“Ek Hasina Thi” was a 2004 movie that starred Urmila Matondkar and Saif Ali Khan. I happened to watch the movie in a flight while I was travelling to Bangalore. A well-made movie by director Sriram Raghavan this was one other movie (other than Rangeela, Khoobsoorat, Daud, Naina and Bhoot) that had Urmila Matondkar enacting an author backed role.
I had met Urmila years ago in Ruparel College and during that time she was an upcoming TV star. As a child artiste, Urmila had acted in movies like Masoom (1983) and Kalyug (1981). Old timers will recall the iconic – “Lakdi Ki Kati, Kati Pe Ghoda” song from Masoom.
I still recall having seen Jugal Hansraj (the child actor in Masoom who later played the leading roles in “Mohabbatein” and “Aa Gale Lag Jaa”) in Churchgate station as he was returning home from school. Jugal’s career never took off much like his contemporary Uday Chopra. Jimmy Shergill who debuted in Mohabbatein with these two heroes has managed to carve a niche for himself in Bollywood. Jimmy is a great actor and you have seen him in Munnabhai MBBS and Special 26. He is also playing an important role in Fugly.
Coming back to “Ek Hasina Thi”. The movie was a gripping tale of a hapless young woman Sarika (an award winning performance by Matondkar) who is deceived by her boyfriend Karan (Saif Ali Khan, menacing as a villain) and who sets out to take revenge on him. It turned out to be an average grosser at the box office and won awards at many film functions. Loosely inspired by the character of Tracy Whitman in “If tomorrow comes” (the best-selling novel by Sidney Sheldon), the transition of Matondkar from a demure girl-next-door to a woman who seeks revenge on her lover in the most unexpected fashion was absolutely riveting. The climax scene in the movie was gory but justified considering the ordeal the poor girl has to go through.
Matondkar unfortunately never got her due from Bollywood. Whether it is the corporate world or academic world or cine world, seldom do talent and competence win in a war where politics raises its ugly head like a monster. Bollywood is known for star-sons and star-daughters and their tantrums and the infamous casting couch and the ubiquitous machinations that celebrities hatch to pull down one another.
I was reading an interview with well-known playback singer Shailendra Singh (remember “Main Shayar To Nahin” from Bobby?) where he attributed his failure in Bollywood to the political machinations of the legendary Kishore Kumar. Even the immensely talented Manna Dey never got his due from Bollywood and though his talent was very well exploited in songs with a classical music base (Phir Kahin Koi Phool Khila Chahat Na Kaho Usko, Hasne Ki Chah Ne Itna Mujha Rulaya Hai, Kaun Aya Mere Man Ke Dware Payal Ki Jhankar Liye, Laga Chunri Mein Daag) & the evergreen qawwali (Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai), he never ever got the recognition that was due to him!
Legend has it that when Milind Soman was signed for “Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar” Aamir Khan played politics to get him out of the movie as Khan feared that Soman’s Greek-god like looks would be a threat to him. Milind was replaced by Mamik who after a stint as Preity Zinta’s brother in “Kya Kehna” vanished without a trace. The narcissist that Sharmila Tagore was, she did not like talented junior artistes – any junior artiste who looked more beautiful than her in a shot would be promptly replaced at her insistence. So sad, isn’t it? Even Vyjayanthimala was caught in the political battle between Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor, so much so that after shooting for a few days for “Ram aur Shyam” she was unceremoniously dropped from the movie even though ten years earlier, in 1958, she had given a super-duper hit – “Madhumati” (the Bollywood classic by Bimal Roy) with Dilip Kumar. Anju Mahendru’s filmi ambitions were scuttled by the late Rajesh Khanna.
Matondkar, Singh, Mahendru, Dey are not the only ones who suffered and ended up wasting their talent. There are scores of female playback singers who were immensely talented (Geeta Dutt, Shamshad Begum, Mubarak Begum, Sudha Malhotra, Minoo Purushottam, Arati Mukherjhee, Vani Jayaram, Kamal Barot, Sulakshana Pandit) but the Mangeshkar sisters played every trick in the book to sideline all these talent and grab the honours for themselves.
Asha Bhosle did not leave the well-known classical singer Kishori Amonkar too. Kishori rendered the song “Sason Ke Taar Par” in “Geet Gaya Patharon Ne” (this 1964 movie, directed by Shantaram Vankudre with music by Ramlal was the debut movie of Jumping Jack Jeetendra aka Ravi Kapoor). After a few days, Amonkar heard that Bhosale had sung the same song and her version of the song was trashed. So incensed was Amonkar that she never sang for Bollywood ever again. Her mother – Mogubai Kurdikar fired her and told her not to touch the tampura if she were to sing for Bollywood. Kishori did not disappoint her mother.
Those interested can watch Sai Paranjpe’s classic “Saaz” where the relation between the Mangeshkar sisters was depicted in an absorbing fashion! Lata Mangeshkar apparently did not spare her own sister! While Asha Bhosale was all set to sing “Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon, Zara Ankh Mein Bhar Lo Pani” written by well known lyricist Pradeep, Lata didi got her promptly removed and she ended up rendering the song herself in front of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. In this case, the adage “blood is thicker than water” was proved wrong!