Photographs: Paresh Gandhi Preeti Arora in Mumbai
Boman Irani shifted gears at 44, handing over the reins of his wafer business to his wife in order to begin an acting career. Aditya Raj Kapoor (son of Shammi Kapoor) faced the camera for the first time when he was in his 50s.
And now, at 77, Asha Bhosle, the fabulously popular singer, makes her acting debut with Maaee. It isn't a cameo or a miniscule guest appearance. She is the protagonist.
In an interview with Preeti Arora, Asha speaks about her decision to choose a path most veterans wouldn't contemplate even in their dreams.
Tell us something about the film Maaee.
No, absolutely not. If I tell you the story, my producer will get angry with me and you won't watch the film. See it in the theatre and decide for yourself.
All right then, tell us about your role.
Well, I am not playing a vamp or a sexy siren. No love scenes were written for me. I am a mother and a grandmother. That's what I am in real life too. It's an avatar I'm comfortable with. My role on-screen is merely an extension of my off-screen persona. It's simple
'I have worked very hard all my life'
Oh, well (smiles impishly), I guess age is on my side. On a more serious note, I have worked very hard all my life. I have brought up my kids single-handedly. So a strenuous routine is something I thrive on, not shy away from.
How did this film come about?
Most of the people I work with become family friends. The co-producer of this film, Nitin Shankar, took my son Anand Bhosle into confidence. They broached the topic with me. I said I would think about it. I asked my daughter Varsha and she felt it was a great idea. I thought didi (Lata Mangeshkar) wouldn't be too encouraging, but here also I got the green signal. I asked my younger sister who also pushed me saying if anybody could do it, it was me. Not one person felt I couldn't do it. So here I am.
What if one person from your inner circle had dissuaded you?
I would have opted out. I was looking for an escape route, which unfortunately did not open up.
'I got uncomfortable when I was to get wet in the rain'
Tell us about your co-actors.
Each one is a star in his, or her, own right. Ram Kapoor is a formidable actor. But there are no ego hassles. Padmini Kolhapure is a close relative, so I have always been very comfortable with her. I guess I am lucky.
Since you talked about love scenes, would you consider that too?
I'm not saying yes, but then I am not saying no either. I never imagined I would be acting at my age. Maybe some other things which I haven't visualised might just happen.
Are you close to your kids?
Very! I consult them before taking any decision. My younger son Anand, because of whom I am doing this film, is also my business manager. He keeps track of the royalties and the collaborations with foreign artistes. And I must say he's doing a great job.
Any scene which made you uncomfortable?
Just one. They needed me to get wet in the rain. Since I started singing professionally I never drink anything cold neither do I have a bath with cold water. And now, suddenly, here I was after six decades doing a little jig in the rain! Despite the initial discomfort, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Felt I was six years old again.
'Chandra Barot is a very talented director'
It would if you are not used to being with kids all the time. But my grandkids, both on-screen and off-screen, are a source of joy to me. I can spend hours with them. My granddaughter (Anand's daughter) is also doing a song for this film. Three generations are involved in this film but in different ways.
You're always in the news. Why do the media chase you when so many younger artistes/singers are desperate for publicity?
You have just answered your own question. The younger lot wants publicity, I crave work. Work should fetch you fame not the other way around. The work ethic is what didi and I imbibed at a very early age. The younger lot needs to do the same.
We hear that you are working with Chandra Barot again. Your earlier song with him, Yeh Mera Dil Pyaar Ka Diwana, is still a chartbuster. What can we expect this time?
I have always believed Chandra Barot is a very talented director. But in our industry two things are essential for success -- luck and hard work. Unfortunately, he hasn't had much work in the last few years. Chandra Barot lives across the road from my house. His sister Kamal Barot is a good friend of mine. We have been friends for the last four decades and will remain so. I am doing the songs. Now let's hope for the best.
'I am a child at heart'
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi
Having no work. Or not being surrounded by people. Put me in the most luxurious hotel in the world alone and ask me to rest for a few days and I will fall ill.
What if you are nominated for best actress or best debut?
I'd love it, but won't think about it right now. Not getting it would just lead to disappointment. I've had a rough life and its best not too plan too far in advance.
You get along with almost everybody. Is that your true self or a carefully cultivated persona?
No, I hate friction. I believe life is too short for ego hassles. Yet, I am a child at heart. Anger me in any way and I won't keep quiet. I will get it off my chest and sleep peacefully through the night. But the person at the receiving end will probably not get any sleep that night.