Actor Farida Jalal has been flooring audiences with her endearing performances over the years, playing the roles of sister, friend, fiancée, mother, grandmother, among others. Youngsters know her as ‘magic nani’ from the hit TV serial Shararat. Middle-aged folks adore her as the comforting and supportive mother in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (DDLJ), and as the grandmotherly Dai jaan in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (K3G). Older generations remember her as the young and coy fiancée of the handsome Rajesh Khanna, crooning ‘Baghon Mein Bahar Hai’ in the film Aradhana (1969), or as the mentally challenged girl, Alka, the young Rishi’s betrothed in Bobby (1973).
“I am willing to appear for even half a scene in a film, but it has to be something that I have not done before. Why should I strain myself for something totally inconsequential?” says Faridaji rather candidly as we settle down over cups of chai in her cosy, suburban apartment, on a rainy evening in Mumbai.
So what is she working on these days? “Where are roles these days? In the recent crop of movies, have you seen any role that you thought I could have done, and missed? I have great respect for Amitabh Bachchan. He is simply indefatigable, and roles and roles are being specially scripted for him. He is very lucky to be able to get such diverse assignments even at this point in his career. I love Dilip Kumar, but even he has not explored such a diverse gamut of roles like Amitabh.”
Then and now
With movies centred around friends and their dilemmas, horror stories and thrilling stunts, there is little room for senior character actors. “Things are so different now,” she says. “As a school-goer, I edified Dev Anand, Raj Kumar, Dilip Kumar. They were the kings of the silver screen. Acting skills made the stars those days. I feel, nowadays, acting skills are secondary. Actors need to have a fabulous body; know how to dance beautifully; even sing, dress up trendily…
Shilpi Madan for Deccan Herald