30 Years of Maya Memsaab EXCLUSIVE: Deepa Sahi gives a RARE interview; says “Shah Rukh Khan was a child at heart and a THOROUGH gentleman”; opens up on lovemaking scenes: “I did get giggly at first but then you got to do what you got to do” : Bollywood News – Bollywood Hungama

The acclaimed film Maya Memsaab (1993) recently completed 30 years, on July 2. The film featured Deepa Sahi in a lead role while Shah Rukh Khan, Raj Babbar and Farooq Sheikh appeared in supporting roles. The actress delivered a stupendous performance in this Ketan Mehta-directorial, which was adapted from the French novel, ‘Madame Bovary’. Deepa Sahi, who debuted with Govind Nihalani’s Party (1984) delivered memorable performances in several films. She later turned producer and even director. Moreover, she also runs Maya Movies and a successful animation company, Cosmos-Maya. Incidentally, both companies are named after Deepa Sahi’s character in Maya Memsaab.

30 Years of Maya Memsaab EXCLUSIVE: Deepa Sahi gives a RARE interview; says “Shah Rukh Khan was a child at heart and a THOROUGH gentleman”; opens up on lovemaking scenes: “I did get giggly at first but then you got to do what you got to do”

The actress-entrepreneur has been away from the public eye for a long time. But on our request, she agreed to give a rare, exclusive interview to Bollywood Hungama about Maya Memsaab, working with her hubby Ketan Mehta and a lot more.

Ketan Mehta said that you were the one who recommended the book ‘Madame Bovary’ to him. When he decided to cast you, were you nervous or scared since it was quite a bold character for the early 90s? Or were you excited to take up the challenge?
I thought I was not experienced enough in life and should wait a few years to do such a complex role. But the director insisted that he could not imagine anyone else doing it. So, I was like, “What the heck? If the director is so confident, why am I being diffident”? I loved the imagery in the book, some of which stayed with me. For example, I can’t recall the exact phrase, but it compared a woman’s desires to a veil (and virtually every society has a veil as part of a woman’s attire); the veil that is “free floating at one end and tied at another!” Also. Ketan wrote some amazing dialogues which are so deep. For instance, about Maya, he says “Samajhna to asambhav hai, sambhav hai anubhav ho jaaye” or “sapno ko chhoote hi, unka rang kyon ud jaata hai?” These are life-defining lines!

How was it working with Shah Rukh Khan? It was his first film…
He is the most energetic and dedicated actor with an instinctive cinematic sense. One can’t learn such things. They need to be part of the personality and he surely had an instinct for that. Besides the fact that he is a thorough gentleman and caring for everyone on the sets, it is his energy that is the most infectious! Also, what I liked is that he is a kid at heart. He was always playing some game or the other and he’s also a big computer freak, which is what I am. Even then, he was into playing games on the computer.

How was your equation and experience of working with Raj Babbar and Farooq Sheikh?
Raj Babbar was a senior respected star already then and so was Farooq. As actors, they were far more experienced than me. Farooq was very disciplined and kind.

Ketan Mehta once said in an interview, “I am not that short-tempered now, but I remember when I would shoot earlier, all these actors including Shah Rukh Khan in Maya Memsaab must have been struck by my matchbox throws at them like missiles”! How was it working with such a hot-headed director?
He exaggerates! He does lose his temper in his passion once in a while, but he is hardly someone who can be called ‘hot-headed’. The best part of working with Ketan is that he pushes you to excel and has the savviest interpretations of characters and their mercurial quality. Also, he gives actors a long rope and loves them to improvise and add what he calls ‘the magic’. He understands human behaviour like no one I have met ever and is the most stimulating to work with.

Was it tough for you and Shah Rukh Khan to perform the lovemaking scene? It was quite bold even by today’s standards…
Well, I did get giggly at first (a sign of being uncomfortable) but then you got to do what you got to do. I did brood a bit about being misunderstood at the time of release, but I think 99.99 % of people got the intention. In fact, I remember at a terrace party, someone told Shakti Samanta ji, who was the Chief of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) then, that he was partial to allowing Ketan Mehta bold scenes but imposed cuts for even some dance moves for the others. And he graciously replied, “You make a piece of poetry Ketan has made, and I promise not to impose any cuts!” That was amazing!

Do you recall any memorable feedback that came your way after the release of Maya Memsaab in cinemas or film festivals?
Oh yes. There were many! It began on the day of the first public screening. I did not wait for the end and came back to the hotel. I recall I was at Ashoka Hotel in Delhi. An hour after the screening, there was a knock on my door and about 30 women came into my suite. They sat and spoke about how they had come from the screening and simply had to meet me, and it was the first film that ‘understood’ their inner core. They all had incidents to tell, and one even cried at how her ideals had let her down!

Then, I recall in Mumbai, two men in traditional dresses came all the way from Rajasthan, wearing their dhotiesangrakahas and pagris and sat in my living room. They told me how they had seen the film 17 times! They said it was about them. This is amazing as Flaubert, when asked about the book, had said “Madame Bovary, c’est moi” which means, “It’s about me”.

30 Years of Maya Memsaab EXCLUSIVE: Deepa Sahi gives a RARE interview; says “Shah Rukh Khan was a child at heart and a THOROUGH gentleman”; opens up on lovemaking scenes: “I did get giggly at first but then you got to do what you got to do”

I have yet to visit a country where someone has not called me “Maya” from across the road or on the street. The funny thing was that I read about a dish in a Delhi hotel menu which was called ‘Maya Memsaab ki pasand’. I had so many offers to launch soaps and perfumes named after Maya Memsaab but I was never into all that. So, I refused.

Do you have any plans to return to acting? You were phenomenal in Maya Memsaab and other films, and it’ll be great to have you back on screen…
Been there done that! I am not interested anymore. Even then I was too restless to be an actor as it involves long hours of waiting and I also hated getting make-up done and dressing up. Now I am too occupied with my new media technology hubs. Yes, I do miss live-action as I have been involved in our animation studio for so many years. So, I am producing some digital series currently. But I am not acting. At one point, I was interested in playing Indira Gandhi as I find her life fascinating and her contradictions really intriguing but not anymore.

How has the MAAC and Maya Movies journey been?
My life has been good. Time has flown like crazy! I thought I would spend 6 months setting up an animation studio and then getting professionals to run it. But it consumed all of my life nearly as there were no animators when we started which we did not know. It meant setting up schools to feed the studio. We ended up having over 70 franchises and 1600 animators in-house! And films became secondary as it took up so much time. However, all was good as Ketan makes everything good for me! I’m an absolute Ketan fan and if he tells me to jump off a cliff, I would, for him! And this is strange as when we began together, I told him, I am too restless and don’t think I will last long term. He said, “We will be together as long as we want and when we don’t want we shall see”. And as you know now it’s 30 years!

Would you like to direct again?
No. That was a lark but it’s too strenuous and demanding. My real passions are travelling, cats, and the latest phenomenon, AI!

If a remake of Maya Memsaab is made, which actor would you like to see playing the role of Maya, Dr Charu Das, Rudra and Lalit?
Ha ha! I am not answering that one; it means trouble!

Lastly, you have a close bond with Ketan Mehta. He said once in an interview, “I must be the craziest man she has met in her life, but I suppose she likes my madness, my films and my world view”. Your thoughts?
As I said, in Ketan, I have a perfect soulmate. He understands me perfectly, gives me the perfect space in life, and does not try to lead my life or dictate my life. I can’t survive with anyone dictating to me and he is the one who has never ever told me what to do, eat, wear, think, when to travel. He has never said “do this” or “don’t do this”. Nor do I do that to him, as I believe only if you give space can you demand it! And I have already warned him that he cannot get rid of me, the next 7 lives at least! He is a combination of Dennis the Menace and Superman (mentally) and has the same spirit of adventure that I have. The best is that he is the most non-mercenary man I have met, with never a bad word for anyone!

Yes, we are both crazy. I remember we had a pact that on every first monsoon shower, whatever the time, we have to drop whatever we are doing, meet up at Marine Drive and dance in the first rain together. We did that all for the first 10 years that we were together, till we got too damned busy! My mother often said “Ek hi thaili ke chatte batte” to us but in a good way!

More Pages: Maya Memsaab Box Office Collection


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