An innocent title, “self-portrait” innocent, innocuous. But is it really so? A self-portrait requires the writer to present an inner picture of himself. Does it need him to praise himself? That would be to make him sound pompous!

Does it ask him to decry his merits and virtues? Perish the thought! The greatness of a man is that he has always sought to conquer the new worlds. He seeks to learn about the world and the creatures and things in it. In his quest for knowledge, he has time and again gambled his life attempting to reach the summit of Everest and plumb the depths of the deepest oceans.

Strangely enough, the one thing few of us attempt to discover, despite its nearness to ourselves, is the magic and mystery of the “Self”. Man, the bravest of earth’s creatures is afraid of himself. In consequence, he spends most of his time running away from himself.

And when people are always so busy escaping from themselves who among them can make a discovery of self? Who can paint a picture of himself? What am I? What is the pattern of my inner feeling? What are the thoughts in the hidden recesses of my mind?

These are difficult things to search for and put down on paper. There is always the temptation to dwell upon the things which are on the surface. I am tempted to relate interesting anecdotes taken out of my life. I want to say something about my art about the reasons for my success and popularity.

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But would that be the real picture of myself?It would be only part of the picture. Should I attempt to draw a dispassionate portrait, merciless in its accuracy even that would not be the real picture. A real picture of myself would not be a single picture.

It must be a manifold one and show more than one head, more than one face, more than one expression. It would be a montage of several heads and faces set on one body. When you see me in a happy mood on the screen, pleased with things that might be a time when I am feeling like murdering my director!

At that moment I really don’t want to laugh. My real feelings are far different, but the director wants fun and laughter. He forces me to laugh. And I keep on laughing, while mentally I murder him! Perhaps another time you see me crying in a sense and your eyes too, fill with tears.

Oh, but that is deception! It is the result of my artist’s training and discipline. I don’t want to cry that day. It is one of the happiest days of my life but alas the wretched writer of the film story has made me cry and in my mind, I angrily throw him over a cliff!

The contradictoriness of my screen life is tolerable to me, only because it is creative of work good enough to earn appreciation from those who see me on the screen. They praise me because of my work and who does not like praise and fame?

People call me a fine artist. It makes me very happy. But how and why I have become so good an artist is something I don’t know. I have never made an academic study of the technicalities of my art nor did I give much thought to it. I feel as though the actor’s art came to me of itself.

I learned instinctively to act.This is perhaps because I have been acting from my earliest days. I was a child when I made my first appearance on the screen. I did not do anything consciously. I reacted by instinct to situations and worked by intuition.

As I grew up I became conscious of the nature of the work I was doing. I came to know that before I even knew I was a film artist. That is why in my case the question of taking up my profession out of personal interest or preference that is with the consciousness of what I was going to do does not arise.

As a matter of fact, I later realized that I had entered my profession from sheer necessity. The thrill of earning fame or the thought of it had no part in the business. But like the cub tasting blood, I have tasted fame and popularity and I have liked it.

Both however have taken a toll on me and I have had to learn to pay the toll. When I gained fame and popularity other phases of my personality developed. But it would take much space to discuss them here. When my films are released I attend the premieres.

Before and after the show people crowd around me, praise me, and ask for autographs. I write the autographs and accept the praise, highly pleased with myself over my capacity as an artist. My feelings frequently border on pride.

Then I leave the theatre in my beautiful car and drive along a certain road on my way home. It is Vincent road and on it, opposite the Dadar fire brigade station, is a single-storeyed tenement house. In this building, looking on the road is a tiny room and my eyes are drawn to its windows.

In that small room, I was born. My childhood was spent in it. I would stand for hours at the window, watching the trams and buses the splendid fire engines come clanging out of the station house opposite.I would think the brass work on the engines was of gold!

I used to daydream much and imagine myself perched on one of those red and gold monsters ringing the bell and deafening the world around me with the clanging. Alone I rode high above the roar and throb of the engine the clangor of the bell.

This childhood fancy has remained unfulfilled. But I have my buick and the purr which comes from it is louder.It speaks to me of success, uncharted in my case, unplanned and achieved without conscious effort but success all the same. – Filmfare 1956

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