Seventy-eight years of a life filled with new challenges, obstacles, memorable achievements, deep friendships, relationships, love and heartbreaks – is a life that is not easy to encapsulate in 365 odd pages. Little wonder then, that it took Dolly Thakore almost 30 years to pen down her memoir, Regrets, None, with co-writer and theatre personality, Arghya Lahiri.
There is a searing honesty with which the veteran actor, newscaster, columnist and casting director describes her growing up years in Delhi and an assortment of Air Force stations, discovering theatre in college, working in London, involvement in social issues, casting for big projects including Gandhi and her days working in radio, television and advertising. Dolly uses her trademark wit and candour to come up with an autobiography that is unafraid to delve into seemingly uncomfortable areas like sex, infidelity, and heartbreaks.
The book is dedicated to her son, theatre producer and director Quasar Thakore Padamsee. In a way, it was at his behest that the memoir, which was a work in progress for many years, finally saw the light of day. “About four years ago, Quasar said, ‘Mama, why don’t you complete the book?’ He suggested I ask Arghya to put it together. I had almost two-and-a-half feet of written pages and I handed everything over to Arghya. He hasn’t changed a word but has done a great job of putting it together,” says Dolly.
The mother and son have always been close but when he was nine years old, the latter went to boarding school and was away for almost 10 years.
The septuagenarian says she wanted her son to know about her life and achievements, prompting her to write this book. “So many things I did when he was away – like launching the Apple Satellite for the Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad – those were everyday things that he was not involved in and I wanted my child to know how much I’d achieved in life. That’s what prompted me to write the book. He’s liked it very much,” she adds with a smile.
Willingness to adapt
Going through the memoir, one wonders how Dolly was able to pack in so much from her life. Sample this – she became a newsreader on Bombay Doordarshan, has interviewed prominent personalities such as Amitabh Bachchan, Rekha, Bal Thackeray and Khushwant Singh among others, handled the casting for Richard Attenborough’s Academy Award-winning Gandhi, and performed in various plays, including Vagina Monologues, which has been running for the past 20 years! All this and much more because Dolly was never afraid to take on newer challenges and add to her life experiences.
“I suppose it comes from the kind of people I know and surround myself with. Also, I come from a defence background and we would move around so much, meet new people and that makes one lose their inhibitions and gain confidence in dealing with situations and strangers,” she says.
Dolly didn’t go out seeking opportunities; they kept coming her way and she embraced them whole-heartedly. “I was always taking part in debates, drama and elocutions and was part of inter-school, inter-college and inter-university competitions and festivals. None of them frightened me. I didn’t become a minister like NK Singh or Montek Singh Ahluwalia but I have debated with all of them. That didn’t make me feel inferior in any way. I never came first but was always in the first three,” she chuckles at the memories.
Of love and heartbreaks
It’s a given, going through her book, that the things Dolly holds closest to her heart are her friendships and bonds with people she cares for. “My friendships last forever,” she says simply. Of course, it is her relationship with theatre veteran Alyque Padamsee – Quasar’s father – that takes up a chunk of the book. Dolly bares her heart out when she writes about falling in love with a married man, having a child out of wedlock and then losing that man to another woman. One wonders whether it was cathartic for her to write about him. “No, not at all,” she responds.
“I was writing about him 40 years later. In that time, I had matured, learnt and achieved so much. Hopefully, this book will encourage women to understand that their life is not over when their husbands leave them or if they are left alone,” she adds.
Making each day count
Some lingering resentments aside, Dolly says that the title of the book is apt. “Of course, everything in life doesn’t go as planned, but I have no regrets about them. All that has just made me stronger. It has given me the courage to face each day and take on the challenges that came my way,” she says. At the age of 78, she recently performed her first Zoom play.
So, picking one moment of her life that is more memorable than the others, is not something she is inclined to do. “I believe that each moment in my life has been an exciting one and it has brought me where I am. So yes, no regrets at all,” she concludes with a smile.