For fans of Masoom, a letter from ‘mini’

I have so many questions from fans of Masoom about little ‘Mini’ that she has finally written a piece for all of us on her life post Masoom.

“Time has a way of breaking up our memory into fragments of miniscule pieces. Pieces so fragile and delicate that they get caught up in the winds of time and strewn along the pathway of life, and eventually forgotten. Trying to capture and preserve them within the confines of our mind becomes exceedingly impossible as time goes by, and slowly they begin to vanish for good… buried forever in the past…”
– Unknown Author

But that is not true for me. I thank God deeply, for being fortunate enough, to reminisce and cherish most of the moments of my life. And Masoom is truly one of the most amazing and pristine memories of my childhood. The seeds of my role in Masoom were sown back in 1975, when my parents (my father, who sings for passion, and my mother, a Professor in music and student of Late Ghulam Taqi Khan Saheb of Rampur-Sahaswan gharana) went to perform in ‘Mukesh Night’, organized by the War Widows Association, at The Ashoka, New Delhi along with Late Mukesh ji, Nitin Mukesh and Rakhi ji. That is where they met Gulzar Uncle and they came to know each other well. In 1980, my parents were invited to Bombay, now Mumbai, to perform in ‘Shab-E-Ghazal’ at Sur Singar Samsad, along with Jagjit Singh ji, Anup Jalota and others, and I accompanied them. It was on this trip that my father went to pay a friendly visit to Gulzar ji along with me.

I remember going to Gulzar ji’s home with my father and playing with his daughter, Boski. It was here that Gulzar Uncle observed me and thought of me befitting the role of ‘Mini’ …as I was as playful, witty and cheerful in person as I have been shown in the movie. The following day, Gulzar Ji asked us to meet Shekhar Uncle at his residence in Pali Hill. I remember spending quite a few hours with him and he made me feel so much at ease. My next vivid memory is of meeting the producer of Masoom, Devi Dutt ji followed by a photograph session at Shabana aunty’s place. I remember taking an instant liking to Urmila and Shabana aunty. Shabana ji made me feel so much at home and comfortable, I think I never got off her arms throughout the photo shoot.

The major portion of the shooting of Masoom took place in New Delhi, my present hometown. The entire cast was made to stay together in one place, and I remember all of us sitting together for dinner everyday….this built the strong family-like bonding amongst each one of us…something that was very apparent in the movie itself. Urmila and I would play non-stop! She was my favorite company and I carry very fond memories of her. Shabana aunty and Urmila showered so much love on me, I can’t ever forget. Shabana aunty used to call me her “ijji-bijji” and would engulf me in a bear-hug, even in-between the shots. I got so much motherly love and care that for me, the youngest of the children, only 4.5 year old, to live so happily, away from my mother (with my dad) speaks enough for itself.

The most important and crucial aspect was the comfort on the sets. All credit to Shekhar Uncle, he would often observe us kids playing during the shot breaks and add quite a few things we were doing during our playtime, in the scenes…that’s why it felt so natural. Like I was singing “Tayyab ali pyar ka dushman….” with Urmila while playing Antakshari, and it was incorporated so beautifully in the movie. And “Kisney banaya chidiyon ko….” was a rhyme I had learnt in my school and would often keep singing it. And it fit so remarkably in the scene where I’m getting friendly with ‘Rahul Bhaiyya’.

Honestly, at that age and till quite a few years later I didn’t quite understand the significance of being a part of a movie like Masoom, or even realize that I’m doing a movie and what importance it has. For me, it was the most amazing and enjoyable extension to my playtime and to have found a wonderful friend in Urmila.

No talk of Masoom is complete without the mention of its amazing songs! And as a singer and lover of music I’m in complete awe of each song in the movie. Cudos to Gulzar ji and R.D.Burman ji! Needless to say, I’ve grown up singing ‘Lakdi Ki Kathi’ like every other child, but now I just love to strum ‘Tujhsey Naaraz Nahin Zindagi…’ on the guitar. It is one of my favourite songs and I feel amazing that I am a part of such a masterpiece!

After Masoom I did two more movies, Pt. V. Shantaram’s ‘Khuda Hafiz’ with Urmila, (I did my own playback in this movie) and ‘Ram Terey Kitney Naam’, with Late Sanjeev Kumar ji, Rekha, Late Vinod Mehra and Prem Chopra, besides two ad films, ‘Ju-C’ and ‘Parag Butter’ with Jugal. I remember when Rekha ji was told that I am the little ‘Masoom’ girl, she came up to my mother and me, gave me a big hug and said “When I saw Masoom, I told my mother that this little girl should have been my daughter, ye pehley kaisey paida ho gayee…”! I was fortunate to get various awards for ‘Best Child Actress’ for all three movies, including UP Journalists Association Critic Award. This was my entire Bollywood stint. My parents had no desire for me to compromise my studies, and also, it was a promise they had made to Gulzar ji. So I returned to my studies in Kanpur at St.Mary’s Convent.

Initially, I would be amazed and taken aback to see swarms of crowd surrounding me wherever I went, that I would be made chief guest at various cultural shows…which was quite strange, of people vying to get my autograph or my attention. I remember an incident, when in a TV interview I was asked what my favourite food was and I said ‘Bhindi’! And next day two people from a nearby village carried a big sack of fresh ‘bhindi’ from their field, and came all the way searching for my home on a scooter! And they were not the only ones. Wow…. I wonder what happens with Shah Rukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor!

It took a few years for life to ‘normalize’. I stayed in touch with Urmila for a while, and Shekhar Uncle. From the very beginning, my passion was music, and I have done various stage shows throughout. My first stage performance was at the age of 3.5 years, when I sang a bhajan. My heartfelt gratitude to my parents…it is because of them that my brother and my taste in music have been very rich and diverse. We have grown up on Mehndi Hassan saab and Pink Floyd, Talat Mehmood, Madan Mohan, Ustad Amir Khan and The Doors, Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel. I picked up playing the guitar from my older brother at the age of 6 years….and have never stopped thereon. From Bollywood numbers, to ghazals, to rock and pop numbers, we would sing it all. My parents, brother and I would often have musical sittings at home, and we would spend our entire evenings or afternoons singing. Such beautiful memories…

I did my college form Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce, Pune. My cousin, with whom I lived, has been a very active member of Jasraj Mitra Mandal, Pune, and I had the opportunity of meeting Pt. Jasraj in person at home and at various informal gatherings and stage shows. My real interest in Hindustani Classical Sangeet developed then. It influenced me deeply and I went on to complete my Masters and Ph.D in Hindustani Music (Vocal) along with my IT studies. Not finding a clear goal to my passion in music I fell in the rutt of the big IT revolution happening in the late 90s and successfully completed the various Microsoft and Cisco Certifications.

I got a job with a leading IT training firm in Delhi but my heart was still in music and I didn’t quite enjoy working with computer software and hardware….just the wrong place for an artistic person. But I believe that nothing is a coincidence and everything happens for a reason….and so it was. As this is where I met the love of my life and my future husband. It was love-at-first-sight for us and within two years we tied the knot, before which I quit my IT job for good.

My husband shares my passion for music and I share his passion for travelling. We go out for vacations atleast twice, or even thrice, every year. He encouraged me to follow my heart and I am very fortunate to have been married to a very supportive family. Infact, I can’t praise my mother-in-law enough! Thank God for her!

I have been privileged to have been accepted as a student by Pt. L.K.Pandit, the stalwart of Gwalior Gharana, and to have found an inspiring friend in his daughter and scion of Gwalior Gharana, Meeta Pandit.

Following my immense love for children and music I took up a job as music teacher and am fortunate to be doing so in one of the best schools of the country, where I’ve met incredible students, amazing parents, talented colleagues and some of my closest friends. The institution has given me several opportunities to challenge my creativity and musical talent. We do at least five productions in a year besides other stage shows and fund-raising performances.

Two-and-a-half years back I was blessed with a beautiful daughter, and life has blossomed like never before! No words can describe the joy and vibrancy she has brought to my life. As of now my life is all about her….and life has almost taken a full circle, because now it is she and I who spend many afternoons and evenings singing and dancing together, and my brother, far away in New Jersey, with his son and daughter!

Music is my passion and music is all that I want to pursue. I have big dreams and aspirations and want to dedicate my life to music, but am waiting for my daughter to grow up a little and be more independent.

Life is never a smooth ride….real joy lies in cherishing moments where the half-glass was full and to forgive and forget that which was empty…But is the empty side really empty? Not as I see it….I feel the empty side of the glass is full of opportunities and reasons for spiritual growth, insight and empowerment!

So as I enjoy my full glass brimming with endless joys and blessings, and move ahead on my sparkling path of life, I would like to turn back and thank deeply all the people who have touched me with their presence, their thoughts and wishes from my birth to now.

A big thank you and lots of love to Shekhar Uncle, Naseer Uncle, Shabana aunty and my dearest Urmila and Jugal. My deepest thanks and gratitude to Gulzar ji, for if not for him, Masoom would have never happened to me and my life would not have been what it is….thank you…! And God bless you all!

61 Responses to “For fans of Masoom, a letter from ‘mini’”

  1. Umesh says:

    Hi Aradhana,

    For me Masoom is among the best movie I ever saw. It is all in all a complete master piece as per acting, direction, music and picturisation. I was always thinking about the cast n crew of this movie. As we know Urmila, Jugal and other actors very well. I always used to wonder as after so many yrs where is this small girl? and also searched a lot but i didnt found any information but today I am fortunate that i have it.
    I am a fan of yours and after reading your letter became more. Now i am 45. Presently working in Norway as a engineer inoil and gas field. I am an caricature artist and not a singer but but being an artist i always tried to listen good Indian music and I want listen your singing so if you have any website where i can go i checked it then pls. let me know. One last thing is that i want to see your latest family photo.
    I am really very happy to read about you. Wish you all the best!!
    Godd luck for you and your family!!
    Umesh

  2. sylvia says:

    I was just watching big boss when the wakening track that played was lakdi ki kati. My memories brushed up to the days when I was a kid and I used to run to the tv set every time yhis song was shown in chaya geet or chitrahar. Now with you tube function I could show my daughter this song. Thanks to shekhar ji and the cast of masoom for such a beautiful movie. Hats off to all of you.

  3. Kalpana says:

    That’s a very nice write up.

    I would love to see the way you look now. You were the cutest of the 3 in the film.

    kk

  4. Surabhi says:

    Dear Shekhar ji
    Masoom is my All time Favorite, thanks Shekharji. I like Mini for her innocence .Where is she now?
    Regards.
    Surabhi

  5. mangala khadilkar says:

    Dear aradhana,read your beautiful letter. Ur thoughts are so deep ,crystal clear and pure. Aradhana,i m a senior journalist and artist myself,though my field is different,i would like to meet u once,interview you,would u allow that?please respond.

  6. Suchi says:

    Dear Shekharji,

    i first watched this movie few days back, since i was born many years after its release. And I have to tell you that, in one week this is my 4th time that I am watching this movie. Trust me It’s a masterpiece !!
    The acting, the masoomiat of Rahul and the songs ‘tujhse naraz’ and ‘Do naina ek kahani’ … Kudos to you !!! Strange thing is everytime i watch this movie, i cry when shabanaji cries at Rahul saying sorry while sleeping 🙂

  7. Pawan says:

    Sir/Aradhanaji,

    I have a 9 month old son and was trying to engage him by playing “Lakdi Ki Kathi” on youtube. This was when out of curiosity I was googling about Aradhanaji. Nice to know that you have found your passion and pursuing it. All the best to you and your family.

    Shekharji,

    We are eagerly waiting for your next release.

    Regards,
    Pawan

  8. Gaurav Singhal says:

    Hi Aradhana,

    My name is Gaurav. I used to live in Kanpur , the same ‘Gali’ where u used to stay with your parents. Whenever anyone asked me my address, I used to reply : Swaroop Nagar, in that gali where baby aradhana of Masoom is 🙂

    Now, I am in Los Angeles, CA. Few days back when I was watching Masoom on youtube with my friend, I said the same thing 🙂 I am coming back to India in Jan 15. My work location in India is Noida and I think you are in Delhi. So, I am hoping to see you again.

    Cheers

  9. Shilpa says:

    I watched Masoom yet again for the umpteenth time yesterday. It ranks among my favorite movies of all time. It is one heck of a beautiful movie and several times better than the book it is based on (which is a rarity as movies usually end up murdering the books they are based on).

    The chemistry between actors, the bonding between the kids is so real and even after all these years, it still feels so relevant. I am about Aradhana’s age and loved ‘lakdi ki kathi’ as a kid and now it is a favorite of my little daughter too and she wants me to play that video all the time (and hindi is not even my mother tongue and I barely understood the lyrics until I grew up a bit!) This song so beautifully captures the carefree, innocent joys of childhood and will be loved by children of future generations too !

    As for ‘Mini’, she lit up the screen everytime she appeared. Be it the ‘om shanti om’ chorus with Chintu uncle, the scene where she kicks the vase deliberately in the puppy fiasco, (it was so obvious :)), when she sings “sayyad ali pyaar ka dushman” trying to lighten the mood when it is evident that her parents have been cold to each other and the mood at the table sombre, when she winks at the dining table trying to make Rahul comfortable, her rendition of “kisne banaya chidiyon ko”, the way she is protective of ‘Rahul bhaiyya’ in a couple of scenes, the way she pipes up ‘happy birthday to you’ again at the dining table to her mother, when she says ‘papa humein godi le lo , ab humein andar le chalo’, the way she wisecracks ‘choti didi ko aise bolte hain ?’ when she is admonished for scolding her badi didi, the way she hides behind her sister acting all coy when Rahul comes back after his trip…..I could just go on.

    Aradhana, you are so loved by complete strangers you have never met and will perhaps never meet. Always stay blessed and I am so happy for you that you have built a beautiful life for yourself, following your heart , something ‘Mini’ would have presumably done as an adult. May the joy you brought into all our collective lives as ‘Mini’ return back to you a thousandfold. I would so love to see a picture of you with your “mini me” though, I bet she is as adorable as you are.

    Thank you Shekhar for giving us Masoom and now for giving us a glimpse of the Mini who was so loved and missed by us all.

  10. Shilpa says:

    ^^^ To Suchi above, tell me about it, I well up uncontrollably every single time during that scene, and have to try all kinds of things to hide my tears so I don’t embarrass myself in front of my husband. I also well up with Rahul during the ‘do naina’ song after the flashback of his mother.

    ‘Tujhse naraaz’ is one of a kind song in terms of music, lyrics and picturization. Easily one of the best ever songs in a Hindi movie. And then the perfect note on which the movie ends giving you a warm, fuzzy feeling when they become a happy family.

    No offence to Erich Segal, but the book was drab, boring and lifeless to me, maybe because I read it after I had seen the movie.

  11. Nusrat says:

    I just re-watched the movie today and it never ceases to mesmerize me. Such beautiful film-making. I’ve loved this movie since I was a child. The characters are so well done, in shades of grey as human beings are. Shabana Azmi is really such an amazing woman, the look in those eyes, the way she wears her saree…the woman is the ultimate symbol of elegance. A movie way ahead of its time.

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