today SAARA BANU celebrates her 77th birthday. We wish her a happy birthday and on her 77th birthday we are reproducing this rare and candid interview with her from JYOTHI VENKATESH which was published exactly 14 years ago.
Initially, Saira said of her husband, Dilip Kumar, “After the trial of my film Shagird was over, he told me that it would be criminal to keep me from appearing in films. I will die if I don’t hold onto Yusufsaab. He was my source of strength. I’ve been crazy about him since I was a 12 year old little girl. From the day we got married, Yusufsaab has been my main support system. I still remember the day after we got married I organized a test version of my film Shagird for him. At this point, I planned to quit acting as I wanted to become a housewife and although I had Padosan and Purab Aur Paschim under contract, I didn’t want to start working on these films. Saab saw Shagird’s trail with a pin-sharp silence. I was curious to see how he would react to my performance, especially since he had told me that he had never seen a single film in which I had acted. After the trial was over, he told me that it would be criminal to keep me from appearing in films.
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I made my way through and got a little role in Sagina for myself. Yes sir. After the marriage, even though another actress besides Aparna Sen was required to play the leading role in Sagina, I prevailed and had Saheb cast myself, even though it was a very small role. I wanted to spend all of my time with him wherever he was instead of sitting at home, twisting my thumbs and waiting for him to come back every day.
Saira repeats that she simply loved Saheb in Ganga Jumna, Devdas, Moghul E Azam, Sagina and Madhumati. “He made great award-winning performances in those days when awards were given on merit and actors didn’t spend money to get awards, as they do today. Although, like any other normal husband and wife, nearly forty-one years after we got married, if I sit down and watch a DVD of one of the films he starred in, we have our share of fighting, I don’t fight with him for at least the next eight days. In fact, Saheb often jokes that I should keep myself watching his films every week so that I never argue with him. “
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Saira says Saheb and I were very pleased with their very first film in Bhojpuri, called Ab Ta Banja Sajanwa Hamaar, directed by Arshad Khan, son of late actor Yunus Parvez. “Ravi Kishen, Nagma and Mona Thiba are the stars of our film, which does good business in the north and was also shot in Mumbai. I don’t understand why the media is asking me about my decision to produce a film in Bhojpuri instead of Hindi. Why shouldn’t I do a film in Bhojpuri? Bhojpuri films continue to project our cultural heritage, family ties and emotions to this day. What’s wrong with making a movie in Bhojpuri? I consider myself a devoted housewife and filmmaking is my hobby. I want to make films not only in Hindi but also in Marathi. Gujarati and other regional languages. Now, after Ab Ta Banja Sajanwa Hamaar, I would like to produce a comedy.
“Right now I’m busy producing a series called Stree that will air on Doordarshan. It deals with the topic of empowerment of women, a topic that is very close to my heart. The journalist Udaya Tara Nair also helps me create a biography about Saheb. I would say that being with him taught me a lot. I was way too immature for my age before I married him. In contrast, today’s young kids in Bollywood are very smart and intelligent thanks to the total ambience of these days and the attention they get from television.
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Recently, Saira says, had offered a big banner to cast her in a central role in a film, but she politely declined because she and Yusufsaab needed each other at this stage in her life. “We have to take care of one another now. My mother, my grandmother and my brother used to live with us. I have other priorities now. I may be abnormal, but the fact is, I don’t miss acting at all. I can’t deny the truth that my life is a bed of roses thanks to my gorgeous husband. Today I don’t want to seek glorification by turning to the camera and acting again. Instead, I want memories of my husband and me together. I would rather say that it is more rewarding and pleasant to serve him a cup of tea in the morning than to appreciate my performance. “
Saira says, “We don’t see a lot of films these days. I think the last movie we saw was Black. It was a nice movie. Saheb loved it so much that he sent a message to Amitabh Bachchan after Rani Mukherjee arranged a showing of the film. Although I was so depressed by the film that I came out of the auditorium not once or twice, but three times, the film literally touched me. He likes both Rani and Kareena. When I recently told Kareena that she was a darling of the sahib, she was even in seventh heaven.
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Saira signs off. “I’m not a diplomat. I like Shah Rukh Khan very much. Even though he’s like a son to us, I still wonder why he should appear in remakes like Devdas and Don. I’ve made it my business not to see Devdas. I can’t lie and say it was nice. It’s a bad trend. I agree that you can neither replace the old stars nor touch the classics. I asked Sanjay Leela Bhansali why he decided to do a remake. Is there a shortage of talent in our country that we cannot make beautiful films like Black or Life Is Beautiful? I asked him bluntly, but he had no answer at all. “