Padmini Kolhapure was just nine when she made her debut in Dev Anand’s Ishk Ishk Ishk. The 1974 romantic drama featured the evergreen actor in the lead opposite Zeenat Aman. It was Shabana Azmi’s first commercial outing, had the hunky Kabir Bedi and introduced Dev saab’s nephew, Shekhar Kapur, along with Zarina Wahab.
The daughter of renowed vocalist and veena player, Pandharinath Kolhapure, Padmini and her sister Shivangi, started out as playback singers. As the niece of Asha Bhosle, Padmini was mentored by singercomposer RD Burman, along with music directors Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Kalyanji-Anandji. The songs of Ishk Ishk Ishk were scored by RD, with Ashaji lending her voice to five of them. “There’s a moment in the film, maybe in a song, when I call out to Dev uncle, ‘Ei dost’ and he responds to my greeting with ‘Ei Munni’. I remember trying to imitate his inimitable style,” laughs the actress, who went on to become a powerhouse performer herself.
Almost half a century later, Padmini is grateful she started her new innings with her Dev uncle. “Not every filmmaker takes such good care of child artistes, but in his production, I was a star. Once, when I was driving to the location in Kufri with my father, we were hit by a heavy snowstorm. Since the wipers were not working, the driver of our jeep couldn’t see ahead and had to open the windscreen. We were shooting high up in the mountains and cars back then didn’t have heaters. By the time we reached, I was frozen. When Dev uncle heard this, he came running and rubbed brandy on my feet himself, trying to warm me up. He was so loving and caring, full of life and energy, and yet so chilled out,” she reminisces fondly, admitting that she had always been a fan of Dev Anand, mesmerised by the music of films like Guide, Hare Rama Hare Krishna and even Darling Darling that not many remember. “When I started interacting with him, I discovered that he was an even better person than what I had expected.”
Eight years later, they reunited for Swami Dada and Padmini recounts that there was only one awkward moment when he told her that he wanted her to smoke a bidi. “Dev uncle, I don’t think I will be comfortable doing that,” the teenager wailed. Decades later, she acknowledges that another director might have insisted on her lighting up, but Dev saab simply nodded, “Okay, just hold the bidi in your hand, you don’t have to puff it.” Remembering him as an “amiable and flexible” filmmaker, Padmini shares that while Dev saab would explain a shot to her in his distinctive style, he was okay with her doing it her way.
Dev saab and she did not work again, but Padmini would often drop by at his office for a chat. “He had a very disciplined lifestyle and retained his youthful looks and charm till the end. In all the years that I knew him, he didn’t change. He was an actor, a filmmaker and a gentleman with an undying passion for his craft,” she avers, recalling that in the two films they did together, not once did she see him leave the set, except to grab a bite during lunch time. “Those days there were no air-conditioners or coolers. But he never took off his trademark cap, muffler and jacket. While others would stand by the table fans occasionally to cool off, he was impervious to everything. I will always remember Dev uncle as a man who loved films, who loved weaving celluloid dreams,” she says.
Had he still been around, he would have turned a sprightly 97 on September 26. And Padmini and I would have sung “Chal Saathi Chal, Chalta Jaaye Har Ek Pal… Hey Parbat Pukare, Aa Mere Pyare, Peechhey Na Reh, Aage Nikal…”