Turning down Raj Kapoor
Vogue called Leela Naidu one of the most beautiful women in the world; Salvador Dali used her as a model for the “Madonna.”
“In Leela: A Patchwork Life”, the late actor shared her amazing story. Excerpts from the book:
My film career began with three frames that remained on a roll of photographic film.
Kamala Chakraborty, the widow of Ameya Chakraborty, had been shooting textiles or handicrafts as a part of the work she did. Then she came to visit us at Sujan Singh Park and since she had three frames left, she used them to take pictures of me.
And those were the prints that were lying on the table when Hrishikesh Mukherjee went to visit her. He took one look at them, so she told me, and said, “She is my Anuradha.”
When she called me to prepare me, she told me she had tried to dissuade him, telling him that I was not really interested in Hindi films.
“How do you know?” he asked.
“She turned down Raj Kapoor and he wanted to sign her for four films.”
That was true.
One morning, when I was having my hair washed at Roy and James in Connaught Place, a tremulous little man came up bearing a card. It said: “To a peeping face in a moving car. Would you and your father care to join me at the Imperial Hotel to discuss a project?” It was signed, Raj Kapoor.
He wanted to make Mulk Raj Anand's story, “The Goddess and the Tractor,” into a film.
“I would like to prepare for the part by living in a village for a month or two,” I said to Raj Kapoor, who looked a little green.
“Right then,” sighed Raj Kapoor and we went away.
It was only after I recovered [from jaundice] that I went to RK Studios. I had been warned by Janki Ganju of the information and broadcasting ministry. He said, “Raj Kapoor is a fine director but he has a regrettable tendency to fall in love with his leading ladies.”
Evidence of this regrettable tendency was present at RK Studios. Nargis supervised the entire shoot, producing clothes from the wardrobe for me to try on. Radhu Karmarkar prowled around, taking random shots. Some of the outfits I thought were a little slinky for a goddess (or a tractor!) but I did as I was told.
Finally, as I got into a black satin pantsuit, I could not stop myself. “Why am I wearing this if I’m being screen-tested as a villager?” I asked.
That was when Raj Kapoor told me that he wanted me to do four films with him. I was supposed to sign a contract and I would be the next RK discovery.
I said that I would think about it and I did think about it. At that time, I was set on going to Oxford. So I wrote a nice note to Raj Kapoor, turning him down.
Compiled by Correspondent