“When my name appeared in the credit titles of Ek Duuje Ke Liye by mistake as Shobha instead of Shubha, I told L.V. Prasad the film will flop and he immediately recalled the title cards and changed the name to Shubha in all the films” SHUBHA KHOTE yells JYOTHI VENKATESH
At 85, Shubha Khote has a sharp memory and a witty tongue. At the outset when I land at her spacious bungalow which has four storeys at Juhu, she tells me “I have not yet tired or retired. Nor have I passed away. I am now all set to direct my next play Kitne Admi They, I do not want to be called a legend or bestowed with an award for Life Time Achievement, because I am alive and kicking and what’s more still working round the clock”.
We wish the legendary actress a happy 85th birthday today. Shubha Khote had started her illustrious and long journey 66 years ago on December 8, 1955, with Ameya Chakravorty’s film Seema. “My role in Seema was extremely popular and overnight I ended up as a star to reckon with and touchwood, there has been absolutely no looking back at all and I am happy with the way my career has progressed till date form Seema til Toilet Ek Prem Katha,” she chuckles, offering me hot coffee made by her on coffee maker installed at her residence.
Did you get the break as an actress very easily or did you have to struggle for it? I ask her. Pat comes the reply, “I was a cycling champion at that point of time and when my pictures were published in newspapers, I got my break on a platter and I was not asked to do an audition at all. In any case, I was a child star from the age of 5 on the Marathi stage. My father Nandu Khote was an actor as well as director in the silent era and had acted with stalwarts like David and Jagirdar on the stage. I was already confident on the stage and in films it helped that I had co-actors like Balraj Sahani and Nutan who became good friends to me. The only flip side is that I could not pursue my education and graduate in B.A as I had become very busy with my film commitments.”
It is interesting to note that at a time when every other actress wanted to become a heroine in films, Shubha actually did not want to be a heroine and wanted to be just a character artiste and specialize in comedy roles. “I did not want to play the glamorous heroine because I did not want to just look beautiful and run around the trees with the hero. Even today there are no female comedians in films. Ametya Sir used to tell me that my timing was always perfect and hence I should only do comedy roles.”
Shubha confesses that she did play the vamp in both Paying Guest and Ek Duuje Ke Liye. “I did not wish to play the vamp in Paying Guest in which I was playing a girl who was rich as well as glamorous. I hated myself for being a part of the film with Dev Anand as the vamp that for almost two years I did not even bother to go and see the film. I had no other alternative but to act in that film as it was produced by Filmistan which had signed me for a two films contract. I acted in both “Paying Guest and Champakali with them.”
Interestingly, though Shubha Khote was born as a Maharashtrian and was christened Shubhangi, Ameya Chakravorty introduced her in Seema as Shubha Khote and Marathi film producers were under the impression that as a star from Bollywood, Shubha Khote would throw tantrums and hence did not approach her to work in Marathi films. “Not many are aware of the fact that not only have I acted in four Marathi films including Shubh Mangal directed by Anant Mane in which I played the proper suffering helpless heroine which I did while I was in college even before I got a break with Seema but also produced a film in Marathi called Chimukale Pahune and also directed it. It was not released properly and flopped when it was released but I was overwhelmed when I received a lot of telephone calls the day it was telecast on Mumbai Doordarshan. Ramesh Deo, my younger brother Viju Khote and I had acted in the film which was released in 1968. It was in B & W and cost me, believe it or not, just a lakh of rupees then.”
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According to Shubha, her ten best films till date are Seema, Gharana, Bharosa, Ek Duuje Ke Liye, Dekh Kabeera Roya, Paying Guest, Grahasti, Barkha and Toilet Ek Prem Katha. Shobha admires Nandlal Jaswantlal, Mahesh Kaul, Hemen Gupta, Ameya Chakravorty and K Balachander in the earlier lot of directors and Rajkumar Hirani, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Anurag Basu among the current lot and says that though she had not worked with any of the current lot till date, she would be glad to be a part of their films.
Shubha Khote was aghast when the credit titles of Ek Duuje Ke Liye read her name as Shobha Khote instead of Shubha Khote, though she had acted with L.V. Prasad’s banner in three films- Sasural, Beti Bete and Choti Behen. Not a person to mince words, Shubha told Prasad that whenever her name appeared in the credit titles erroneously as Shobha instead of Shubha, the film was guaranteed to flop. Overnight L.V. Prasad recalled the title cards and changed them in all the prints of Ek Duuje Ke Liye . “If someone rings me up and asks for Shobhaji instead of Shubhaji, I angrily tell the person that Shobha isn’t there at the house. Shubha sighs,”I wish I had retained my original name Shubhangi instead of letting Ameyaji change my name to Shubha from Shubhangi”.
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If you liked Shubha’s role as the possessive mother of Rati Agnihotri who tries every possible way to prevent her daughter from marrying Kamal Haasan, you have to credit it to Shubha’s real life mother. Shubha shyly and hesitatingly recalled the days when her mother did not like her to get married and tried her level best to prevent her daughter from getting married to the guy of her choice. Today Shubha Khote and her husband Dinesh Balsaver, who is into organic farming are the happy parents of two sons Nandu Balsaver and Ashwin Balsaver and an actress-daughter like Bhavana Balsaver and son in law actor Karan Shah, who had made his debut with Jawani and co-produced films like Baby, Rustom, Naam Shabana and also Toilet Ek Prem Katha.
Though Shubha confesses that as far as work is concerned, she is always ready, she is not game to work in TV serials because they shoot them in Mira Road, Naigaon or Vasai Road and she feels that travelling makes her exhausted. Right now, she has just completed shooting for two ad films (“I find modeling very easy because they do not expect expressions from models”) and is busy directing her play Kitne Aadmi They and has no film or TV serial on hand. The reason she is not seen in films nowadays is that she does not want to do itsy bitsy roles in films, especially when “is age mein roles aren’t easy to come by.”
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Shubha recollects that Mehmood and she shared a great camaraderie and they used to call each other Bhai. “Most of the time Dhumal, Mehmood and I used to shoot for our separate comedy track, which used to run in parallel with the film’s story. Funnily enough though the situations were similar and stereo typed, and we used to mouth the same lines like parrots, we used to sport different costumes for the scenes. I gelled well with both of them because we could understand one another and indulge in impromptu repartee. It is thanks to Bhai that I got a chance to work with the man I worship even today- Dilip Kumar with whom I did a passing shot for Sadhu Aur Shaitan when I was in the cab with a dead body and Dilip Kumar and Mumtaz were seen walking on the road.”