Blast from the Past: The life and times of Dimple Kapadia

Today is Dimple Kapadia’s birthday. So check out her interview from Filmfare November 2000 where she talks about Bobby, Raj Kapoor, Gulzar, Rajesh Khanna and her upcoming film Dil Chahta Hai.

Where is she? One of the most gorgeous actresses that Hindustan has ever produced has been lying criminally low for an unforgivably long time. Dimple Kapadia is a national treasure, no two ways about that. Interviewing her is not easy though. She’s elusive, evasive and loath to talk about herself. It takes daughter Twinkle’s persuasive powers to finally grant me an occasion to gupshup with my favourite Bobby Braganza, now a mother of two lovely actresses. Even while she chats, Dimple grumbles she has nothing to say. But she does. She does.

After turning down roles left right and centre, what prompted you to accept Farhaan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai?
Well, I’ve signed another film recently with Raman Kumar. God only knows whether that’s materialising. I have no idea where that project stands. But yes, I am doing Dil Chahta Hai. It’s a small but interesting character. The whole script and project sound good. That’s it. I have always gone by my instincts, and never mind if I’ve been proved wrong always (laughs). I have two lovely daughters. I don’t need anything else.

In Rudaali, I looked like Nargis in Mother India though I’ve never seen the film. I don’t see films. I’m an idiot

I don’t think movies count in front of your success as a mother.
They don’t, they really don’t. For me, my daughters are everything. Everyone has her own yardstick of a successful life. And each person has to go by what she wants in life. For me motherhood was what I wanted. And that’s what I got. I’m very happy with that. I never wanted more. And I don’t see anything wrong with that. A career IS important. But I don’t have the temperament to be put through the test every day. I don’t think I would have been able to handle it.

You mean you don’t want to face the camera every day?
Not just that. Being an active actress means you are judged and evaluated all the time. I couldn’t handle that.

So you never really enjoyed being the nation’s sensation after Bobby?
I had no time to enjoy that. I got into marriage and children immediately after Bobby. I was married even while I was working in Bobby. I was away from public life. I never experienced the adulation. I never understood or enjoyed my success. At the age I was then, no girl is expected to understand what doing a Raj Kapoor film meant. At 15, I wasn’t aware that I was working with a living legend.

Have you seen Bobby recently?
No. No, I’ve never seen Bobby. But I believe it’s a pioneering teenage love story. How Raj Kapoor did it at his age remains unbelievable. Amazing. I imbibed a lot from him. A lot of what he taught me remains with me to this day. He made me a part of his family. I learnt a lot from him. Everything I did in Bobby was enacted by him. I had no acting experience whatsoever. The entire credit for my performance in Bobby must go to Mr Raj Kapoor. He set standards for me to achieve in the future.

He set standards for Mandakini as well.
But it worked for me. Everything I did in films was done the Raj Kapoor way. I had a very tough time trying to live up to those standards. It was impossible to reach there. That really upset me. I could never find another film or director like him. Never ever.

What about Gulzar saab?
I guess there was a lot more passion in Raj Kapoor’s style of film-making.

Perhaps by the time you reached Lekin you were no longer a good learner.
I’ve always wanted to learn. But I guess I’m a bad learner (laughs). I don’t know why people say I’m a good actress. Ask me. Ask me. Every time I give a show I go through hell.

You suffer from a low self-esteem.
Probably. I don’t know why. The day I know the answer I’ll be a better person. But God has been very very kind to me. I’ve got everything I wanted, probably more. God has always given me a new chance when I wanted it. Nobody has made a comeback after ten years like I did. There was no question of my doing films during my marriage. My husband didn’t want me to work. As simple as that. I returned to films only when I had to look after myself and my children. Acting was the only thing I knew, at least I thought I knew since I had some experience in it. So, I decided to give it a shot and see if it worked. And it did.

And you came back with the appalling Zakhmi Sher.
Can you believe it? What could I do? My comeback film Saagar was delayed and these guys were not willing to hold back their film. I guess it was destiny. Nothing is in anybody’s hands. If I could still make a comeback it was because everyone in the film industry was kind to me and nurtured my abilities.

Who says I’m a good mother? My daughters have been treated the same way that I treat every other aspect of my life

Also, you had loads of beauty and talent.
Oh God! But to be honest another reason I came back was because I never had the chance to explore my talent. I wanted to know if I had it in me. Bobby was like a dream. All the adulation passed me by. But Bobby was a blessing. It was my ticket back into the industry. It was amazing that people remembered me and were willing to accept me once again after so many years.

Is it true that you started to take yourself seriously as an actress only after Mahesh Bhatt’s Kaash?
Not true. When I came back, I did Saagar, Lava, Aitbaar. These were good films. I took them all seriously. I was very disappointed when these films where I did unusual roles, didn’t work. Actually I looked for unusual roles when I returned. I knew that okay, I was good-looking, fine. Everybody said you’re beautiful, so you accepted it. But what about a good actress? My first comeback film was supposed to be Sadma. But because of Saagar I couldn’t do Sadma. Kaash came later. But what Mahesh Bhatt said about me giving all of myself to every shot is probably true. As far as I’m concerned there are no retakes, no tomorrows.

Why do you avoid interviews?
I find them too taxing. If you say I shortchange myself I probably do. But then look at how much I’ve got in life.

There was a point in your career after Rudaali, Lekin and Drishti when you were the tops. Why did you withdraw from your career?
(Sighs) Now why did that happen? I guess I was very happy with Rudaali. I had never thought I’d be able to give the performance that I did. To me that performance in itself was achievement enough. I don’t know if Rudaali is my best performance so far. But it’s certainly my best effort.

And Lekin?
Yeah I don’t know why, but I just love that character and the whole experience of working with Gulzar bhai. It was wonderful. I have no clue why I didn’t take advantage of the success I got after Rudaali and Lekin. I must have decided that doing films wasn’t important at that point of time. Honestly I have no answer (laughs). I guess I made a lot of wrong decisions. But that was my prerogative. I needed that space for myself. Career has always been secondary to me. I never took it that seriously.

What does the mirror tell you these days?
Oh tons of things (laughs loudly). Now it’s too late for me to ask the mirror if I’m beautiful. Being beautiful was never an issue. I was more interested in being a capable actress. So I’ve always tried to get performing parts. I’ve been lucky to get such roles in the past. But now I wish someone would write a part for me. No one does it for me. Useless people. Come to think of it, my roles became special when I played them, okay? How does that sound?

Perfect. Your choice of roles has been pretty awful at times.
Very bad. Sometimes you do films for the money. I am a very erratic person. And please don’t ask me how I’m such a good mother if I’m erratic. Who says I’m a good mother? My daughters have been treated the same way that I treat every other aspect of my life (chortles). I never had the time for my poor babies. When I see other mothers, I feel very inadequate. My daughters make their own decisions, they go to work alone. No, I’ve done nothing for them.

Did you stop signing films to concentrate on Twinkle’s career?
Not at all. I turned down only one film during Twinkle’s Barsaat which eventually Rekha did. Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi with Akshay.

I made a lot of wrong decisions. But that was my prerogative. I needed that space for myself

Can you imagine what embarrassment that would cause now?
Oh yeah, can you imagine? Some things happen for the best. But I saw the awards and reviews that the role got. And I thought maybe I should’ve stepped out and done it. The truth is, Rudaali drained me completely. I put everything into it. It was a very taxing film. And it gave me a lot in return. I gained a lot of recognition. But there were problems with Kalpana Lajmi. I was quite exhausted by the whole experience. I put in too much into Rudaali, right down from scripting to the editing. Nothing about my character Sanicheri was pre-planned. Funnily, I ended up looking like Nargis in Mother India although I had never seen Mother India. I don’t see films. I’m an idiot.

Well at one time everyone said you are Nargis’ daughter.
Yes I know. There was a resemblance, but only in Rudaali. I had to see tons of Nargis’ films during Bobby. Raj Kapoor made me sit through all of Nargis’ films. That was supposed to be the yardstick of my performance. Every day I had to watch Nargis in RK Films.

I don’t think you learnt anything from Nargis.
No, I learnt everything from Raj Kapoor. Because Nargis learnt from him anyway.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali had offered you Khamoshi.
Yeah, but there was a problem. He wanted to cast Twinkle and me. I told him to take only Twinkle. Then he decided to cast neither of us. Which was really really sad. I don’t want to do a film with Twinkle at this point of time. Maybe later on when I’m a naani. What’s my hurry in life? But I am absolutely ready to take on more roles.

You are playing Akshaye Khanna’s love interest in Dil Chahta Hai.
Yeah but don’t read too much into it. He has a crush on my character. That’s about all.

Any plans to getting married again?
Not at all. I’m very happy and content. Why do I need to get married again? Once was more than enough.

But Rajesh Khanna just has to snap a finger and you’re by his side.
Yeah. But then I’ve known him for so many years. That’s enough reason. No one is really bad at heart. All of us are bad at times depending on the situation. At any given time, I wish people would realise the same about me and give me the space that I give to others. I don’t get that space. But it’s okay. Who the heck cares? One thing I’m very very sure of is that I’m very happy in life.

Would you like to do TV like your husband is doing?
I don’t have that kind of patience. With a film, I know it’s over after a fixed number of days. TV requires prolonged commitment. And I’m not ready for that at all.

No one writes roles for me. Useless people. My roles became special when I played them

When do we get to see you in a part like Shabana Azmi’s in Godmother?
Next birth. In this birth, I’m just a student. In my next birth I’ll go to a higher plane. In this life I can’t push it. If the roles come, they come. Otherwise just lump it. That’s my attitude. But I feel it’s too late for me now. Other actresses have already replaced me.

Who’s like you?
There’s a whole new generation to take over the slot I occupied. Like Tabu is doing my kind of roles. Well you wanted Lekin and you got it. That’s true. That was the first time I tried for a role and I got it.

1 Comment
  1. Serenzy 9 years ago

    Fabulous… Absolutely Fab!!

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