By Chaitanya Padukone
Popular senior Bollywood & TV actress-danseuse Shagufta Ali (aka ‘Mithee’) is a die-hard fan of composer-singer R D Burman’s music scores. On the eve of (RDB) Pancham-da’s 82nd birth anniv. on June 27th, the outspoken Shagufta goes into sentimental raptures. “ That’s because even after 28 years I continue to get compliments. For dancing gracefully in a exotic gypsy ‘get-up’ to the racy pulsating trending item-song ‘Rang Rangeeli’ from Gardish ( 1993) composed by RDB and sung by Asha Bhosle with lyrics by Javed Akhtar.
Honestly, I was not aware that the mukhda (refrain) tune was a classy reprisal of Pancham-da’s own Latin-American ‘Pantera’ (1987) theme. When I came to know about it from film-journalist Chaitanya, I felt both highly honored and thrilled that indirectly I have danced to RDB’s Latin-American track and its Calypso-vibes beats from ‘Pantera’ which was a chartbuster album in the US & South America during the ‘80s,” enthuses Mithee whose ‘late’ father Shahid Bijnori was a famous ‘stand-up-comedian’ and compere who accompanied the legendary Mohd.
Shagufta Ali (Mithee) with hero Jackie Shroff in Rang Rangeeli song (Gardish)–02Rafi’s live orchestra-band for 25 years. Continues Mithee, “ While Priyadarshan ( Priyan-Sir) was the director of ‘Gardish’ , my fast-tempo song ‘Rang Rangeeli’ shot in a Chennai Studio, with its complex dance-movements was brilliantly-choreographed by dance-guru Prabhudeva, who then, had not started acting. My friendly co-stars were the ever-helpful Jackie Shroff and funster Rakesh Bedi. So excited I was, performing to my solo-song composed by genius R D Burman and sung fabulously by Asha-tai, that I had not even enquired about how much I would be paid,” recalls Shagufta who had previously danced to yet another RDB-composed item-song ‘Reshmi Zulfein’ from ‘Indrajeet’ (1991).
“This was also a terrific dance-track conjured up by the maestro Pancham-Da choreographed by P.L.Raj, where actor Ashutosh Gowariker ( yes the ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ director) who played a negative role, was one of my four co-dancers,” shares Shagufta who is honest in disclosing who is behind her excellent dancing. “Full credit for my dancing-acting on-screen goes to the intensive training imparted by my ‘Guru’ actress-danseuse Madhumati at her academy. She is the one who transformed me from a raw beginner to a perfect performer,” insists Mithee.
Interestingly, both legends S D Burman and son Rahul Dev Burman had keenly watched Madhumati dancing on the studio-sets to the SDB-composed classical-gem song ‘Tere Naina Talash Kar’ from ‘Talash’ (1969 ) and then profusely complimented her. According to Madhumati-jee, “ Pancham had incorporated valuable percussion inputs during that iconic ‘Tere Naina ‘ song- recording, which his composer-father Sachin-da had highly appreciated.”
( The writer of this interview-article Chaitanya Padukone is an eminent senior film-journalist and author of memoirs book R D BurMania)