Stage and Film Actress

Arunbhai approached me in the 70’s to work in his Gujarati home production “Maa Baap”. Prior to this film, I worked many years as a heroine but then my films stopped doing well and I was open to playing character roles. “Maa Baap” offered me a role of a young woman who ages in the film and I thought it was apt for me to essay it. The film turned out to be a money-spinner and celebrated 25 weeks in the cinemas of Gujarat.

Thereafter, whenever there was a role that I would fit in, Arunbhai never failed to cast me for it. Lohi Ni Sagaai, Hiro Ghoghe Jai Aavyo, Jugal Jodi…I did so many films under his direction.

As a director, he was extremely sensitive. There were times when he would become so involved in an emotional scene that he would shed tears while we enacted it! It was a pleasure working with him as he was not rigid and always allowed the actor to emote freely. While rehearsing, he would suggest how the scene should be enacted and leave it to the actor to do the rest. Yes, if he didn’t like the way we performed, he would interfere, but not otherwise. He also took a very keen interest in the costume department and wanted his characters dressed as per the roles.

I would call Arunbhai an ‘acting director’ as he always got into all the characters and acted the shot himself before the actual take. That made it easier for me, or for that matter, any actor to emulate him. He could make even a non-actor perform well!

One of the best scenes that I have been a part of was from the film “Jugal Jodi”. Arunbhai shot the climax sequence thrice on a trolley – every time from a different angle. Though each take was perfect, he wanted to experiment with various angles. In the end, that scene turned out so effective with all the shots merged into one.

Arunbhai had a natural flair for story telling and music. He made Harinbhai Mehta (dialogue writer in most of his films) write dialogues especially for me for he knew I could do justice to them. I miss the sheer joy of working with him. The industry is not the same anymore. Most directors these days don’t even know how to place a camera! After Arunbhai’s passing, I contemplated many times to retire from the Gujarati film industry. There is definitely more money than before but there is no talent seen in the newer breed of filmmakers.

Arunbhai had many qualities apart from being a good filmmaker. He was a very well read man. Even after pack up, there were times when we just sat and chatted with him. He had so many knowledgeable things to share – about art, literature, music etc. He is truly missed – by me and will be missed by all those who had the pleasure of working with him.

As shared in an interview with Pauravi Bhatt dated 20th December 2006.