I was known as Baby Lata: Mala Sinha

Mala Sinha has played everything from the heroine’s little sister to the hero’s mother

In a 44-year-long career, Mala Sinha has played everything from the heroine’s little sister to the hero’s mother. She has worked with the biggest of stars and directors including Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Manoj Kumar , Dev Anand, to name a few. She still cannot believe the journey that has been. Excerpts from an interview.

How do you look back on your career?
With a sense of deep joy, gratitude and disbelief! I was nothing. I didn’t want to be an actress. I wanted to be a singer. Right from childhood, I would copy Lataji’s songs right down to most minute nuances. As a child, I lived in Bhawanipur in Kolkata, where I was known as ‘Baby Lata’. I’d be called to sing at Durga Puja or at birthday parties. I wasn’t a trained singer. I had a god-gifted ability to sing. How was I to know that one day Lataji would sing for me! I feel blessed.

You are a Nepali who spoke Bengali at home. How did you become so fluent in Hindi?
You won’t believe this. But I didn’t know a word of Hindi when I came to Mumbai. I had to write my Hindi dialogues in Bengali. I heard Suchitra Sen had also come from Kolkata to Mumbai to do a film Bambai Ka Babu with Dev Anand and that she had hired a maulvi to coach her in Urdu. I asked Baba to get a maulvi to coach me. But Baba said practice is the best teacher. He would get me Hindi magazines like Manohar Kahaniyan. My mother taught me the Hindi alphabet.

In Pyaasa, Waheeda Rehman walked away with all the acclaim though you had a more complex role...
When Pyaasa was released I was seen as the vamp. And Waheeda did full justice to her role. There was no rivalry between us. We always praised each other’s work. Actresses in my time encouraged one another.

I believe you are very fond of Asha Bhosle?
She is a gem of a person. She has had meals in my home and I’ve eaten at her house. When Baba was ill she personally took him to the doctor and then took us home for a meal. I met her again when she made her debut as an actress in Mai. We promised we’d meet.

Who were your favourite heroes?
My favourite was Raj Kapoor saab. He was so gifted and so supportive. I had never seen such humility in such a great artiste. Raj Kumar and Dev Anand were also terrific actors and co-stars. But Raj saab was a class apart. He taught me how to remain humble.

Who is your favourite contemporary actress?
Vidya Balan. She doesn’t act she lives her roles. She is not conscious about her weight. She looks at the weight of her work. I was the same.

( Source : dc )
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