Raakhee Gulzar has only words of praise for Director Esmayeel Shroff, who passed away at the age of 62.
"He was an under-rated, under-used director," Raakhee tells Subhash K Jha.
"I am shocked to know that he is no more. He was very young when we worked together. How old was he? 62? Is that any age to die?"she adds.
She recalls the happier times.
"Both my films with Esmayeel were special, though they may not have been box office successes. I have never done films for the box office. Our first film together was Dil Aakhir Dil Hai about the pitfalls of arranged marriage. I played a woman who is abandoned by her husband. She marries another man. but dares to divorce him when she finds out that he loves another woman," Raakhee recalls.
"It was a very progressive character. Esmayeel was very clear in his head about what he wanted. He had a partner (brother Moin-ud-Din) who wrote his films, another brilliant man," she says.
There are two other reasons why Raakhee recalls Dil Aakhir Dil Hai so fondly: "It was the only film in which I got to work with Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah). What an actor! Also, the music by Khayyam was outstanding. The title song was sung so beautifully by Lataji (Mangeshkar)," she adds.
"Do you know Lataji sang for me in every film as a leading lady, except maybe one, from my first Jeevan Mrityu? I would like to believe I am the only heroine for whom Lataji sang so many beautiful melodies."
Lataji sang a lovely song for Raakhee in Pighalta Aasman, the second film she did with Esmayeel Shroff.
"Yes. I remember this film because it was with my favourite co-star Shashi Kapoor," she says.
"I think I had a more difficult role in Pighalta Aasman than Dil Aakhir Dil Hai. I played a mentally unbalanced woman. It is not easy to show psychological disorders. One can easily go overboard.
"Esmayeel was there to guide me. Shashi had a special name for Esmayeel -- 'chimney' -- because he smoked nonstop. Esmayeel was also very tall.
"The film's producer was Shammi Aunty. She taught me how to shed my inhibitions and laugh out loud. The Britishers left behind so many of their artificial etiquettes, like don't laugh, don't eat with your hands... It took me a long time to get over these colonial etiquettes."