Yash Chopra’s ‘Daag‘ starring late Rajesh Khanna, Sharmila Tagore & Rakhee is considered one of the most landmark romantic films of Indian cinema. As the film completes 50 years of its release, Sharmila Tagore speaks about her collaboration with Yash Chopra and what made her pairing with Rajesh Khanna so iconic! The film also saw the birth of Yash Raj Films, the biggest and the only studio in India, today.
She says, “I think it’s wonderful that it’s now 50 years since we made Daag, yet the movie and the songs remain so popular. In fact, recently Manoj Bajpayee (I made Gulmohar with him) was constantly singing ‘Ek Chehre Pe Dusre Chehre Laga Dete Hai Log’. I had to tell him please don’t sing it. My reaction when I was offered Daag was an unparalleled joy, really. I saw it as a great compliment and honour to be a part of Yash’s first venture, his debut as a producer. I was absolutely thrilled.”
Sharmila adds, “Working in Daag was a wonderful experience. Actually working with Yash – even when I worked with him in Waqt was a wonderful experience. He was always so much fun. As a director, he energised everyone on the set. Ask anybody who has worked with him, with his Punjabi endearments and just generally he was like a live wire. We shot in such beautiful locations when we were working for Daag.”
“We were shooting in Shimla one day and I woke up to a landscape covered in snow; a stunning view from my hotel window but that also meant that I had to walk to work as no car could come to us through the snow; I remember that I would get ready in make up-hair and everything and barely walk 5 steps when something had hit me really really hard and it was a snowball.”
She further adds, “I turned around to protest, I found a bunch of giggly girls and they said, “Yeh toh hamara khel hai, hum toh khelenge.” I tried to explain to them but they wouldn’t listen (laughs). And I had to walk the distance to the location which was thankfully not too far being constantly hit with snowballs.”
“I think I also threw some at them but my aim was not half as good as theirs! But anyway, I think I quite enjoyed that by the end of it; it’s another matter that I had to change at the location because I was drenched; so they made sort of a make-shift room where I changed my sari! Anyway it was a great experience playing their game “Yeh toh hamara khel hai, hum toh khelenge.”
Speaking about her pairing with Rajesh Khanna she says, “I think Kaka gave a memorable performance in Daag and he looked really gorgeous in his later avatar as Rakhee’s husband with that moustache and that dashing look ..so you know he played 2 different stages in his life and he already was the heartthrob of the nation and he was very good. I am really very grateful and happy that the audience liked Kaka and I working together and we became a hit pair and I think we made some great films together – Daag of course being one of them and even today they talk about our pair! I’m very grateful.”
Yash Chopra has had an incredible impact on Indian cinema, shaping pop culture for generations. His contribution towards sculpting India’s identity to the West through his cinema is immeasurable as shown by Netflix in the hit global docu-series ‘The Romantics’ which focuses on his life and career.
For Sharmila, Yash Chopra’s biggest contribution as a film-maker was “to take our Hindi films to the western audience and popularise Switzerland as the most sought after location. Their government also appreciated this. He was inundated with awards and compliments from them and when we went to Interlaken, we saw this cafe which was called Bollywood Cafe which made us so happy and it was wonderful but I feel it should have been called Yash Raj Cafe as he was a regular in that area capturing the beauty of the place.”