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Journey down a glorious lane

Saroja Devi dwells on her eventful past even as she comments on today's trends.



Saroja Devi.

"I don't watch many of the present day movies — there are meaningless songs and dances. Also, what is annoying, thanks to dubbing, is hearing the same voice for virtually every heroine. It destroys the pleasure of watching a film. That these dubbing artistes are not appreciated enough is a different story."

Sitting in the drawing room of her luxurious home, B. Saroja Devi, classic beauty and yesteryear superstar, winner of four state awards for Best Actress, recipient of Padma Sri and Padma Bhushan, actor of over 200 films in Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and Hindi, to her credit answers your questions. "Surely there are some good films too," she concurs. Actually, there are some very finely crafted films and talented directors in Telugu who are also making it big in Hindi movies, like Ram Gopal Varma and Nagesh Kukunoor." Saroja Devi has indeed aged gracefully. She is vice-president, Kannada Chalanchitra Sangha, member, TTD's local advisory committee and Rajyotsava Samiti, and runs a successful business. "I am indebted to my husband, Sriharsha, for my comfortable financial status. He came into my life when I was bogged down in a financial morass, with huge income-tax problems. He had all my tax problems sorted out. He also taught me how to manage my finances. His death in 1986 shattered her. "I have never stopped missing him till today." Her daughter Bhuvaneshwari's death in the prime of youth was the other tragedy that she is still coming to terms with. Her eyes turn moist. "She was a pillar of support after my husband passed away, but God took her away too." How does she cope? "I believe in destiny." She is religious: she observes fasts, visits temples, has a regular puja routine and also practises yoga and meditation. Her guru is Sathya Sai Baba. Her favourite deity, of course, is Anjaneya.

She tells you of a few of her favourite things: the colour blue, silks, sambar and rasam. "And M.S. Subbalakshmi, who sang for my wedding, especially her rendition of Purandaradasa kritis." Who were the co-stars she admired most? "Dilip Kumar and S.S. Vasan for the break they gave me in Hindi, N.T. Rama Rao for his talent, his self-discipline and for the respect with which he treated his co-stars especially women. And what can I say of MGR? He was my god, my guru. I owe my entry into the Tamil film industry to him. Anyone who approached him for help would get it instantly. " Saroja Devi says she enjoyed working with Sivaji Ganesan and learnt many things from him. "A. Nageswara Rao and C. Nagaiah were the other stalwarts." So when do we get to see her on screen again? "Whether it's the big or small screen doesn't matter. When a good role comes along, I will consider it," she says.

ARUNA CHANDARAJU

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