I remember a lot about growing up in Anita Building, Malabar Hill. Our building had a swimming pool and there was this cycle shop next to Breach Candy from where I would hire a cycle for Re 1 per hour! Mornings were spent cycling and in the evenings it was swimming and cricket. I'm not aware of this so-called South Mumbai snobbery, but given the upbringing I had, I would call it being 'reserved'. That's because an affluent locality generally allows its residents private and independent living. I presume that makes families living there less concerned about what's happening in the neighbour's house. That's also my attitude. Till today, I'm not really concerned what's going on next door. My schooling in Cathedral also shaped my personality and developed my attitude towards life to a large extent. I remember, once while cycling down to Borivali National Park on one of our school trips, I had a puncture. The teacher didn't help me. I had to walk with my bike till I reached a mechanic! This independent spirit was reinforced at home too, where I was not spoon-fed or overly protected. Even at that time, film people didn't patronise South Mumbai. Of the few who did, there was Premnath uncle in our building and uncle Shammi (Kapoor) close by. I used to hang around with their sons Monty and Mickey, at times smoking on the sly, or meeting up at a chaiwala in a lane next to Sterling. Though my mother, Nutan, was one of the finest actresses, I didn't watch any of her films till I was 16. I just couldn't bear to see her onscreen. She was my mom, why should she be up there on screen, I would argue! But I remember going to the sets to drop her to work or pick her up. Today, I have a more casual attitude, like I don't mind my daughter bunking school to be with me. But with mum, it was a no-no. I liked watching English films, especially the Walt Disney collections. And every birthday, my friends and I were treated to a cartoon film in our personal movie theatre. But I never dreamed of becoming an actor. The offer to make a career in films came from Raj Khosla when I was in the second year of college at St Xavier's. It was a good getaway from the drudgery of books. Meanwhile, we had shifted to Sagar Sangeet at Colaba. I find the South Mumbai environment very stable, as there's not much scope for expansion or change. Even Colaba, where I have been living for the last 23 years, has not changed. Though, yes, it has become more crowded and polluted. Itihas, my first film, released in '82. But there were no landmark films for three years after that. I even did a course in flying as an alternative career! Today I have completed 20 years in the industry. My work requires me to be in the suburbs most of the time. I find people there become familiar and open with strangers at the first meeting! I'm still very restrained and polite when I meet someone for the first time. I guess the influence of one's formative years stays. Till I can afford it, I will continue to live in South Mumbai. And if possible, go back to the greenery and neighbourhood of Malabar Hill!
Mohnish Behl lives in Colaba (As told to Geety Sahgal)