Kamini Kaushal – a fine actress, now one of my favorites (she secured that status in my mind just last week, when I watched Nadiya Ke Paar)… Born in Lahore, British India, on January 16, 1927… Co-starred with every one of the great actors of the Golden Age (see below), and was legendarily Dilip Kumar’s first famous flame (not that I care about all that gossip, of course ;) )… Also a former radio star and trained bharatanatyam dancer, and prize-winning toy maker(!)… And lo and behold, still thriving today.
I do yoga and swim at 80: Kamini Kaushal (excerpts from excerpts from an interview in 2008, back when she was only 80):
Q: You are 80, my god!
A: It’s fun at 80. Gone through three generations, and still at it. Of course, things have changed. They always do. How can it ever be the same? . . .
Q: You’ve been witness to so many changes in the film industry.
A: Yeah, look at them! Most of my colleagues are gone. There’s no Nargis, Suraiya, Nutan, Meena Kumari, Raj Kapoor…you name them, they’re all gone. Yes, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand are there.
Q: And Manoj Kumar whose mother you played in the maximum number of films.
A: That was during my third innings. I’ve had a very unpredictable sort of career. I’ve done what I wanted to do. Got married and left the industry when it was required and returned when it was okay. When I wanted to work, I did. When I was needed elsewhere, I didn’t. Cinema was never my be-all, end-all. When I worked, I did so with complete integrity. But work didn’t come above my family. For me, living a decent life is enough. Yes, I was passionate about acting, but not for the sake of making money. I like being creative. I love making toys as much as acting.
Q: So the family was always your priority?
A: You know, I’ve brought up five kids. . . . I continued to be creative from home. I designed so many toys, and won prizes. Toy making is as fulfilling as films, except that people don’t get to see your face. I don’t crave to see my face splashed everywhere. I once saw one of my colleagues literally adoring her reflection in the mirror. It was scary. I didn’t want that to happen to me. The temptation to become self-obsessive is very high in the entertainment business. Don’t get so sucked into stardom that you forget you’re human.
. . .
Q: Some of your biggest hits as a leading lady were with Dilip Kumar.
A: “Nadiya Ke Paar” was cute, like a little poem. Dilip and I got along very well. I shared an easygoing relationship with Raj Kapoor also. He was a prankster. We all had a whole lot of fun.
. . .
Q: Are you impressed by the work being done today?
A: Yes and no. Technically our films have really progressed, but the content is suffering. I’d like to see more content, but I’m sure youngsters feel differently. They aren’t aware of my films at all. To them it doesn’t matter whether actors from my era existed. Today’s generation knows so much. I grew up with a natural curiosity. Today’s generation have to grow up fast to face the competition.
Q: Are you in touch with colleagues?
A: When you’re working together there’s plenty of interaction. Some people maintain a permanent bonding beyond work. But I live in south Mumbai and the entire industry lives in Juhu and Andheri. To go to the other end of the city to meet friends isn’t possible. So I spend my free time swimming. I must do some exercise.
Q: Swimming at 80?
A: Why? What’s wrong with it? Either I do yoga or swim. I don’t have any vices.
P.S. As I may have mentioned at some point, I got interested in Nadiya Ke Paar at first specifically because of the great soundtrack by C. Ramchandra. And for anybody who wants to hear or download that music, there are some MP3s at India Baja.