I worked with Hrishikesh Mukherjee a lot before the 1973 film Zanjeer in which my so-called image of Indian cinema's "angry young man" was seemingly established.
'One of the most interesting characters I played was in Anand'
I have never worked for an image. I continued working with Hrishida, as we all fondly called him, after working with other directors like Salim/Javed, Prakash Mehra and Manmohan Desai, in a variety of roles.
Hrishida was like a father figure to me and my wife, Jaya. Working with him was an unbelievable experience because his style of film-making was never to compromise on quality and on the story ideas.
He never pandered to any baser instincts, and he set his own path which was neither too artistic nor too commercial.
I will have to admit that most of the interesting characters that I played have been in films that were made by him - be it Anand or Mili or Chupke Chupke, or Bemisal or Namak Haram, or Jurmana.
They were all exceptionally well-etched and, of course, the greatest opportunity to perform for me has been in his films.
His knowledge of the craft was so immense that we just left ourselves in his hands.
We never heard any scripts, never heard any stories - we just came on the sets.
He told us to stand there, walk here, say it in this manner, speak like this - that's how he used to direct all of us.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed about 50 films
So our input was nothing at all. All that you see in his films is entirely his input.
If it was a complex character like in Mili, we would sit together and he would give a one-line description and then guide us as the scenes came.
You actually saw your character unfold before you. It felt good - I felt that I had left myself in the hands of a master. One really didn't have to worry because one knew that Hrishida was going to mould you.
He was a master editor and knew his craft incredibly well - he would shoot a scene and you would know nothing about it till you saw it.
And yet when you saw it finished, it was amazing how well he had actually conceived the thing. He could do the last shot first and could put something in the middle days later and it was just marvellous to see a person so gifted.
'Close to reality'
He was the one who used to spot talent, and the one who used to challenge and he's the one who used to guide and direct, we were just followers.
His characters were close to reality, and certainly the scenes that were written and the situations that we were put in, were so genuine and real and realistic that they gave great opportunities to actors.
His films were full of delightful subtleties and became great cinema.
It is difficult to pick one character and say that's the best - there was Anand and Abhimaan, Mili too - all of them unbelievable moments in film-making.
I am often asked whether it is true that in the last shot of Anand I was laughing when I was supposed to cry.
There is hardly any difference in sound when one cries and when one laughs and our faces were not seen in this top angle shot - we were both laughing because my chin was tickling my co-actor Rajesh Khanna's stomach!
The largest number of films that I did with one director was with Hrishikesh Mukherjee. It's a fallacy that it's Prakash Mehra and Manmohan Desai.
They don't create people like Hrishida any more. I think it's wrong to say his kind of cinema doesn't work any longer. I'm sure if Hrishida were to make those kinds of films again, it would certainly have an audience.
As told to Lata Khubchandani