As Simi Garewal returns with a new chat show on Star World, Anuj Kumar engages the affable host in a candid conversation
Much before controversy became a tool to fame and crossover cinema a career strategy, Simi Garewal nonchalantly made headlines for her intrepid choices. Today Conrad Rooks' Siddharth is taught in cinema schools for its aesthetic value but when the film got released in 1972 it made headlines for the lovemaking scene between Shashi Kapoor and Simi Garewal. Similarly, much before Karan Johar set his coffee brewing, Simi had a rendezvous with the top guns of different fields. As the gracious host returns with Simi Selects: India's Most Desirable on Star World, we speak to the lady in white:
You were bold and beautiful much before the term was coined. How do you see it in retrospect when every week the industry is crossing new barriers?
Cinema has changed for good in the last few years but one should not forget that we also had our share of boldness. But at that time the media was not as strong and there were not many film researchers to put small but important milestones in perspective. There were a few film magazines and they didn't command much readership beyond the fraternity. Of course, one had to be on the guard with that gossip journalist but that was about all.
How do you see the changes in the characterisation of the Hindi film heroine? Were you ahead of your times?
I grew up in London. When I entered the industry there were very few westernised women around. I was lucky to have worked with top directors like Mrinal Sen, Satyajit Ray and Raj Kapoor. You won't believe that I was shooting for Mera Naam Joker and Aranyer Din Ratri simultaneously. I was treated with a lot of respect but directors mostly saw me as an Anglo-Indian girl. It was limiting in a sense. It took a genius like Ray to see a tribal girl in me when he cast me in Aranyer Din Ratri. When I asked him he merely said that he saw some rushes of Mera Naam Joker. I was surprised because I played an Anglo-Indian teacher in the film.
When I watch today's films and actors, I feel I should have been born some two decades later. I feel like this almost every day. Girls like Priyanka Chopra and Vidya Balan come across as so uninhibited in real life but directors are writing different roles for them.
On their part, the young actors are much more professional these days. When I was young, coming late to the sets was almost a norm. I was surprised when everybody turned up for the shoot of the show on the dot.
What should we expect from the show? What is the reason behind celebrities sharing their well-kept secrets with you?
I am genuinely interested in understanding personalities, but don't expect a Rendezvous this time. It is much more fun. You will get to see a side of the personality that you did not know before. And the best way to do it is to put the celebrity in testing conditions. So after the chat we have designed some games for our desirable guests.
Give us an example…
The definition of desirable is like a good-looking eligible guy with an endearing personality. I am very interested in knowing how these desirable men behave when they are put in a spot by a demanding, slightly irritating girl friend. So with Ranbir, I act like this attention-seeking girl to see how patiently he handles the situation.
Can we know the result?
For that you have to watch the episode!
Is it true that you asked Shahid Kapur to turn up for the show in the Air Force uniform, something he wore for the shooting of Mausam?
It's true. Doesn't he look so handsome with a moustache and in the uniform? Unfortunately, we were denied permission by the Air Force authorities.
Tell us about your fascination for white.
I can't point out an incident or catalyst that made me like the colour. It's just that from a young age I feel white suited my personality. White makes me happy. When I wear some other colour I don't feel like myself.
We have been told you are taking a break from your favourite colour for Desirable.
It's only for the first episode. After that you will see me largely in whites.
At the time of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, you made a statement about attacking Pakistan. Do you stand by it?
I was misquoted by a section of the media. I made a case for attacking the terror camps in Pakistani territory and I stand by it. In fact, the recent developments in Pakistan where Osama Bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in a covert operation prove that what I said makes sense. I think the U.S. authorities picked the idea from my statement…just joking!
Are you returning to acting?
Yes, after the show I am going to shoot for Jaideep Chatterjee's Ek Chutki Chandni. I have a main role in the film.