You’ve done almost everything there is to do in the creative field of cinema, music, theatre, and television. Which role gave you the most amount of creative satisfaction and which one was the most challenging?
‘Insaaf ka Tarazu’ was one of the most challenging films for me because of the whole dynamics — the rape scene and being the victim. It was such a bold role and bold film back then. And also, the beautiful journey of the film ‘Prem Rog’; I loved working with Raj (Kapoor) uncle —- he was an institution in himself. I learned so much from him during ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram’ too. Actually, my entire career was a beautiful journey.
And what’s the one thing that gives you a lot of satisfaction?
Honestly, my first love is singing. I wanted to become a playback singer but destiny had another story for me, and I loved every minute of it too. I enjoyed being an actor. Somewhere, theatre has also had an impact on me; my family has been a part of theatre and music since years… and then films as well. My grandfather, Krishna Rao Kolhapure, had a theatre company with Dinanath Mangeshkar. They were theatre legends. Back in those days–when the society was very conservative–not many women were allowed on stage. So my grandfather and Dinanath Mangeshkar played feminine roles, wearing sarees. And, Lata (Mangeshkar) ji, my aunt, was the one who actually named all three of us. Shivangi was one of the characters played by Master Dinanath Mangeshkar in one of his plays, Padmini and Tejaswini were also roles he played.
Priyank is following in the footsteps of your legendary family and is now also dabbling into music… Did he grow up listening to stories of his grandfathers and grandaunts?
Since we have no brother, my parents lived with me, my husband, and son. So, Priyank has grown up listening to my dad and watching him sing and teach. These values are naturally inculcated in children.
Did you ever have to convince him to take up acting or singing?
Seeing me going for my shoots as an actor, and accompanying me to places, seems to have impacted him. We didn’t tell him that he had to become an actor or musician. I took him to every possible class to see what he was interested in–right from skating, to swimming to kickboxing to karate–but eventually, much later, I found out that he was participating in dramatics at school. His teachers told me he was a natural actor, very creative and brilliant. So, then we started encouraging him and he went to Lee Strasberg to learn acting. When he came back, he didn’t want to use the Padmini Kolhapure tag everywhere he went; he wanted to struggle to land a movie.
A lyricist recommended Priyank very strongly to Nitin Manmohan who was making ‘Sab Kushal Mangal’ and that was his first film, as an actor. When I watched him perform, I wasn’t a typical mother who cries and sings praises of her son. I am his worst critic. I was just very happy with the way he performed.
Have you ever been a helicopter mother?
Not really. But yes, I was totally involved in everything he did because I gave up my work to raise him and started going back to work only when he was around 13-14. At that age, he said, “Mom, you’ve given me the time I needed when I needed you most. And now you can just get on with your work. Why don’t you go out and work like so many other mothers”. He was totally supportive of me being away from him for work, and not being able to devote time to him. Of course, my parents were there to look after him.
Do you feel making a comeback today would be easier as compared to 2003, when you returned to acting?
No, not really. It’s not like I decided to make a comeback then. It’s not easy. When the script for ‘Chimani Pakhare’ came to me, I felt thrilled and said ‘yes’. Something inside me made me realise it was time to give back to my Marathi community. I love the subject and role. The film was actually to be made in two languages–Hindi and Marathi. The Hindi one never saw the light of day but the Marathi one has created quite a few records.
You started your career at the age of 7 and by 15, you were already a leading lady. How do you feel about starting so young?
It wasn’t planned; I hadn’t thought about becoming a leading lady. I was very happy doing films as a child actor. When I went to school I was pretty low because my mind dwelled on acting and I constantly focused on bettering myself. And then, suddenly, I landed a role in ‘Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai’. Well, it was not suddenly. Rishi Kapoor saw me on the sets of ‘Insaaf Ka Tarazu’, and recommended my name to Naseer Hussain. I was picked up and the minute you’re signed by somebody, everyone gives you the leading lady tag.
Have you ever thought of making a new show based on the legacy of Kolhapure and Mangeshkar families?
I haven’t thought about it; maybe Priyank and the next generation of Mangeshkars will definitely do something like that. Zanai Bhosle, Asha (Bhosle) ji’s granddaughter, and Priyank are very close; I’m sure they will do something like that. Today’s youth is so talented!