The first thing that Sudhir Mishra realised on meeting ex-wife Sushmita Mukherjee on the sets of Khoya Khoya Chand was that she still has a great sense of humour.
"In fact to begin with, one of the things that attracted me to her was her laughter and humour. Those still remain intact. Sushmita still makes me laugh. And one of the pleasures of working with my former wife was the laughter that I experienced all over again," Sudhir told IANS.
Sushmita plays a fading doddering actress of the 1950s in KKC.
"Someone like Nadira, a vamp of yesteryears whose home provides a meeting point for the lovers in my film. You know in those days film people couldn't meet in hotels, etc. Sushmita is superb. It's a pity our cinema hasn't found the right place for her comic aptitude. The last time I worked with her was my first film Yeh Woh Manzil To Nahin in 1987. I wish I worked with her more often."
Sudhir makes a startling confession.
"Today, I wish we had never gotten married. We'd have made wonderful friends, though we were not compatible as man and wife."
What went wrong in their marriage?
"She's a wonderful person. Happily remarried and with two lovely children. I remember when we went for a divorce we laughed so much and I had my hand on her shoulder. The judge refused to grant us a divorce and told us to come back after six months. And believe me, this isn't a made-up story."
Lots of pleasant memories spill out of Sudhir as he prepared for KKC.
"I admit I was nervous. At the premiere lot of people whose opinion matters like Javed (Akhtar) and Shabana (Azmi), and Vinod Chopra loved the film. The film does go into the 1950s. But it isn't a case study of those times. It's a vivacious story that happens to be set in those times.
"The comparisons with Guru Dutt are apt but they don't tell the full truth about my film. If a parallel has to be found to my film it'd have to be something as underrated as Sridhar's Dil Ek Mandir, which came around mid 1960s."
Coming back to Sushmita, Sudhir said: "When I wrote the role I immediately thought of Sushmita. To my surprise even my casting director wanted her. I'm so glad I worked with her. In between I'd bump into her occasionally and exchange warm vibes. I wish we'd have never got married and had just remained friends."