award.
As she was walking past me, I shouted, ‘Bhool gayee (You forgot).’
Later, she told me that she was going to mention my name, but Amitabh Bachchan who presented her the trophy, masti mein, poked her with it.
And Sridevi, who was a very simple girl, ghabra gayi (got confused), and forgot.
Why didn’t you come to me with this when I was younger?
Sridevi publicly admitted that ChaalBaaz was her favourite film and I was her favourite director.
We then collaborated on Meri Biwi Ka Jawab Nahin, which was being produced by her make-up man.
He died, the schedule got pushed, the financier ran away and it was a mess.
They eventually patched up scenes and released the film.
I told them not to use my name.
Sridevi and I would bump into each other at the J W Marriott hotel and would often talk about doing another film.
Just six months before she passed away, I had narrated a subject to her, of a bar girl.
‘Why didn’t you come to me with this when I was younger?’ she chided. ‘Now it’s too late, I wouldn’t dare to do a role like this at my age. Par kuch naya karte hai (But let’s do something new),’ she urged.
I promised her I would come up with something.
On February 24, 2018, I was in Jabalpur for a shoot.
I woke up to the news on TV that she was gone.
It was shocking.
Now, I am left with only memories of ChaalBaaz… and a desire to work with Janhvi one day.
I see Sridevi in her daughter today.
Don’t miss Part 1 of this interview, which you can read here.
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