Sharmila Tagore remembers 'fun times' with Gayatri Devi

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By Subhash K. Jha

Mumbai, July 31 (IANS) Yesteryears actress Sharmila Tagore remembers Gayatri Devi, the 'rajmata' of Jaipur, as the one who made her comfortable at her wedding to Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, a woman who lived cricket and movies, and the woman who added the "glamour" quotient to parliament.

"Aunty Ayesha (Gyatri Devi) was a personal friend of my mother-in-law. The two families have been very, very close. It was a very long association. She was very much part of my wedding and she was very fond of cricket. Once she asked me a question about cricket and I didn't know the answer and she said, 'Why don't you know? Aren't you married to Tiger (Pataudi)?

"In fact, we were in London when she fell ill. She was admitted to a hospital. She was remarkably versatile. She was very keenly interested in sports and has written a cookbook... I've a signed copy," Sharmila told IANS.

She says that Gayatri Devi was a good host too.

"When she was in a roomful of people, she made every single person feel special. When I got engaged to Tiger, she came across the entire length of the room and talked to me in Bengali. That one-to-one made me feel so special. That time I was so young and so frightened. Her attention made me feel so confident. I've never forgotten that," she said.

Sharmila says that even in her last days, she was very particular about her appearance as well as movies.

"Even very recently she would dress up and come out. In London, when we were there recently, she wanted to see the new Keira Knightley film 'The Duchess'. I remembered, how I had arranged a show of my film 'Anupama' in the 1960s for aunty Ayesha's mother who was in a wheelchair. I told aunty Ayesha if 'The Duchess' was in India, I'd have definitely arranged a special screening for her....

"She joined parliament and was such a glamorous presence there. And she coped with the jail sentence with such dignity. Until the end there were so many dignitaries in her house. My husband was very close to aunty Ayesha. She was exceptionally fond of him. I remember we were at a very well-known designer's exhibition and she said, 'Is it a table cloth or something to wear?' We burst out laughing.

"She really enjoyed life. Her husband taught her all the etiquettes. He groomed her and made her what she was. She was the patron of the arts. And she did a lot for polo. I'll most certainly miss her.

"If a film on her life was made today, I can't think of anyone who could fit in. She had a quality that's hard to find these days. The way she held herself, the way she moved... that's hard to replicate. She was a fun person to be with. Not one of those boring people. She was great fun to be."