As Independent India turned 76, so did the ethereal Raakhee I know better than most, says Subhash K Jha.
Contrary to the melancholic aura Raakhee wears, she is is actually a very entertaining raconteur.
Her stories about the quirks of filmdom have me in splits.
My favourite story of hers is about this mediocre film, which won in all the major categories at am awards function in 1972. It got the Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Music.
They called up Raakhee to tell her she would be receiving the award for Best Actress.
Raakhee refused: "I told them thanks, but no thanks. Why should I accept an award for a film where I had barely five scenes and two songs? And that too, in a very mediocre film."
"I know my worth. I know when I was good. For example, I worked really hard on my double role in Sharmeelee. I got not even a dhela (pebble) for it. Most of my best work went unrecognised, but that didn't bother me."
Arguably, the highlight of Raakhee's career was Yash Chopra's Kabhi Kabhie.
Yash Chopra wrote the role for Raakhee.
Sahir Ludhianvi wrote an entire song in praise of her beauty.
Yash Chopra insisted he wouldn't make Kabhi Kabhie with any other actress.
There was just one problem: Raakhee was recently married and she had promised her husband, the great Gulzar, that she won't return to acting.
Once when Yash Chopra met her, in the presence of Amitabh Bachchan, he played the song Kabhi Kabhie Mere Dil Mein Khayaal Aata Hai and Pamela Chopra declared, 'This song is for Raakhee.'
That's how Kabhi Kabhie was offered to Raakhee.
But the film destroyed Raakhee's marriage.
Yash Chopra was eternally fascinated by Raakhee.
The first time she worked with Yash Chopra was in Joshila in 1972, where she played the female lead with Dev Anand.
Even before Joshila, Yash came to Raakhee with Ittefaq.
But she couldn't play that unconventional role of a woman who murders her husband because she was committed to do Jeevan Mrityu with Director Satyen Bose as her first film.
When Yash Chopra directed Daag, his first independent film after breaking away from his brother B R Chopra, he gave Raakhee the author-backed role.
Her character was taken from novelist Gulshan Nandah's novel Maili Chandni/
Raakhee didn't have a single song in Daag. but she didn't care.
The unconventional route always fascinated her.
In Aparna Sen's Paroma. Raakhee played a wife from a traditional Bengali family who has an affair with a fashion photographer.
Her kiss with Mukul Sharma shook the traditionalists.
Shooting for Kabhi Kabhie wasn't easy. At the start itself, Raakhee had to do romantic scenes with Amitabh Bachchan.
That was a problem, since Amitabh and Jaya called her 'bahurani'.
On the first day of shooting, Amitabh had to sing Sahir's romantic lines to her.
Raakhee felt awkward, and Yash Chopra helped her to get over it.
Incidentally, all the jewellery that Raakhee wore for her suhaag raat sequence in Kabhi Kabhie were her jewellery from her own wedding!
After Kabhi Kabhie, Raakhee did Trishul with Yash Chopra. While shooting for it, Raakhee also shot for Doosra Aadmi, which Yash Chopra produced and Ramesh Talwar directed.
Raakhee had a very bold role in Doosra Aadmi. She had to smoke, drink and romance Rishi Kapoor.
The switchover to mother's roles happened effortlessly.
Subhash Ghai and Rakesh Roshan offered Raakhee the author-backed mother's roles Ram Lakhan and Karan Arjun.
Soon, she got bored with the monotonous matriarchal roles and quit entirely.
Raakhee now lives a reclusive life away from the limelight, refusing every Lifetime Achievement award offered to her.