If you were asked to name the only actress in Hindi cinema who has worked with as many outstanding filmmakers as possible, who would you name? Simi Garewal is not a name that comes easily to mind. She’s been out of the limelight since her hugely popular chat show Date with Simi Garewal has been closed. Her acting career is at a standstill.
But look at his staggering repertoire of directors: Raj Kapoor (mera naam joker), Satyajit Ray (Aranyer Din Ratri), KA Abbas (Make Boond Pani), Hrishikesh Mukherjee (Namak Haram), Mehboub Khan (Love God), Ramesh Sippy (Andaz), Yash Chopra (Kabhi Kabhie). Then there are his unacknowledged triumphs in auteur films like Prahlad by Sharma Vidyapati (in which she was able to sing one of At Lataji’s the most beautiful melodies morey naina sawan bhadow, tori reh-reh yaad sataye) and Girish Ranjan Dak Bangla in 1974, which was not a pleasant experience for Simi.
Always marginal, Simi grew up in London. At the age of 15, she came to Mumbai to become an actress, only to be greeted with abject coldness. An incident early in his career proved an indicator of Simi’s future in Bollywood. Attending a film party and feeling completely isolated, Simi chatted with another more established actress who came from a background similar to hers. The actress seemed quite pleasant and friendly. But a while later, Simi overheard the actress whispering nasty insults about Simi to her mother in the bathroom.
Simi, just a young teenager at the time, cried and decided that if she was to survive Bollywood, she should be much stronger emotionally and not look for friends in the film industry.
All rays of hope (pun intended) entered Simi’s life by her own merit. She won two Filmfare Awards, for Raj Khosla’s Do Badan and that of Sridhar Saathi, where she was the second head. His greatest success as an actor was that of Subhash Ghai Karz. Simi played Bollywood’s first bonafide female villain. Simi had serious reservations about playing such an evil woman who murders her husband for money. The film earned Simi numerous accolades. But she turned down all the negative roles that came up after Karz.
Still living life her own way, Simi talk show Date with Simi Garewal brought exotic guests like Benazir Bhutto, Jayalalitha and Ratan Tata to our salons. All opened their hearts to their hostess. She won the trust of her distinguished guests. They knew she was genuinely interested in their lives.
Who else but Simi could have blackmailed Jayalalitha Aaja sanam Madhur chandni mein hum tum on his show?
Perfect hostess, one of the pleasures of visiting Mumbai was dining with Simi and her lovely sister Amrita. They don’t not only make you feel special, they also serve the most appetizing food.
No one knows. But Simi is the best impersonator in the world. His takeoffs on…whatever…are so perfect even Never-Mind would be baffled. simi doesn’t only serves fabulous food…it also served as food for thought.
The actress, who turns 75 today, is eloquent, witty, erudite and talkative… who could be all of these and more? I wish we could see her more on screen. Maybe a sequel to Mera Naam Joker, where Catholic teacher Mary returns to rekindle her association with the Kapoors. This time, with Ranbir, the son of his favorite student, Rishi Kapoor, eyeing, perhaps?
Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has written about Bollywood long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.
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