Of course! People have still kept both me and Maine Pyar Kiya alive in their memories. Even TV has played a major role in keeping the film fresh in peoples’ minds because there is a telecast of the film at least once a week! Not only my generation, but the generation after that has seen Maine Pyar Kiya.
Did you ever think it would become the cult love story it became?
I think all of us working in the film were too new and too fresh to realise what we were making and what it would finally become. All of us were very young… whether it was me, Salman or Soorajji (Barjatya, the director). We just wanted to put in our best, hoping and wishing it to be a success.
Did the overnight fame and success become overwhelming?
It was a wonderful feeling and a huge pat on our back to realise that our film was accepted so well, but at that point of time, there was so much happening in my personal life (referring to her relationship with Himalaya who later became her husband) that I had a tough time balancing everything. This whole phase made me grow up faster, but I never allowed myself to succumb to the euphoria that greeted me after the film became such a huge hit.
Do you remember your first day on the MPK set?
We were shooting in the mandir at Film City (in Mumbai)… Soorajji was there and so were my parents. The whole atmosphere was pious and I felt like I was in a real puja! (Laughs)
What are your most vivid memories of the shoot?
I think it would have to be the month-long schedule at Ooty where the crew really bonded. Soorajji had just got married and his wife Vinita was also there. Salman and I would continuously tease the two of them. Also, Soorajji would miss his sister a lot and there were many things of her that he found in me. While shooting, our relationships were not just professional. Salman had come to know about Himalayaji through a common friend, but I had no idea that Salman knew about us. So while we were shooting Dil deewana, Salman would keep whispering ‘dil deewana’ into my ears and I was like: ‘We’ve shot for so long and this guy’s never flirted with me… so what’s wrong with him now?!’ (Laughs) Finally, I took him aside and told him that there was press on set and I didn’t want people to think there was something on between us. He said: ‘I’m not doing it for myself… I know all about Himalayaji!’
Another memory that is very vivid is that of shooting with the kabootar because it would have a mind of its own and either perch itself on my head or Salman’s head! (Laughs)
Has Salman remained the same person as he was 25 years ago?
I’ve recently only met him at public functions, but Salman will always remain someone I think of extremely fondly. We began our careers together. He was the only part of my family to be present at my wedding. After Maine Pyar Kiya, we took different roads… I prioritised family and he became the superstar he’s become. I think of him just as fondly as I did 25 years ago. What he thinks of me you will have to ask him! (Laughs)
Was there any scene or song that you found particularly challenging?
The portion where Salman returns from the conference at the end of the kabootar song and I had to come running into his arms... I just couldn’t get it. Till that time, I hadn’t done a physical scene like that. I come from a very conservative background and this was the first time I was hugging a man! (Laughs)
I burst into tears and I had Salman and Soorajji sitting at my feet and saying: ‘Don’t cry… do whatever you feel comfortable… you want to wait a while?’ They were both very sweet. But I realised that I was getting so conscious that even Salman was getting conscious. So, I did the scene and the rawness in it actually helps because even Prem and Suman are awkward getting together the first time.
If the film is remade, who would you pick to play the leads?
I am not someone who likes classics being remade, but I think both Alia (Bhatt) and Shraddha (Kapoor) have an innocent appeal. Varun (Dhawan) will make a good Prem.
- The Telegraph, Calcutta