We come from a part of the country where everyone is cheerful. You will never see a glum face among the young or old there.

Everyone smiles and is cheerful. Perhaps that is why Darjeeling, my home town was long ago called smiling hill station.

It has been the same with us since we came to live in Bombay. Individually and as a family we share the character of the good people of Darjeeling, and if you visit us you will not be met by anything but warm smiles.

None of us is the kind easily upset by worry. We believe in being cheerful and we always look at the brighter side of life.

You might almost call us incurable optimists. We always smile and we are always cheerful from granny down to the youngest in the family.

Ours is a good prescription for chasing the blues away and I am happiest when I come home after a sweltering day at the studio, tired out by the heat and dazzle of the arc lamps the long hours on the sets, and the hundred little irritations of the day’s work.

I come home to a haven of rest, and being with the family works as a tonic and makes me feel everything is all right again.

The magic way the atmosphere at home even merely looking at things in the house restores my good spirits makes me grateful to my father for this fine gift to me, the two-storied house in which we live. It makes a home for me a delightful place.

I remember it was the eighth of the month when we had the house warming, a red-letter day with all our friends there.

  • mala sinha portrait

The house rang with gay laughter, and need I remind anyone that we at home wore our happiest smiles that day.

Our house number is also eight. Eight seems to be my lucky number. I like home because there I can become as simple as a child.

When my mother fondly admonishes me, it makes me feel I am still her child. It is the same when my father cautions me about neglecting my health.

I feel this is the one place in the world where nobody pampers me, where I can efface myself in the happy surroundings and be like any other member of the family.

I have never wanted to be more than this at home and it makes me happy that my parents my granny and my two cousins indeed treat me as one of themselves.

For my part, I do my bit with them to make our home life what it is and I never forget that a smile goes a long way in making life good for everybody including oneself.

Ours is a house where everybody has smiles for the other person. You would be tempted almost to call ours “A House of Smiles”.

Well, you would not be far wrong but just in case anyone should think that we live here very differently from other people, let me say at once that, apart from the cheerfulness all of us have brought to the art of living we lead quite average, sensible lives.

Each one of use has brought small personal touches which give variety to our home lives, so let me describe some of them as well as our day-to-day routine.

There are altogether twelve of us in the house: my parents, my grandmother, my two cousins and I and our servants.

The whole first floor is taken up by our bedrooms. I use my bedroom as a dressing room also. I have my tiny library here.

Each morning I am awakened by my cousin Dolly who has been my friends and companion since childhood. We are of about the same age and look so much alike that many people take us for twin sisters.

Life in our house is regular but not monotonous. We have a different menu every day for everyone in the family likes change and good food and Dolly has a passion for preparing new dishes.

It is at the breakfast table that father discusses with me any new film in which I am likely to work. He never accepts a contract for me unless he is satisfied with the screenplay and the unit with which I have to work.

His judgment in this respect has contributed greatly to my success in my career. He does not hesitate to reject even fabulous remunerations if he finds the story and set up of the film unsatisfactory.

Very often we have guests and relatives from Calcutta and Darjeeling. On such occasions, the house the garden and the compound are full of bustle.

Some of the guests are on the badminton court, some play card games or carom in the hall, and some play the harmonium and sing.

Some of the film people who live in Bandra come over for a couple of games of badminton and at this court, I have made several valuable friendships.

Kumari Nanda often comes for a game. Quiet and reserved with strangers she is delightfully informal in the company of friends.

Nanda loves good fun and her gaiety is infectious. Very much like her is another friend of mine, Waheeda Rehman, whom I first met while working in Guru Dutt’s Payaasa.

Waheeda and Nanda are themselves close friends and it is great fun to have a game of badminton with them.

  • new year with mala sinha

New Year’s Eve is a big night for us. My friends make it a point to join the festivities. Jabeen who is a friend of the family, Smirit Biswas whom I know ever since I came to Bombay and whom I affectionately call Shriti, my vivacious neighbor Shushama, Bilkis and Nargis are some of those who bring in the New Year at our home.

It is the night to which we look forward with great excitement. There is dancing and the guests have dinner with us.

It may seems curious but I do not celebrate my birthday. I used to celebrate it and each time I would fall ill.

Then a producer celebrated my birthday at the studio. Within a few days I fell ill. Since then there has been no celebration.

While my home is a paradise for me it is also a symbol of the duty I owe to films and to my art. It was built from the money I earned in films and as such it is a constant reminder of my obligations.

Sometimes my thoughts go back to the films “Badshah” in which I made my debut on the hindi screen. Amiya Chakravarty who discovered me for the Hindi screen told me when I arrived in Bombay: “Mala it is easy to achieve stardom but very difficult to retain it.”

The great director is no more with us but his words still ring in my ears, reminding me of the lessons I learnt from him.

When it is a call of duty I put everything else aside. I had heard that the illuminations on republic day were a feast for the eyes.

So this year I made up my mind to visit all the attractive spots in the city. But as I was about to set out, a producer in whose film I was working came to my house and said if I did not go with him to the studio immediately to enact a scene he would suffer a heavy financial loss.

I abandoned my plans for the evening and went to the studio. Sometimes fans hoodwink the Gurkha gatekeeper and come into the house to have a chat with me.

Many of them are pleasant to talk to but a few behave in a curious manner. Recently a girl visited me. I spoke to her and offered her refreshments.

Instead of saying something and helping herself to the oakes and tea she went staring at me. I felt so embarrassed that I said to her, “You must consider me just like any other person.”

I see that the garden is looked after and I devote personal attention to a particular portion of it. I regard this as my special corner and every morning before leaving for the studio I tend the plants myself.

Once I was away for a fortnight and when I returned I found that a rose plant I loved so much had withered. The sight of it so upset me that I couldn’t eat a thing that day.

So this is my home. I live here not as a film star but as an ordinary human being. Nobody ever bothers about glamour.

The moment I come home, I cast aside the cares and anxieties of my profession.  By the grace of God, all of us in the house are happy and everyone has already smile.

It is not surprising. Therefore that some of our friends call out home “A House of Smiles.” – Filmfare 1961

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *