The sweet impish girl who stalked the reluctant Auro (Amitabh Bachchan) all over the school campus in "Paa", is no more. Taruni Sachdev's death in an air crash in Nepal has shocked filmmakers R. Balakrishnan, Nikhil Advani and Priyadarshan who fondly remember her as one of the most talented child artists.
Grief-stricken and disbelieving at the enormity of the tragedy, Balki said: "I don't know what to say. I can't believe Taruni is gone. She was quite simply the most versatile actress I've ever worked with."
"Taruni was like Sridevi. She would have a number of expressions to offer for every scene, each one more perfect than the previous. On the sets of 'Paa', she was the natural leader among the kids. 'Please get your lines right', she'd warn the other kids on the sets. Without fuss, she could deliver her lines perfectly."
That she was playing the Big B's love interest in "Paa" didn't intimidate little Taruni.
"Taruni was not the least awed by the Big B. She just sailed through the role. She was a very very special child destined to achieve immense greatness in her life. Why did this have to happen to her?"
Balki and his wife were both extremely fond of Taruni.
"She was a phenomenon of the ad world... She has worked with every major ad director. And they'll all tell you the same thing. She was one of her kind. Gauri and I were working with her from the time when she was six years old. She did numerous ads with me and my wife. She was amazing before the camera. She could grasp what was required of her even before she was fully told what to do. Why did this have to happen with her?"
The last time that Balki met Taruni was when she brought 'light' into his life.
"Taruni presented my wife and I with a beautiful lamp shade. It is one of our most cherished gifts. I've worked more with Taruni than I have with any other actor. She was special and she will remain special. My heart reaches out to her father."
At 14, Tarini had already featured in almost 50 ads and she also featured in Malayalam movies - "Vellinakshtram" and "Sathyam". Known as the Rasna girl, she was among 13 Indians who were killed when their aircraft crashed Monday into a hill while coming in to land at Jomsom in western Nepal.
Taruni's mother also died in the crash. They were cremated here Wednesday.
Nikhil Advani, who shot an ad with Taruni, said: "I shot with her four years ago. She was very professional. Very clued in about camera angles, etc. It's tragic that she had to go so early."
Priyadarshan says he treated Taruni like his own daughter.
"In the morning when I got up to read she was gone, I was numbed with disbelief. I just can't believe she's gone! I've shot two or three ads with her. I'll tell you one thing. I've worked with lots and lots of child actors in both feature films and ads. Usually they're spoilt brats. Not Taruni. She was a very obedient child and a disciplined actress. She would be ready to shoot before anyone else and she knew exactly what she had to do.
"Her work in 'Paa' and in a Malayalam film starring Prithvi was remarkable. Undoubtedly she'd have grown up to become an extraordinary actress. But that wasn't meant to be. I treated Taruni like my own daughter. I've a daughter of about the same age. And when I was shooting with Taruni, I'd see my daughter in her. She was a lovely child. This is no way for her to go. Not fair at all."