One of Bollywood's most endearing mothers succumbed to cardiac arrest on Thursday morning
Rachana Dubey (BOMBAY TIMES; May 19, 2017)

In what can only be termed an irony, Bollywood lost one of its most-loved screen mothers, just a few days after Mother's Day. Reema Lagoo succumbed to a cardiac arrest at a suburban hospital in Mumbai in the early hours of Thursday, leaving the industry numb with grief.

Reema was a prolific actress, who almost became synonymous with mom roles in the '90s and 2000s. On the big screen, she portrayed the mom '90s kids could easily identify with. She epitomised the mother who was not a weeping prop or a dependant on her sons, but a friend and a confidante who held her own ground. She played mum to the biggest stars, like Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Kajol and Ajay Devgn in films such as Hum Aapke Hain Koun! (HAHK), Maine Pyaar Kiya, Hum Saath-Saath Hain, Kal Ho Naa Ho, Dilwale (1994) and Yes Boss, with aplomb.

Renuka Shahane, who played Reema's daughter in Sooraj Barjatya's family drama HAHK, sighs, “Reema tai was more like an elder sister; she was nine years elder to me. She was so beautiful. I was enamoured by her because she was a senior theatre actress whose work I had loved.“

Renuka adds, “She was a powerful performer. After playing her daughter, I also played her bahu in a Marathi film. When we worked together, we shared our makeup rooms and food. She was so protective of me. We hadn't met in a while but that never mattered. I regularly watched Naamkarann and thought she was brilliant. Despite being a great actress, she was, in a way, typecast in our films. However, she managed to turn the stereotypical formula of the screen mother on its head. And yet, she didn't have any air about being a brilliant artiste. She also had a great sense of humour and someone who always gave sound advice.“

One of her most critically acclaimed roles was in Vaastav, where she played Sanjay Dutt's mother, who shoots her son to rid him of his pain. It wasn't for nothing that the role earned her a Filmfare Award. Mohnish Bahl, who played her other son in Vaastav, recalls her as the woman who, despite playing a mother, was uber cool off camera and commanded respect of seniors and juniors on the floor. “There was no protocol to reach out to her. Reemaji played mother to me, Sanjay, Salman, Ajay, Aamir though there barely was an age gap of 10 years. She was someone you automatically wanted to greet. She was a warm person and a friend when not a mom on screen. I remember, we had a house in Versova in a building opposite hers. Very often, I'd find my wife waving out to her from our house in the morning. And she'd reciprocate. She was the neighbour anyone would love,“ says Mohnish.

Born Nayan Bhadbhade in 1958, Reema was the daughter of Marathi stage actress Mandakini Bhadbhade. She took up acting while studying in Pune. In 1988, she found prominence in Bollywood with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (QSQT), where she played Juhi Chawla's mother. “I met Reema a few weeks ago at an award function. I can't believe she's no more. She was one of the most beautiful people I knew... light eyes and lovely features. After QSQT, we shared screen space in Najayaz, Pratibandh and Deewana Mastana too, but my most vivid memories are of working with her in Yes Boss. She played Shah Rukh's mother. I loved the way she acted in Sooraj Barjatya's films too,“ says Juhi. Bhagyashree, who played Salman's love interest in Barjatya's Maine Pyaar Kiya, recalls, “Reemaji had a broad smile and twinkling eyes. She had peaches-and-cream complexion and looked like my own mother. She was a happy soul and I loved talking to her. She was the mother everyone wished for.“

Unlike the Bollywood maa of the 1970s and 80s, personified by Nirupa Roy, Reema played characters more realistic. She merged the concepts of a sanskaari woman and the woman of substance so seamlessly, that her portrayals appealed to both mothers and children. Rahul Roy, who played Reema's son twice, including his debut Aashiqui, sums up saying, “Bhatt saab (Mahesh Bhatt) made sure he cast someone motherly to play my mom on screen. I was a newcomer and he wanted to comfort me. And what a lovely choice he made! We played mother and son in two films. I sensed that Reemaji almost became a mother to her co-stars while enacting the part. Whenever she touched me, I felt my mother was around. She played fantastic mother roles but as her reel son, I'm partial to her part in my debut. She had taken me under her wings. Reemaji never 'acted' while playing a mother and that made someone like me so comfortable on screen. I'll miss her warmth dearly.“

Reema is survived by daughter Mrunmayee, born from her marriage to actor Vivek Lagoo. Her last rites were conducted at Oshiwara at 2 pm yesterday.

No one can forget Reema Lagoo's portrayal of a funny, yet charming, mother-in-law in Tu Tu Main Main, through which she brought alive the love-hate relationship between Indian women and their mothers-in-law! Devaki Verma, her character in the show, was the saas Indian girls grew up with in mind.

Recalling her experience of working with Reema, Supriya Pilgaokar, who played her daughter-in-law in the show, says, “Reema tai was a woman of substance. I was lucky to share screen space with her. She was passionate and could not be missed even in a hundred strong crowd. She was magnetic, sensitive and brave. The way she has gone is probably the way she would have liked to exit the scene.Imagine, she was working till a day before...Knowing her capabilities, I just wish she had written and directed. She would have been brilliant.“

Reema's turn as the smart homemaker Koki in Shriman Shrimati, a popular sit-com of the 1990s, was also a rib-tickler. Reema's last assignment was Naamkarann, based on Mahesh Bhatt's Zakhm, in which she was seen playing a grey character. A day before her demise, she was shooting a song sequence for her show.