February 6, 2002


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Anarkali reborn

Seema Sinha

Akanksha with Bina Rai If it was hunger strike that got Bina Rai, the legendary actress into films, five decades later a 10-minute heart-rending scene from Mahesh Bhatt's Arth opened the doors to stardom for her granddaughter Akanksha. The new entrant makes her debut with Umesh Mehra's Yeh Mohabbat Hai, scheduled for a February 8 release.

"Like every father I wanted to see her happily married. But she was adamant," reveals Akanksha's father and Bina Rai's son Prem Kishen. "Reluctantly, I allowed her to join an acting school. And when I saw a video of a scene from Arth enacted by Akanksha, I was floored. I felt it'd be cruel on my part to stop her. Today I'm a happy and proud father."

Dressed in a lovely green printed churidar kurta, the legendary Bina Rai, now 70, chips in, "I had a great craze for movies and wanted to become an actress. And when my parents opposed, maine toh bhookh hartal kar di (I went on a hunger strike).''

"Today I'm a householder and a housewife," she continues, smiling. "Everyone in the family is working while I rest. Now I want the youngsters to flourish in their career." Back in those days, the tabloids raved about the lissome beauty, her charm and her innocent, yet worldly good looks. The climax song Yeh zindagi usiki hai in Anarkali, when Pradeep Kumar has been injured with poisonous arrows darted by the Machiavellian minister and Bina Rai is buried alive, caught up with the masses in a big way.

Akanksha debuts with Yeh Hai Mohabbat Yeh Mohabbat Hai has Akanksha playing Shaheen, a Muslim lass who rebels for the love of her man. Rahul Bhatt (of Heena TV serial fame) is her leading man. Says the eager young actress of her character, "It's an amazing role for a debutant, with several shades to it. I want to give my best to acting and prove myself to be a worthy successor to dada, dadi and papa."

What memories does Akanksha have of her grandfather, the famous actor Premnath? "I was very young when he passed away," she replies wistfully. "He was a very learned man and a lovely human being. We'd go to meet him every Sunday and always found him full of enthusiasm. I was learning Kathak those days. He'd ask me to show all the new steps I'd learnt. He was a very religious and spiritual kind of person. He taught us the Gayatri Mantra," reminisces Akanksha.

Belonging to a film family is no guarantee for a successful career, she strongly believes. "No sane person would spend millions of rupees just because you're the granddaughter of some well-known actor. Even Umesh Mehra screen tested me before he signed me," she points out.

For Akanksha, her experienced Dadi is a living legend and the best coach she can get. "She's such a fantastic actress", says the proud granddaughter. "I have watched all her films. Four of my favourites are Anarkali, Taj Mahal, Ghungat and Dadi Maa. I still watch them and learn. She had so much grace and enigmatic beauty; you rarely see that in women today."

Akanksha with father Prem Kishen and costar Rahul Bhatt "Akanksha is a carbon copy of my mother," says Prem Kishen fondly. "Her choice of career has made my mother very happy. She's been very sad all these years, having lost interest in life since my father's death over a decade ago. I could never make her happy. But she's started taking interest in life again."

Prem Kishen's own acting career had been a shortlived one.He had a successful hit in Rajshri Productions' Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaaye. Subsequently, he went on to build a successful career as a software producer with Cinevista Entertainment.

Bina Rai celebrated 40 years of wedded life, before husband passed away. "When you lose your partner life does become sad and lonely. I became totally self-centered and secluded after his death," she says. "All the veterans like Raj Kapoor, Bimal Roy, V Shantaram, S Mukherjee... are gone. I miss them," she adds.

The former actress reveals that Akanksha reminds her of her own younger days. "When I was a young girl, after I'd seen a movie I would come back and imitate the actors in front of the mirror! I was very fond of acting."

Bina had no regrets when she decided to call it quits after a good innings. "In films they like you young," she smiles. "There are very few filmmakers who make films based on character actors. You get small roles of mother, which are not worthwhile. That is another reason why I quit acting. Today I think Rekha is the only actress who is still doing good roles," she says.

Akanksha debuts with Yeh Mohabbat Hai Interestingly Rekha is one of Akanksha's role models other than Hema Malini. "They still look so good that they give us a complex. I like Madhuri Dixit for her expressions and performance."

Akanksha is keen on doing roles "which have a lot of depth like Rekha did in Umrao Jaan, Preity Zinta in Sangharsh and Kya Kehna, Kajol in Dushman, Manisha Koirala in Grahan and Karisma Kapoor in Zubeidaa."

It is very important to go by the changing times, she believes, and therefore would prefer to work with the younger lot. "Like Farhan Akhtar and Meghna Gulzar... they are making movies of today," she quips.

Akanksha's other projects include a film opposite John Abraham, directed by Rahul Rawail. She has been signed by D Rama Naidu for a film to be directed by K Ravi Shankar, opposite Fardeen Khan. There is another film which Puneet Issar is directing. And another one with Padmalaya Productions which will be starting soon.

In the meanwhile, it's fingers crossed for all three generations of this famous film family.

India News Feature Service