New Delhi: 'Gandhi' may have pushed Rohini Hattangadi into the roles of the perennial Bollywood mother but the actress says she has no regrets as Richard Attenborough's film was a huge milestone in her career.
Rohini is still remembered for her memorable performance as Kasturba Gandhi opposite British actor Ben Kingsley in the film. She was only 27 when she played Kasturba. "I take things as they come. I was 27, which is slightly late for the so-called heroine. I was trained in theatre so the seriousness was there. I never went in for the glamour.
"And 'Gandhi' was such an important opportunity right in the beginning of my career. I had just done three films. I knew that I wanted to be in parallel cinema and do meaningful films," Rohini told PTI.
The veteran actress, who went on to play Amitabh Bachchan's mother in "Shahenshah" and "Agneepath", says nobody remembers the young Kasturba, people only remember the older version.
"Most of the roles that I got after 'Gandhi' were of a mother. Nobody remembers young Kasturba... Once I called Basu Bhattacharya and told him 'I am only getting roles of a mother'. He told me, 'There are only two people who can play young and old with equal ease, you and Sanjeev Kumar. So, don't feel bad about it'."
Recalling how she got the opportunity to star in "Gandhi", the 65-year-old actress says it was Dolly Thakur, who approached her for the audition as she knew her from her Marathi cinema days.
"I was working in Marathi cinema after finishing my course in National School of Drama (NSD). I got to know that Sir Richard was looking for actresses to play Kasturba. Dolly got in touch with me. I met him and he called me for a screen test in England. It was the first time, I travelled out of the country."
Rohini says before leaving for her screen test she got a Khadi saree, a long blouse, mangalsutra and bindi. "Once in London, we were given our scenes to do. I did the scene with Ben Kingsley, who had come for the audition. We did the scene from South Africa where Kasturba refuses to clean the toilet. A month later, they told me I was on for the part. I was told to lose about five kgs."
"Gandhi" will be screened tomorrow as part of Zee Classic's India's Finest Films and Rohini is happy that the film continues to have a connect with the audience even after so many years.
Naseeruddin Shah and Smita Patil, two of the biggest names in parallel cinema, also auditioned for the role of Gandhi and Kasturba in the 1982 biopic, which went on to win eight trophies at the Oscars.
"Actually, three pairs auditioned for the parts, me and Ben, Bhakti Barve and John Hurt, Smita and Naseeruddin. We all were in London. Later, Roshan Seth was there to do the screen test for Nehru's role."
The actress says she does not feel that she was typecast as that's the nature of the industry where people are wary of taking risks. "Initially after 'Gandhi', I thought when people will know that I am young, they will give me suitable roles but that was naive of me. You get typecast, nobody escapes it, be it Amrish Puri, Amjad Khan or Amitabh Bachchan. People don't want to take risk when money is involved."
Rohini, however, is happy that she got to play a negative role in "Chalbaaz" and "Hero Hiralal", besides doing landmark films like "Gandhi" and "Saaransh". She also continues to be involved with theatre and has acted in critically acclaimed plays like "Aparajita".
"Theatre gives me a lot of happiness. I have been busy with a Gujarati play though I am Marathi. As actors we should not give importance to languages. I have worked in many South Indian films and I feel, it enriches you as a person."
When asked what is on her wish-list, Rohini says she would love to work in films by Ashutosh Gowariker and Sanjay Leela Bhansali.