Mumtaz is unarguably one of the most beautiful and attractive heroines who lit up Indian cinema. But it's not easy to have a long conversation with her as she's travelling across countries with her ever-busy hubby Mayur Madhvani. But this time we got lucky as she's in Mumbai and importantly we reached out to her ahead of others. We were surprised when the senior actress said, "Go ahead. Shoot your questions. I am all at ease today."
What followed was an extremely candid and detailed conversation with ETimes that covered various ups and downs in Mumtaz's professional and personal life and how she handled them, which included the several bold and interesting decisions she took in her journey with her co-stars, filmmakers and husband. Read on...
You are in Mumbai after 12/13 months, which is a longish period if you compare it to the gap in your previous visits?
Yes, I have come to Mumbai after a year. I was at my London residence and my husband wasn't too happy about my decision of coming here. He said: 'We are both getting old, I don't want you to risk COVID.' But how long could I have not come? I love Mumbai. I was desperate to get here for a few days. We have to keep moving, so what if it's COVID times? Take the precautions and live your life.
Your son-in-law Fardeen was here for some time recently and we took the opportunity to talk to him...
Oh, yeah. And isn't he looking fantastic? He had been very seriously working towards a comeback- by cycling, jogging and doing a lot of exercises. He had gone a bit sad in between after losing his father. But one fine day, he got up and said that he needs to get back in the industry. Of course he had been regularly working on his villa business with Godrej, alongside. And I am sure this handsome man will work very hard in the film industry too now.
Did you also tell him to get back?
Yes, and why not? He's such a good looking guy, plus a good artiste.
We did an interview with him when he was here a few days ago. But tell us, what happened to you after you made a comeback of sorts with 'Aandhiyan' in 1990? We never saw you on screen after that...
Pahlaj Nihalani (producer) and David Dhawan (director) were very sweet and nice to me, but I was a bit disappointed. In those days, I think it meant that a mother should look old, haggard, ugly and not have a good figure. Besides, I think I didn't look old enough to look like a hero's mother then, despite wearing a chashma. Today, I am 73 but even now I don't look my age. Frankly speaking , I have always looked younger than how old I actually am. Even today people come and ask me if I have undergone any cosmetic procedures. I simply tell them that why don't they tell all the heroines what I do and then they can look like me (laughs). My kids and husband push me to look good and keep a strong tab on my health. I exercise 45 minutes every day. I eat a proper breakfast- mostly a boiled egg with toast or then an upma. My lunch consists of one-and-half roti, dal, rice and some sabzi. And I don't eat at night. If I feel hungry at night, I just take a fruit or two.
Isn't it ironic that a fit and fighting person like you is declared dead by the media? Do you get rattled? It has happened twice...
It has happened thrice (laughs). People ask me: 'Why do you die so much?' (laughs). But I don't get too rattled. I get rattled at the manner in which today's actors dance. They need to think about their health in the long run. Back and knees start giving up sooner than later when people put so much physical pressure on themselves. But I guess, people are liking what they're doing.
Will Fardeen's daughter Diani go on to become an actress?
Not sure, but her mother (Natasha) wants her to learn a lot of things- dancing, horse riding, swimming. She is very pretty; khaandaan mein koi bhi badsurat nahi hai.
Did you know swimming?
I did but we were never told to do swimming scenes, just a splash or two in the pool. I was also good at cycling and horse-riding. I rode a horse in one film. I also wore a swimming costume in ' Roop Tera Mastana'- but I wore a bikini in only Feroz Khan's 'Apradh'. I had a complex of my typical heavy Iranian thighs and I thought a bikini was too open, but Feroz promised: 'Mumzy, I will delete the scene if you disapprove of it'. And when I saw the scene, I felt that I was looking very sexy and nice. But today, everything has changed so much (pauses).
Please go on...
Gone are the days of our Kathak, Bharatanatyam and other Indian dances. Today's heroines are so bold. Of course they work hard but hum itne open dresses nahi pehnte the. Doesn't a woman look glamorous even in a saree if it is worn a bit low? And, look at today's music. No dum at all, no emotions. Gaane yaad hi nahi rehte. The movies, by and large, are just gandh. There is hardly any story in any film; exceptions of course exist. I also don't understand why you need to show nudity to depict sex. Can't it be just suggestive? And the less said about the gaaliyaan used in sentences, the better. Aajkal censors hain bhi ki nahin?
You were the highest paid actress for quite a few years from late-60s to mid-70s. Do you miss those hey days?
True, I charged Rs. 8 lakh about 50 years ago. But I don't miss those times. God has been good to me. My husband has enough and he provides me with everything. I have a lot of loyal fans. It is never an easy life to be an actor, so it's nothing to miss per se. I am content; I have not been neglected by people. I gave it up all because I was very tired; I was doing 2 to 3 shifts every day, no gap and no rest.
How would you describe your married life of 46 years?
Well, Mayur is a thorough businessman who works very hard. He looks after me very well. There is no doubt that he loves me. If I am unwell in any part of the world, he comes flying to me. We had a bit of a problem but now everything is sorted.
Was it easy for you to mend those fences?
Har shaadi mein ups and downs happen; you have to fight it out. Aisa kuch serious nahi tha, Mayur was never away from my life. People spoke a lot of rubbish including that ' Mumtaz ko nikal diya'.
It was said that he had got involved with another woman and was neglecting you...
I am a Leo and a very strong person. There was no question of neglect. Woh thode din ka hota hai ki kisika kabhi dimaag kharab ho jaata hai. Soon, it's your spouse and children.
You were so fond of wearing orange that whenever one thinks of you, it's in orange...
That's again a typical Leo trait. Leos love orange, Sridevi too wore a lot of orange. Being an Iranian, I am very fair. So I prefer to wear bright colors, they accentuate my complexion. But yes coming to your right observation of me wearing a lot of orange, let me tell you that I even used to insist that I need at least a song in orange if the movie isn't going to have any scope of me wearing it. Heroines those days had that kind of freedom, filmmakers gave us the situation and we were allowed to decide what we wanted to wear. A producer would even pay up to the tune of Rs 5 lakh for my dresses, which was what most other top heroines would charge for the entire film. It was such a good time. Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz in the film meant that all territories would be sold immediately.
Saira Banu told me at ETimes in her most recent interview that Mehmood took your pictures to Dilip Kumar saab to get you cast in 'Ram aur Shyam'...
True that, I am so thankful to Mehmood saab and Dilip saab too. He got me a couple of other films as well, one of them being 'Gauri' with Sunil Dutt and Nutan- and I was opposite Dutt saab. He even went to Shashi Kapoor to recommend my name but Shashi ji refused to work with me. I don't blame him as those days I was doing quite a few movies with Dara Singh and comedy roles.
When did the floodgates open?
I think I didn't look back after Sanjay Khan worked with me in 'Shart'. But then again, I had a very tomboy image. 'Khilona' turned the tide fully. And there's a story behind it.
The writers of 'Khilona' wanted Waheeda Rehman, they said Mumtaz wont be able to do this as it is a very serious role. But the film's producer L V Prasad told them to take their script back if they didn't agree on my casting. Prasad ji said, "It's okay, I don't want to make 'Khilona'; I shall make some other film with Mumtaz'. The writers had to relent.
And you won the Filmfare Best actress Award for 'Khilona'...
Imagine! And, that film wherein some people didn't want me went on to win 9 awards! I wasn't in Mumbai when I learned about the award; I was shooting with Dev saab for 'Hare Rama Hare Krishna'.
And later, you went on to refuse Ramesh Sippy's 'Seeta aur Geeta'...
Ramesh ji wanted me to take only Rs 2 lakh, 1 lakh for Seeta and 1 lakh for Geeta. How could I come down from my 8 lakh to 2 lakh? It was too little. I agree it was a fantastic role but think of it, I had done a very similar film in 'Ram aur Shyam'. I did feel sorry when 'Seeta aur Geeta' went on to do great business but it doesn't work to reduce your fee so much.
How was it working with Rajesh Khanna?
I got along very well with him. He was not a very good dancer but a fantastic actor! I still remember my last day in the industry before I quit. I was shooting with him 'Prem Kahani for the song ' Chal dariyan mein doob jayen'. It was a fast and complicated song in the stanzas and we used to signal and help each other. I used to press on his shoulder when exactly he should start singing. Every hero was eventually fond of me. I was their favourite. Most heroines however didn't like me.
Yes, and Shammi Kapoor wanted to marry you...
Yes. But people still do not believe that I turned down his marriage proposal. They say how could she have refused someone like Shammi ji? But the truth is that I was only 19 then and Shammi ji wanted a mother for his children- Geeta Baliji had passed away. Plus, in those days, Kapoors didn't like it if the bahus in their family were in the film line. Shammiji told me that if I wanted him to be happy with me, I would have to give up my career. Now at that young age I was very ambitious and wanted to reach somewhere. I wanted to settle my family as well. Just to sit at home didn't go down with me.
And then? Was Shammiji okay with you after that?
We had a misunderstanding. He told me that I had pretended to be in love with him because I wanted him to work with me in films. Mujhe dhakka laga.
You let your head rule over your heart...
I am a strong person. No matter how much I love a person, if someone misbehaves with me or tells me something that is wrong, then I am not going to look back. I cam make my head rule over my heart then. I told Shammi ji that ' theek hai, agar aap aise sochte hain, toh main vaada karti hoon ki main aapse kabhi kaam nahin karungi'. He stuck to his guns, saying, 'You don't love me enough if you are not quitting acting'. After that, Ramesh Sippy wanted me in 'Andaz' opposite him. I turned down 'Andaz'. I was genuinely in love with him and he also loved me very much, he looked after me so dearly. I have no regrets that once upon a time I was in love with Shammi ji, in fact I am proud of those moments.
When did Shashi Kapoor agree to work with you?
Shashi ji was also told to do 'Sachaa Jhutha' with me but he refused. Then before our first film 'Chor Machaye Shor' happened, I once went to Mehboob Studios to ask him that why was he refusing films with me. He denied, saying, ' Nahin aisa kuch nahi hai' but I knew the truth. And then there and then, I sort of challenged him. I told him, 'Dekhna aap zaroor mere se kaam karenge, I defy you'. After 'Chor Machaye Shor', he was fine with me. Log waqt ke saath chalte hain, koi kiska saga nain hota. I started getting many offers opposite him but I could do only 'Prem Kahani' with him after that. I was getting married and leaving India to settle in London. He was very hurt.
You did one film with Amitabh Bachchan- 'Bandhe Haath'...
He's an immensely sophisticated man, fluent in English. His upbringing talks. He's reached such heights and I am so happy for him.
And have you kept in touch with anybody?
Honestly, not much. But Yash Chopra had once called to say that he will train my daughter Natasha, then Dev saab called for Tanya, Salman Khan ki office se bhi phone aaya tha. But Madhvanis too don't like their bahus to be in the film line. So, Mayur and I groomed our children in a different way. Their focus revolved around academics so that they can join their father and look after the family business. The younger one still doesn't speak Hindi fluently; that's sad lekin kya karein, they both have been brought up in London. Destiny rules in the end. I had thought that I will marry someone from the film industry but look where my stars and planets took me. But I am happy and at the end of the day, that's all that matters, doesn't it?
I think what she says about mothers in BW movies is true
I think Maine Pyar Kiya featured one of the first hip moms who wasn't wearing white saree or covering her hair and spending her time strictly in pujas and Bete ke dekhbhal... She was hip and cool for that period
She was an individual person...
So Mumtaz met Dharmendra and his wife at his residence... Wonder why she didn't visit Hemamalini
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