Waheeda Rehman, the star of ageless classics such as "Guide" and "Kaagaz Ke Phool", feels the golden era of Indian cinema was not in her day but now when it is getting global appreciation and also evolving in terms of subjects, performances and technology.
Waheeda, as charming as ever at 76, also feels "sorry" for the younger lot who she says are burning out because of multi-tasking.
"People come up to me and say that when I did films, that was the golden era, but I don't agree with that. With our films getting appreciation abroad, I feel now is the golden era," Waheeda told Times of India in an exclusive interview.
"I feel actors burn out fast these days because they do too many things. Other than movies, they take up endorsements, stage performances, promotions, and it takes up so much of their time. I feel sorry for the fact that they have to do so much."
Before entering Hindi movies with the 1956 release "C.I.D", Waheeda had been a part of successful Telugu and Tamil films like "Jayasimha", "Rojulu Marayi" and "Kaalam Maari Pochu".
Then came unforgettables like "Pyaasa", "12 O'Clock", "Kaagaz Ke Phool", "Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam", "Chaudhvin Ka Chand", "Teesri Kasam" and "Mujhe Jeene Do" - all landmarks in Hindi cinema.
Waheeda, who has spent over five decades in filmdom, in what is now commonly known as Bollywood, feels the industry has changed for the better since her time.
"There have been a lot of good changes - be it technically, or in terms of subjects and performances. There are very good movies made like 'The Dirty Picture', 'Kahaani', 'Black', 'Paan Singh Tomar' and 'Peepli Live'."
"But there is too much of uncertainty too. Movies have become very expensive and fortunately for them, within a week they get back their money. But it is not a question of money; it is also about the quality of movie," she said.
Waheeda also appreciates actors for playing all kinds of roles, something that was unheard of during her heyday.
"In our times, even for a small negative role, people used to be like, 'I am a leading lady (so) how can I say this dialogue, or slap someone?'," she said.
She never shied away from unconventional or bold roles. "Guide" is a case in point. The 1965 film, in which she was paired with Dev Anand, saw her playing a dancer who walks out on her husband to pursue her dreams to be a dancer.
"I was very different. When a scene demanded an abuse or a slap, I used to do it. Actors were always conscious about their public image. They had complexes those days, but now they don't have, which is a good thing," she said.
Was she image conscious?
"I was never conscious of this. I thought an actor should be able to do any role with conviction and sincerity. Script is the most important thing and if the script is good, then whatever role you are doing, it's fine," said the actress, who also excelled in character roles in "Mashal" and "Namak Halaal".
After her appearance in "Lamhe" (1991), she retired from the film industry only to return after 11 years with "Om Jai Jagadish" in 2002 followed by "Rang De Basanti" in 2006; she was last seen in 2009 "Delhi 6".
An accomplished, talented dancer herself, the actress feels good dancing skills are important but not vital in current scenario.
"For an actor, one doesn't have to be a dancer. But because our Hindi movies have so many song and dance sequences, it is preferred if they are good dancers. It's always advantageous to know dance. But if you don't, it's okay," she said.
With the changing scenario, Hindi movies lack the element of classical dances.
"It's not possible to have classical dances in the movie unless the subject demands so," she said, citing "Guide" and "Umrao Jaan".
"I don't like people dancing unnecessarily in the film, but it has become a part of movies nowadays. We Indians are musical- and dance-minded people. If a child is born or on a wedding, birthday, we dance. But when a song starts unreasonably, it irritates me," he said.