CINEMA A more assertive Bhagyashree is on the comeback trail
F or Bhagyashree, the 40s are clearly a time of re-invention. Dressed in a Bollywood-esque cream sari with shimmering sequins, she exuded poise and a relaxed air.
With an actor who quit at the zenith of her career (after the stupendous success of her debut film Maine Pyaar Kiya), it is but natural that most conversations go down memory lane. Bhagyashree recalls how director Suraj Barjatya had to actually approach her parents and get their consent before she could act in the film, “It seems quite funny when I look back now, but remember this was 20 years back. It was a very different time. I remember Surajji came to our house with his parents and explained the whole project to my family. Then he and I went to another room for him to discuss it with me, one on one. The whole setting was almost like a rishtaa or arranged marriage proposal!”
Bhagyashree Patwardhan hails from the royal family of Sangli in Maharashtra. At that time, her father (the Maharaja of Sangli) was all set to send her off to the U.S. for a conventional MBA. “But destiny had something different in mind,” she quips “After I ran out of excuses with the Barjatyas, I signed on. It was a wonderful one year of shooting and post production!”
She also recalls with fondness her equation and working relationship with co-star Salman Khan, “We're not really in touch anymore but he was delightful on the sets. Salman knew that I was seeing Himalaya at the time and would love to tease me about him.”
She of course went on to marry businessman Himalaya (Dasani). This is the perfect cue to ask her about what really made her quit Hindi films after marriage. Her answer is clipped and telling. “Because I have a very possessive husband!” she says, laughing sardonically. Bhagyashree then goes on to add more reflectively, “I don't regret it so much anymore. It all works out for the best. I was able to devote more time to my children and provide them a stable home.”
With her children well into their teens now, she feels the time is right to get more professionally active. Having done a few regional films and some television in the past couple of years, Bhagyashree now wants to be part of New Age Hindi cinema. “The Hindi film industry is going through a period of renaissance. I find it very exciting. The films are getting more realistic. That said, one can sometimes miss the laidback, homely atmosphere that existed on sets earlier. It can get ‘too professional' these days. Maine Pyaar Kiya was like one big family picnic!”
She is also drawn to theatre and thanks senior actor Anupam Kher for inspiring her on that front. “I'm looking forward to taking my play ‘Mujhse Shaadi Karogi' all over India and abroad. It's an outright comedy and we've all had a ball making it” she says.
From overnight national heartthrob to homemaker, wife and mother — for a woman who has essayed many roles in life, this should be a piece of cake.