'I regret the years that I did not work. I took a break at the peak of my career. I should not have done that. You lose contact with people and to start all over again is a struggle.'
Rajnigandha actress Vidya Sinha looks back at her life.
Amol Palekar's pretty girl-next-door heroine Vidya Sinha is better known as Dadi these days.
After winning the Miss Bombay title, Vidya Sinha launched on a successful movie career, giving us films like Rajnigandha and Chotti Si Baat in the 1970s.
She gave up her career when daughter Jhanavi came into her life.
Today, she is a part of television serials like Qubool Hai and Itti Si Khushi.
Vidya Sinha talks to Patcy N/ Rediff.com about her movies, her marriage, and why she wants to work till the end.
'I joined the movies by fluke'
My father Rana Pratap Singh produced two films, Vidya and Jeet, both starring Dev Anand and Suraiya, in 1948.
My grandfather Mohan Sinha was also a producer and director; he directed 32 films and introduced actors such as Madan Puri and Jeevan.
He was the one who gave Madhubala her screen name in the 1947 film Mere Bhagwan (before that she was the child artiste Baby Mumtaz. In her first film as an adult, Neel Kamal, she was credited as Mumtaz).
He was the first director to make a film with a multi-star cast, Shri Krishn Arjun Yuddha, in 1945.
He was also the first director to show flying cars in the film Badalti Duniya (1943); this was before Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968).
I joined the movies by fluke; my father and grandfather did not want me to be in films.
We lived in Matunga (in central Mumbai). I was the only child. My mother died the day I was born. My father married again and had his own family, so I was brought up by my grandparents, my mother’s parents.
In 1968, I became Miss Bombay. I knew nothing about beauty contests, but my aunt forced me to participate and I won the title.
I started modelling after winning the contest -- for Colgate, Khatau Fabrics, Lipton tea to name a few.
I married a Tamilian Brahmin, Vernkateshwaran Iyer. We were neighbours, we fell in love and got married. I was 19.
'I told my family if you don’t let me work in a film, I will walk out of the house'
I was noticed from ads by Basu Chatterjee. That’s how I got Rajnigandha (1974).
I was married when I did my first film. My family was not okay with it, so I told them if you don’t let me work in a film, I will walk out of the house. They had no option and allowed me to do the film.
Raja Kaka was actually the first film I signed but it was released after Rajnigandha.
I did many movies with Basu Chatterjee -- Rajnigandha, Chhoti Si Bat, Tumhare Liye, and a few guest appearances.
'I knew nothing about films, about acting, about camera, about lighting. Basu Chatterjee taught me from zero'
I knew nothing about films, about acting, about camera, about lighting. He taught me from zero. He was my mentor.
Not only was he a good director, he was a very nice human being.
He explained the scenes very well and I was good at picking up. All the scenes in Rajnigandha were sweet and simple and there was no drama, no elaborate scenes.
I did exactly what Basuda told me to do. Even today I feel I am a director’s actor. I feel very comfortable if my director guides me and tells me what to do.
I think getting into movies was the right decision for me. I was not aware I could do it, but it came very easily to me.
My very first film, with no big star cast, was a big hit. It was a low budget film -- I think it was made in Rs 2 lakh. I was paid Rs 10,000 for the film.
'Amol Palekar had a Marathi accent so he had to work on his diction'
I worked with Amol Palekar in Rajnigandha. We were both new at that time. It was not awkward because no one was a star. We were both learning.
He had a Marathi accent so he had to work on his diction. He is a very nice person, we are still friends. He lives in Pune now and invited me there for his birthday but I had a busy shooting schedule.
We did not have make-up rooms and vanity vans in those days. We all sat together and chatted and practised our dialogues.
'I did not take up Satyam Shivam Sundaram because I was not comfortable wearing the clothes that Zeenat Aman wore'
I was offered Satyam Shivam Sundaram, but I did not take it, as I was not comfortable wearing the clothes that Zeenat Aman wore.
Rajji (Raj Kapoor) and my grandfather were very close and he had worked with my grandfather in a film (Dil Ki Rani, 1947).
His dad, Prithviraj, also worked with my grandfather (in Shri Krishnarjun Yudh, 1945). We knew each other really well but still I told him I wouldn’t be comfortable acting in his film.
It was the dream of every girl to work with Raj Kapoor and so I still regret saying no to him and not working with him as I always wanted to work with him.
'It was my dream to work with Dilipsaab'
It was my dream to work with Dilipsaab (Kumar). In fact, we were to do a film together that was made by director and producer Nasir Hussain but it didn’t happen.
I have not done many movies; I did select work, not because I was choosy, but because I was not career-minded. I was not running after money. I just wanted to enjoy my work.
Among the movies I have done my favourites are Pati Patni Aur Woh, Tumhare Liye and Chhoti Si Baat, and of course, Rajnigandha as it was my first film. But I like Chhoti Si Baat more.
'Sanjeev Kumar never behaved like a hero'
My other dream hero was Sanjeev Kumar. I was very fond of him and he was such a good actor.
As a kid, I saw a film of his -- I don’t remember the name -- but it was a stunt movie. He was very new in the industry at that time. When I joined films, I really wanted to work with him.
I signed a film called Mukti with Shashi Kapoor and Sanjeev Kumar and that’s how I got the first chance to work with him. After that, we did Pati Patni Aur Woh and Tumhare Liye.
He was a very simple person, very down-to-earth. He never behaved like an actor or hero, never showed off, he was pleasant and friendly and always joking. He was good company. And he was a brilliant actor.
'I don’t want to talk about my second marriage, and moving to Australia'
I was doing well in my career but I gave up acting in 1982 because I felt it was enough. I had worked in films for a long time. I just did not want to work anymore. There was no other reason.
I produced television serials for Doordarshan, Singhasan Battisi and Darrar. I produced two films, one in Marathi called Bijli (1986) and the other in Gujarati, Jeevi Rabaran. Both did well at the box office.
Then I adopted my daughter Jhanavi. I did not want to leave her home with a maid and go to work. When she was in the fifth standard, she told me to start working again.
By then, there were no roles for me in films so I started working in television serials.
I don’t want to talk about my second marriage, and moving to Australia.
'Television has now become big, glossy, more jewellery, from the time I started'
My first television serial was Tamanaa with director Ravi Rai. It was a very beautiful serial and had lots of actors, among them Mandira Bedi.
Work wise, television was very different. There is something in films that is missing in serials... I can’t point out what.
But now, I enjoy doing television more. It pays well and on the sets, you are close to everybody. Serials go on for years and the actors become your family. You stay in touch even after the serial ends.
I do only one serial at a time. I work from 9 am to 9 pm.
Television has now become big, glossy, more jewellery, from the time I started. It was very realistic and simple then.
The serial that I am doing now, Itni Si Kushi has a good subject. It's very true to life.
'I regret the years that I did not work'
My daughter is grown up, and I don’t have any responsibilities. Working keeps me young, as I work with younger people.
If I was sitting at home at this age, I would have felt old and frustrated. I don’t feel lonely because I am working.
I feel every woman, even if she is 80, should work if she can walk and remember. It keeps you going and it is good.
I regret the years that I did not work. I wanted to take it easy and at the peak of my career, I took a break. But I understood my mistake; I should not have taken that break. You lose contact with people and to start all over again is a struggle.
I will never give up working because it makes me happy.