It’s hard to fit Bollywood’s legendary film-star Asha Parekh’s rich life into a newspaper article. Which may explain why the woman who never married, went on from a child star to become a romantic protagonist, later produced television serials, headed India’s film censor board; who runs a hospital in Mumbai, and works for the less fortunate behind the Bollywood screen, had to pen it all down at the age of 75.
“The Hit Girl” available on Amazon, her autobiography written in conjunction with author Khalid Mohamed, traces this “full life” Parekh said during her interview, adding, “I’ve been as truthful as I could,” in the book.
She is visiting the United States for multiple reasons this time — to see her aging aunt, launch the Sept. 30, Share & Care gala; and launch her book at July 13, event held at TV Asia studios, in Edison, N.J.
Parekh told News India Times she agreed to an autobiography to dispel the myth that she was “only an actress.” Her life, she said, has been a “wonderful journey with its ups and downs, a few regrets but also some miracles,” Having enjoyed her life “to the fullest” Parekh said, “Now I want to take a backseat and travel, go see places I have never been. God willing I will be able to do it.” In her shortlist are Austria, Norway, Australia, and New Zealand.
She also spoke about her life at the July 13, Share & are event where close to 140 invited guests were present. Parekh lauded the work of Indian-Americans and shared her love of the multicultural New York City which she has visited many times.
Her humanitarian work, Parekh told this correspondent, takes up a lot of her time. She is involved in the day-to-day running of the hospital in Mumbai, popularly called “Asha Parekh Hospital.” The same goes for the Film Industry Welfare Trust of which she is the Secretary, and which helps the less well off cadre of Bollywood, and their families – people who keep the industry buzzing working behind the scenes. “We help educate their children, and help with medical care and other services,” she said.
Bollywood Over The Years
Over her lifetime in films since the 1950s, Parekh has seen Bollywood transform. Among the things she noticed is, “People have become more conscious of the scripts they are taking,” she said, “And film-markers are making more films on women and those films are doing well, which is a good thing,” she added.
But she was not as complimentary about how women are presented on the small screen, based on her experience making television serials. Parekh founded the company Akruti, and produced serials like Palash ke Phool, Baaje Payal, Kora Kagaz, and Dal Mein Kaala. “Some of the TV serials are very regressive towards women. That should be stopped,” said the former officeholder at the Cine and Television Artists Association, and first female chairperson of India’s Central Board of Film Certification, aka, the Censor Board.
Born in 1942, Parekh learned classical Indian dance from childhood. Her first film was ‘Maa’ at the tender age of 10. She acted in Hindi films, as well as other language films including Gujarati, Punjabi, and Kannada.
At 16, ‘Dil Deke Dekho’ opposite Shammi Kapoor launched her as a major star. To name just a few other hits – Jap Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai; Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon; Teesi Manzil; Baharon Ke Sapne; Pyar Ka Mausam; Caravan; Manzil Manzil; Baharon ke Sapne; Do Badan; Chirag; Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki; Pagla Kahin Ka; and Kati Patang.
Share & Care
The actress’ work at Asha Parekh Hospital brought her in touch with Sharad and Ketki Shah, two physicians and philanthropists from New Jersey, who run the non-profit Share & Care. “They have donated to our hospital. And I have traveled around India for Share & Care. I feel I am part of this organization,” Parekh said. Sharad Shah told News India Times Parekh was one of 5 recipients of India’s Padma Shri award from whom Share & Care has benefited – Parekh, actress Shabani Azmi, poet, lyricist and screenwriter Javed Akhtar, Dr. Sudhir Parikh, publisher of News India Times and several other publications, and H.R. Shah, chairman and CEO of TV Asia.
Shah pointed to signature projects Share & Care had been involved with in India – “Nirmal Bharat” which is building hundreds of toilets; Women’s Empowerment which trains poor women in banking and self-defense; Gender Equality and Gender Equity, that began with family-based training; Educate for Success and Educate to Graduate, which help high-school children and those aspiring for higher education respectively; and Healthcare to the Unreached, where some 20,000 people are targetted to receive health services this year.
Dr. Manoj Desai, secretary of the Board of Trustees of Share & Care, chairman of Fundraising Committee and the Annual Gala Committee, estimates the Sept. 30 annual gala will hopefully raise $1 million toward all the projects the non-profit is involved with in India. This year, the entertainment segment will showcase classical and contemporary Indian dance, led by actress and humanitarian Mallika Sarabhai and her troupe of some 7 to 9 performers. The gala will be held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, N.J.