We are still in disbelief and shock that Reema is no more. I have not had the heart to read anything that’s been written about her, I have just been watching her photos. What a lovely face. What a lovely soul.
My first introduction to Reema was when I was still a junior college kid. For my second Marathi film, Mukta (1994). I couldn't believe my luck that so early on in my career, I would be working with a star as big as her and even others like Vikram Ghokhale. The easy person that Reema is, we immediately bonded. We were sharing the make-up room and there was a lot of banter between us there.
In the film, I played a girl who has returned from the US while Reema was my chachiji, a rustic character. Once I had got a very different hairstyle. Reema remarked, “what kind of hairstyles do you girls get these days?” Something struck her. She told Jabbar (Patel, the director) that she wants to use the line in the film. Knowing the actor that she was, Jabbar immediately agreed. She did it so well. She was always very spontaneous as an actor. The pauses she took, the dialogue delivery she made - everything was spot on.
After the film, a strong, beautiful bond was forged between us. I never felt the need to address her with anything than her name. People referred to her as Reema Tai etc but I always addressed her as Reema. She had this beautiful quality of dependency because of which you wanted to take care of her. Over the years I had become quite possessive of her, and she had the grace to accept the momentary concerns of her friends.
Once, we met at this function where she was to be felicitated. There were other dignitaries and I was to interview all of them. I met Reema backstage. I realised her lipstick was not proper and told her. Anyone else in her position, so senior and having been in the industry for so long would have taken offence on a junior like me giving such and input, but Reema was gracious and child-like. She told me, nervously, that she doesn't have another lipstick and if I am carrying one. Too simple a person.
She had this vulnerable side to her. The best thing was she never tried to hide it. There was this sorrow that she was cajoling. Once, we were working on a play together. After a point she came to us and told us she can't do it. “The emotions in the play are taking a toll on me,” she had said adding that it's too grim for her to handle at that moment. People usually want to play to their image, but she never did that. Neither did she ever flaunt that she was this actress who was being signed by big banners.
Once I was performing the play, White Lily Anni Night Rider in Scotland. We had a very small team and that too most of them were the locals from there. Reema had come to watch the show, but volunteered to help me backstage. I was shocked. I told her how can she volunteer for doing the backstage. “Will you be comfortable changing in front of strangers?” She asked. I had to give in. Besides getting me ready, she even folded my clothes and packed it for me. I can't forget that moment. She was a very good friend to all her friends.
It's unfortunate that Hindi cinema has just seen her as a good mother. She was a performer, someone who could deliver any kind of role with much elan. She had a command over her body language, you can see that in each of the performances she has given for Marathi films and theatre.
Her best role was of that being a mother to her daughter, Chintu (Mrunmayee). She was living her life for her. She often used to say that she just wanted Chintu’s well-being. “I have been courageous and made some sporadic decisions in my life, but I don't want Chintu to go through any difficult situations,” she used to say. (Reema got divorced early on in her life). And she made sure that Chintu is taken care of in the best way possible.
The goodness in her heart was also visible in the work she did for the society. She was intrinsically involved in societal causes, which she never spoke about.
As told to Priyanka Bhadani