She swung the arc between sex kitten and consummate actress in films that ranged between Shakti Samanta’s Evening in Paris to Satyajit Ray’s Apur Sansar and Devi. She married a cricketing legend, and is now mother to one of Bollywood's biggest stars.
He boasts of an enviable lineage that traces back to Rabindranath Tagore on one side, and the royal house of Pataudi on the other. He joined films as a chocolate boy hero but cemented his reputation as an actor in films like Omkara and Being Cyrus.
Sharmila Tagore talks about her son, Saif, in a freewheeling interview.
Saif is your first born. What was your first thought on seeing him ?
I thought he was a very beautiful baby, he was a beautiful boy too, very cuddly. But right from the beginning, he had a mind of his very own. He was not an easy child. He broke every rule of the game. And that was a trait that stayed with him. He was a challenge. He was extremely bright, very intelligent, it did not take him any time to get bored. He was impulsive, spontaneous, could grasp a situation at once.
It must have been tough on you as a mother?
I was very busy those days, through his early years. From 1 to 6 years, I was doing double shifts, could barely take him to school and back.
His student days, what were they like?
He never lived up to his potential, and his report card always bemoaned the fact. His books would look new at end of term. But he was gregarious. He was in boarding school in UK. When I went to Winchester, everyone knew Saif, from the taxi drivers to the scholars to the students. He mixed with them all.
But he did not apply himself to his studies and it worried you?
Yes it did, immensely. All I wanted was for my child to conform. We all do, though we challenge norms in our own lives. But we don’t let our children do the same, maybe we want them to conform so they will be safe. I am afraid I was guilty of that. But he was not one for the safe harbour. He preferred, as Balzac called it, the open sea. Yes, it worried me.
Does he still worry you?
He is very changed. He grew up to be very sensitive. He likes eclectic reading, and is very high on aesthetics. If I have to redo my room, I turn to him for suggestions, rather than my daughters. They could not care less. Saif, on the other hand, brings his sense of harmony to everything.
Tell me a little about Saif and his father.
In the beginning he was in total awe of Tiger. But the relationship developed. You know, Tiger never saw his films, when he did see Omkara it was on a TV screen. But he supported him completely. Yes, initially Saif did have a sense of rebellion, but later, he wanted to be like Tiger, like his father.
Would you say they were alike in some ways?
Not at all. Tiger was reserved, focused, exclusive. He could rule out people he did not like. Saif, on the other hand is hail fellow well met, gregarious. He talks to everybody. Now however, he seems more tending to find a balance between what he was and what his father was like. He is getting more choosy, more focused.