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  • Writer's pictureAbigail Mathias

Woh bees Minute

An encounter with actress Padmini Kolhapure By Abigail Mathias

If at 7 years old, you would suggest I’d be sitting in a room with a celebrity I adored three decades ago, I would probably not have believed it. But here I was, transfixed to interview Padmini Kolhapure.

Kolhapure began her career in the Indian film industry at precisely 7 years old. She has many blockbuster films and acting awards to her credit, winning her first at the age of 15 for Insaf ka Tarazu in 1980. A niece of the legendary singers Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, Kolhapure blossomed as a child actress in front of the media glare when tabloid magazines and viral interviews were a very distant reality. She has also made a comeback in online films in a Covid-ridden world.

Born on November 1, 1965 in Maharashtra, India, Kolhapure is known for her work on Woh Saat Din (1983), Prem Rog (1982), Vidhaata (1982) and Insaf Ka Tarazu (1980) to name a few. She is married to film Producer Tutu Sharma and is also the doting aunt of the popular film actress Sharaddha Kapoor.

She was in the UAE on April 11, for the Miss and Mrs. International Queen Dubai, a beauty pageant initiative by Srishti Tiwari and her group Naari by Srishti. As with most worldwide events, this one too had its challenges. Keeping safety protocols in mind, the show provided an opportunity for the stars of yesteryear to come face to face with a UAE audience. These included the likes of TV actor Aman Verma who hosted the event in the presence of Indian actors like Bhagyashree and Sooraj Thapar, a name familiar to those in theatre for close to three decades.

As we sit down to discuss the event that brought him here, Thapar says, “I’ve never been hesitant to try new things,” he says. “Dubai is like my second home. I’ve been visiting for the past 25 years. I have very close family members here including my siblings, so it does feel like home. I’m so fortunate to be invited by the organisers and remembered by my fans.” He explains that he has never hesitated to take up a variety of roles throughout a career on stage, in film or on television. As we discuss the many facets of cinema, I am aware that the mega-star in the room is taking a quick break to get some me-time. “Please continue, I hope you do not mind if I make myself a cup of green tea. Would anyone else like some?” We all smile and politely refuse. Here is Indian hospitality at its best.

She makes her way to us and I’m reminded that we are quite fortunate to have these intimate moments. Her film Woh Saat Din is itself a reminder of cherishing magical nuances and it immediately comes to mind. A few minutes earlier we witnessed many fans in the UAE waiting eagerly for their one prized selfie with the famous star.

We all realize that the masks we are wearing all evening are weighing us down. As we begin to address the pandemic Thapar begins, “These are strange We have to accept that these are the times. It’s better to follow the rules. I’d like to remind everyone to not forget what our elders told us. Don’t forget to wear a mask. Wear two if you have to. Exercise regularly, do some yoga and follow the safety rules. Do not overrate yourself. That’s most important.” He goes on to applaud the UAE for carrying on strict sanitization techniques.

Kolhapure nods. She is no stranger to international venues. She began her career in 1978. In recent times she's known more as the doting mother of Bollywood actor Priyank Kapoor. She hints about the new web series which has dominated most of her time. 2020 has been a roller coaster of a year for most people. Kolhapure lost her mother in law in August 2020 while her son made his acting debut and got married recently as well. The wedding was kept low-key in lieu of Covid-19 restrictions. She believes that an event like this pageant helps women shed their inhibitions. "It is so courageous of the women on stage who have literally stepped on a plane for the first time in their lives to be here," she says.

The beauty pageant has brought 22 aspiring women to the UAE. Speaking about the event, Srishti Tiwari says, ‘‘We are extremely thankful to all the participants. All of them were truly inspirational and we are thrilled by their enthusiasm as they walked the ramp and faced the audience with such grace for the first time in their lives.”

“The pandemic situation back in India is quite catastrophic,” points out Kolhapure who has worked in Marathi films and even a Malayalam adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. She has also sung for a variety of film scores in the past and breaks into a short melody in the elevator this is when I tell her that I'm from the state of Goa. "Oh, that's close to the Mangeshi temples!" I love Goa and your Goan Mandos," she says. (Mandos are a Goan melody sung in unison). “Sadly many people are in denial and not accepting that something like Covid-19 exists. So there’s a total mix of opinions. Some want to believe it's political, while others want to think that Covid has been created by the rich and the famous and in that bargain it is spreading. That is tragic,” she says.

Thapar jokes about women’s independence describing how the two of them travelled from Mumbai together but he knew where to draw the line when offering to help. “When you have been in the industry for as long as we have you learn to multitask.” laughs Kolhpapure saying that in his own house too, he knows who is the boss. Defining his career he adds, “As an actor you definitely grow,” says Thapar. “Later on of course when you become a family man you end up living for them. This is why when I began to do theatre 25 years ago, I did not hesitate to take up film roles and today even a web series. I don’t wait for things and limit myself, even if they are ad(vertising) films.” He says he has many friends in the film industry who have their reservations. “Many of my friends do not want to take up the challenge of working on daily soaps. I’ve seen them left behind. Today my work is remembered and I believe this is why people remember me and call me. It’s a blessing.”

Kolhapuri discusses the web series that she is a part of and I see that familiar twinkle in her eye. “It’s my first and I am very excited. Cinema is there and it will always be there but yes these are challenging times. Many people are not able to go to the cinema anymore due to restrictions and lockdowns which are important for their safety. So while many films have taken a back seat, people are taking their time to entertain themselves at home. As for me I may have watched just three or four films during the entire pandemic.”

“I’ve arrived last night and I haven’t yet switched on the TV. I just don’t feel like being a part of it,” she says. I know many people have found comfort in watching old films, especially during these times,” she acnkowledges. She is happy to know that people are still listening to the songs of films made in the 70’s and 80’s, indeed it keeps a smile on most of our faces.

“All over the world people have seen her films,” echoes Thapar. We discuss the new generation and their films and the legacy of Indian cinema. It is nice to see a comeback for Indian actors who would have otherwise gotten fewer opportunities. As we wrap up the interview it is clear that despite the time that has passed some stars are still shining even if the spotlight is not yet on them.

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