EXCLUSIVE: "Shatruji’s a nice person. Our films worked," says Reena Roy | Filmfare.com (2024)

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EXCLUSIVE: "Shatruji’s a nice person. Our films worked," says Reena Roy | Filmfare.com (1)

Amidst a starry ensemble, young Reena Roy cast a spell on audiences with her serpentine turn in and as Nagin. Passion and poison; hers was serious sensuousness... Tere sang pyaar main being the siren call. The fact that the film spawned a series of icchadari nagin protagonists, including Sridevi’s Nagina, Nigahen, Naag Shakti, and Ekta Kapoor’s small-screen sequels, is only a tribute to the sharbati’-eyed Reena. Working her way resolutely along marquee queens Hema Malini, Zeenat Aman, and Rekha, piquant Reena filled the void left behind by Mumtaz. If her pout inspired lip-gloss catalogues, her dark eyes prompted a kohl revival. Decades later, her numbers were, Aa dekhein zara (Rocky), Disco station (Hathkadi), Nisha nisha (Sanam Teri Kasam), Sheesha ho ya dil ho (Aasha), serenading her razzmatazz, replaying on the airwaves and in talent hunts.

In matters of the heart, she’s lived it full-throttle. A widely-reported romance with Shatrughan Sinha and a headline-grabbing marriage with Pakistani cricketer Mohsin Khan... Reena meant news. But much like her ever-smiling countenance, she remained unruffled. That Sinha, in his memoir, Anything But Khamosh: The Shatrughan Sinha Biography, has spoken about her with indisputable decorum only speaks of the respect she commands. Wrapped in the same politesse is her bond with her ex-husband, Mohsin. “It’s all pehle janam ka lena dena. You’re destined to achieve certain things. I want to be reborn as Reena Roy and quit

at the top,” she says. Read on…

EXCLUSIVE: "Shatruji’s a nice person. Our films worked," says Reena Roy | Filmfare.com (2)


Nothing grabbed more newsprint than her smouldering screen vibe with Shatrughan Sinha and the subsequent rumours linking them. Paired in 16 films, they gave several hits, including Milap, Kalicharan, Chor Ho To Aisa and Vishwanath. “I was linked up with everyone. Rumours never disturbed me. Shatruji’s a nice person. He had a different attitude in the way he talked and walked. Our films worked. So people made rai ka pahaad (mountains out of a molehill). He was committed. He has a wonderful family and a lovely daughter (Sonakshi Sinha),” she says with palpable respect. Regarding the goodwill she enjoys from all her co-actors, she says, “When you don’t harm anyone, when you don’t step on anyone’s tail, why should they talk ill about you?”

Reena was a favourite of other male co-stars as well. She worked with Jeetendra in 22 films, including Badaltey Rishtey (1978) and Pyaasa Sawan (1982). “Jeetuji came across some rushes of mine. He liked my bachpana, my child-like innocence. That’s how I was cast in Jaise Ko Taisa,” she says. “My mother resembled Jeetuji’s mother, their faces and body language was similar. Jeetuji felt an emotional connection with my family.” Reena was delighted when she was paired with her teen crush, Rajesh Khanna. “If I bunked school, it was for Rajesh Khanna. I’d take my friends along and buy them ice-cream as we waited outside his bungalow, Aashirwad,” she says. “But when I worked with him (Dhanwan and Asha Jyoti), I realised he was just as human. He was a father figure to me. He’d advise me, ‘You’re like a kid. Don’t laugh so loudly. People will misread it.’ He called my mother ‘Beeji’ out of respect.” Reena appeared with megastar Amitabh Bachchan in the Punjabi film Walayati Babu (1981). “After Naseeb (1985), I was offered two films by Manmohan Desai with Amitji, one of which was Mard. I couldn’t do them because I was getting married,” she reveals.

EXCLUSIVE: "Shatruji’s a nice person. Our films worked," says Reena Roy | Filmfare.com (3)


Rajkumar Kohli’s Nagin (1976) won Reena superstardom. “The role of the avenging nagin was turned down by many actresses. Even my mother thought it was ‘negative’. But I’d played enough of the ‘running around trees and singing’ kind of roles,” says the actor who’s featured in Jangal Mein Mangal, Goonj, and Umar Qaid. Master Kamal’s ‘nagin’ spin and Bhanu Athaiya’s attire augmented the myth of her character. “The coloured lenses were hard. My entry would be marked by blowing winds and flying leaves, which hurt my eyes further,” she says recalling the challenge of playing the shape-shifting serpent. Kohli’s lucky mascot, Reena, was also seen in his Jaani Dushman, Muqabla and Raaj Tilak (between 1979 and 1984). Close to the success of Nagin, Subhash Ghai’s action thriller Kalicharan (1973), starring Reena opposite Shatrughan Sinha, forged her best-selling pairing with the unconventional hero. An important curve also remains her trinity with J. Om Prakash: Apnapan (1977), Aasha (1980), and Arpan (1983), all opposite Jeetendra. The widow, who reforms narcissistic Rajesh Khanna in Dhanwan, the psychiatrist to Vinod Khanna in Jail Yatra, a double role in Ladies Tailor, opposite Sanjeev Kumar, a woman tormented by her past in Bezubaan... Reena’s curated repertoire made her the ‘highest paid’ actress in the early ’80s.

EXCLUSIVE: "Shatruji’s a nice person. Our films worked," says Reena Roy | Filmfare.com (4)


What set her apart from the rest was her casual charm. “Parveen Babi, Neetu Singh... We all slipped into jeans. We left our hair loose and wore light make-up. In fact, in Bezubaan, I hardly wore make-up. Our onscreen personae were much like the way we were.” She maintains that looking sexy isn’t about flaunting skin. “Legendary actresses like Vyjayanthimala and Madhubala wore outfits that covered their bodies. Their glamour lay in their faces. You don’t need to reveal anything to look sexy. Your face has to be expressive. You can be fully covered and yet have sex appeal. Even if the audience spots your payal, it should leave them charmed. Your smile and eyes must have magic,” she maintains.

EXCLUSIVE: "Shatruji’s a nice person. Our films worked," says Reena Roy | Filmfare.com (5)


Letters in blood, marriage proposals, admirers... Reena had her share of it all. “A fan, who was actually a dentist, would be waiting outside my home at Pali Hill the whole day. My mother instructed the staff to be gentle with him: ‘Don’t hit him. Offer him water. God knows from where he has come!’ she’d say as I left from the back door for shooting,” she shares. The buzz about her planning to marry Pakistani cricketer Mohsin Khan in 1983 upset some fans. “One evening, while shooting in Punjab, a man knocked on the door. He seemed tipsy. Placing his hands on his waist, he said, ‘Aapko koi mila nahi poore Hindustan mein ke aapne bahar shaadi karni chahi?’ He was kindly led out by the staff,” she recalls.

EXCLUSIVE: "Shatruji’s a nice person. Our films worked," says Reena Roy | Filmfare.com (6)


Reena Roy’s childhood was spent in the green by-lanes of Khar. “I’d return from school, fling my bag on the bed, and run out to play seven tiles, marbles...” recalls Reena, a self-confessed tomboy. “The minute a song played on the radio, I’d begin dancing in front of the mirror. My mother (the late Sharda Rai) would give me a tapli (whack) telling me to focus on studies,” she laughs. The full-of-beans girl was first noticed by Nargis Dutt. Sunil Dutt’s Ajanta Arts, was on the lookout for new faces. Sharda Rai didn’t want her schooling daughter to join the industry just yet. “Instead, Mom enrolled me in the legendary Gopi Krishna’s classes to rein in my extra energy and tire me out,” she laughs. A few years later, teen Reena debuted with B.R. Ishara’s Nai Duniya Naye Log (1973), opposite Danny Denzongpa. But it was Jaise Ko Taisa (1973) with the rain-soaked number Ab ke sawan mein jee dare with Jeetendra that put Reena on the movie map.

EXCLUSIVE: "Shatruji’s a nice person. Our films worked," says Reena Roy | Filmfare.com (7)


“Bhai, hamne bahut mehnat ki hai. I’d wake up at 5 a.m. to attend Gopiji’s classes before leaving for shooting. On some days, I took horseback riding lessons on Juhu Beach or attended swimming classes,” she states. “I played a Bharat Natyam teacher in Dasari Narayana Rao’s Asha Jyoti (1984) with Rekhaji. Gopiji’s assistant, Veeru, would come home at 7 a.m. to teach me Bharat Natyam. Only after I’d mastered the postures did I begin shooting the film. I managed to pull it off. Thank God, izzat reh gayee!” she beams. Her sense of commitment made her the producer’s best bet. “Filmmakers took loans to finance the film. But they were confident that I’d complete the film within the schedule. Toofan ho aandhi ho Kaam khatam karna hai to karna hi hai, that was my attitude. I have shot ‘rain’ sequences even with fever. Never did I cancel the shooting or throw a tantrum.”

EXCLUSIVE: "Shatruji’s a nice person. Our films worked," says Reena Roy | Filmfare.com (8)


Her no-fuss personality made her the best bet for two-heroine films, including those with Rekha, Sulakshana Pandit, and Rameshwari. “I was easygoing. They didn’t see me as a threat. I had no ego issues, no panga with anyone,” says Reena, who did Prem Tapasya and Pyaasa Sawan (both in 1983) with Moushumi Chatterjee. Her playful presence lit up the atmosphere. “Hemaji (Malini) was reserved and hardly spoke on the set (Naseeb 1981). I’d take it as a challenge to make her laugh. So when I wasn’t around, she couldn’t help but ask, ‘Aaj Reena nahi aayee?’ The same was the case with Asha Parekhiji (Sau Din Saas Ke 1980),” she smiles.

EXCLUSIVE: "Shatruji’s a nice person. Our films worked," says Reena Roy | Filmfare.com (9)


What made the actress quit at the peak of her career was the growing concern of her mother. “Mom would say, ‘How many shifts will you do? How much more will you earn? Tumhara shauk pura ho gaya. Ab bas, settle down!’ Many senior actresses, like Nandaji, never got married. My mother feared that happening to me as well. She wanted me to have a family—something to come back home to.” She elaborates, “As an actor, you work from morning till night. You come home, take a shower and sleep. The next day, you wake up at 5 a.m. again. I wasn’t even aware of how successful I was.” Reena married Mohsin Khan in 1983 and moved to London. “I kept visiting my mother off and on. Mumbai mujhse chootha hi nahi,” she narrates. Sporadically, she was seen in J. Om Prakash’s, Aadmi Khilona Hai, and J. P. Dutta’s Ghulami and Refugee and television serials, including Barkha Roy’s Eena Meena Deeka. “I am a person who sticks by her decision. No one pushed me into marriage. When you choose to do something, how can you complain? Hai hai maine kya kar liya!” she says. Motherhood was yet another curve. “I’ve always loved children. There’s even a picture with Rakesh Roshan, Rajesh Khanna, and Jeetendra’s kids. I enjoyed looking after my baby.”

EXCLUSIVE: "Shatruji’s a nice person. Our films worked," says Reena Roy | Filmfare.com (10)


Reena chose to stay single after her marriage with Mohsin ended in the ’90s. On being asked if she felt the need for a companion, she says, “Oh no, no, not at all. I keep busy with my daughter, Sanam. It would be great if she decided to get married. I’d be the happiest person.” She rues the fact that relationships break up easily today. “It could be because of modern-day pressures, a lack of commitment... Therav (maturity) and sabr (patience) are essential.” She wants Sanam to stay independent and take her own decisions. “Strength and sixth sense: a woman should possess both.” Her relationship with her ex-husband, Mohsin, has remained congenial. “He calls Sanam regularly. Sometimes, when she’s at the health club or somewhere else and he can’t reach her, he calls me. Thank God everything is fine with him. I’m extremely happy for him.” Age and vanity do not bother her. “I’m cool about it. You should age gracefully. People at home urge me to dress in a ‘happening’ way. But I keep it simple. I haven’t done botox. Rather, I practise yoga.” What about a screen appearance? “The role should appeal to my heart. I don’t want to go overboard.”

EXCLUSIVE: "Shatruji’s a nice person. Our films worked," says Reena Roy | Filmfare.com (11)


Ask her why she keeps a low profile while her peers have taken to social media and she says, “We were brought up believing, ‘Aam (common) hai to charm nahi hai.’ But today, charm hai jab aap aam hai. I believe there should be a mystery around you,” she says, adding that she’s very much the same person. “The only change in me is that I am a mother and a responsible one. Otherwise, I am the same person.” What gives her such composure? “My mother believed that nothing is constant in life and we must stay grounded. That kept me sane. I’m deeply committed to my family—my sisters (Barkha and Anju) and my brother (Raja). I’d choose them over anything else.” Any words of wisdom? “Meri jaan, stay away from Jhanjhat!”

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