Babita and I were thirty-five thousand feet above sea level at our first meeting. Randhir remarked with the air of a man who had just climbed Everest. Giving the event a touch of romance and mystery he added: “somewhere between Bangkok and hong kong, almost a decade ago.”

Randhir and Babita were on the flight that left Bangkok on the morning of May 8, 1962. Randhir was on his way to Tokyo. He and his schoolmates were on an excursion tour. Babita, sister Meena, and their mother were going to hong kong on a holiday.

They were both 14, bait being four months younger. They were studying in the same class but in different schools in Bombay. Earlier he had seen her once when Babita came to RK Studios to watch the shooting in the company of her father, Hari Shivdasani.

She struck him as “different” from all the girls he knew. In the plane, he was “dying” to talk to Babita when Mrs. Shivdasani, whom he knew introduced them. From then on till we reached hong kong he didn’t give me a moments’ peace Babita said laughing.

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He talked endlessly, almost boring her out. He harassed the poor air hostesses asking them every now and then to fetch something or the other for me. He talked so loudly that everyone was watching us. I felt embarrassed and even a little annoyed at his behavior.

Yet I had also taken a liking to him and somehow I felt we would meet again. Back in Bombay, she didn’t hear from him for weeks. Perhaps he had forgotten their encounter in the plane, she thought but was reluctant to believe it.

Randhir himself was waiting for an excuse to meet her. Soon he threw a party at his house and invited Babita and Meena.

It will be a big party, very exciting you will enjoy it. He told her. On the day of the party, the rains had flooded the roads in Bombay and the car which Randhir sent to fetch them took four hours to reach Babita’s residence 12 miles away.

By then it was past midnight and the sisters have gone to sleep after eating a hurriedly prepared dinner at home. For randhir it was a terrible disappointment. But they soon met after, at another party. Gradually he began ringing her up regularly.

On Saturday evenings they went dancing, on Sundays they ate a Chinese lunch and saw a movie. The routine continued. Randhir could not bear to see her with any other boy.

He was cross with her for accepting a lift from another girl because the girl’s brother also traveled in the same car. There were also other and similar instances. Babita resented his telling her what to do and what not to do.

But she never let him know of her displeasure for fear of hurting him. Randhir never missed a chance to be with Babita. Once she was on her way to buy a pair of shoes when suddenly a car stopped in front of her and Randhir jumped out shouting her name.

He was returning from school, his fingers and his shorts were smeared with ink. In those days he used to be fat and round like a football. Babita said laughing. She told him she was going to buy a pair of shoes at a particular shop.

He promptly replied: so am I and walked with her to the car following them. He bought no shoes for himself but was of great help to the shop assistant. He took a lot of interest in her studies though not in his own!

He would ring her up and tell her what to study and what to skip, they were appearing for the senior Cambridge exam. He wasted so much of my time! Yet I could never bring myself to disconnect the phone, Babita laughed.

Randhir himself failed in the exam, Babita passed. Hari Shivdasani wanted her to join films. Mrs. Shivdasani was not enthusiastic. Babita herself was not keen but she had nothing against a film career.

Frankly, we needed the money and the offers were tempting, she says. Soon she started working in razz her first film and Dus lakh.

Randhir didn’t like her working in the films. In fact, Babita said he hated me for being an actress. He did not say so himself but it was evident from his changed attitude towards her. Their meetings lacked the earlier warmth.

At parties, he ignored her, though not completely. He religiously had one dance the last one with and then he only talked of the weather! All this only for a while.

Randhir and Babita loved each other yet not even once did they speak of their love. She was willing to give up her film career for him. But not before she knew his mind. I was only a mere assistant Randhir said whereas she was already a leading lady.

Of course, I did not know how to start the topic with her. Besides I wanted to be somebody not merely Raj Kapoor’s son before I talked to her.

And I shuddered at the thought of her rejecting me. We had a hell of a time, letting each other know of our love. The opportunity came on July 7, 1966. They were returning from a party late in the night. Babita had decided to have it out with him that evening the uncertainty had become unbearable.

She could not concentrate on her career. In the car, we did not speak a word from sometime. Then all of a sudden he called my name and said: “I am in love with you.” I was startled and could only stare at him. His uncle Narendranath was shocked.

Shut up, he shouted at Randhir and turning to me said: don’t take him seriously, he is a bit high. You shut up Randhir shouted back. Then Randhir and I got out of the car and started walking unmindful of the drizzle.

He had long wanted to tell me of his love. That night neither of them slept. The next evening Randhir reiterated the confession. They now saw each other more often. Babita gave up working the second shift and no shooting on Sundays.

All for him. When I fell ill Babita said he was quite upset. For a couple of days when I was in a semi-conscious state, it seems he never left my bedside for hours together. I begged him not to meet me when I had measles.

But he spent long hours with me unmindful of the risk. Fortunately, he didn’t contract the disease. He is your only medicine your only cure Babita’s mother teased. Dus lakh proved a big hit and Babita signed more films.

By early 1969 she was one of the most sought-after stars. Yet she never enjoyed working in films for he was not yet reconciled to the idea. Once while talking Randhir said with the air of a martyr “why should you worry about me anymore?” after all you are a top star now…. She offered to give up her career.

He was, more to me than anything else. But why did he not propose? Did his parents object? No, never Randhir said. Not even once did they say anything against it. Even papaji was quite happy. Only I wasn’t yet ready for matrimony.

I was wrapped up embarking on my career as an actor and director. Towards the middle of 1969 Randhir’s plan for starting kala j aur kal his first film was ready. He wanted to cast Babita in his film. Randhir himself didn’t suggest her name.

Raj himself having known his son’s mind suggested it. Even then Randhir didn’t broach the subject with her until he had sounded her indirectly.

The prospect of working with Randhir was exciting. But I was also unhappy because I knew he hated Babita the actress. I suggested that he take someone else for the role. But I would be willing to work with him if that would help.

Since we know each other well it will be an advantage, Randhir said to me. I accepted the offer. Some months passed. They had started working together. Meena had already married. Randhir didn’t say anything still. Her parents were becoming anxious.

Finally, Babita confronted him: would he marry her? Of course, as soon as he completed kal aj aur kal. Babita was at peace now. She stopped signing for new films. A few months later Raj and Krishna called on the hari Shivdasani to ask for the bride.

I wept for joy…it was a dream come true, Babita said. On May 12 this year they were formally engaged. Will she work in films after marriage? No said Randhir with finality. She will look after my home, my children. – Filmfare 1971

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