Rajinder Singh Bedi started his career as a short story writer and later he went on to join a Lahore based film company. He also worked for All India Radio. After 1947, he moved to Mumbai and started writing for films. He worked on films like Garm Coat, Daag, Devdas, Musafir, Anuradha and more. While writing his novel Ek Chadar Maili Si, he decided to make it into a film. Since the story was based in Punjab, he wanted to make it in Punjabi. For the central role of Rano, he could only think of one name and that was Geeta Bali.
Geeta was fluent in Punjabi and had already done some Punjabi films in the early part of her career. Geeta, who was on a break post her marriage and motherhood, ended up in a dilemma over the film. Her husband Shammi Kapoor encouraged her to take the role as it was a perfect comeback for her. She was also the co-producer of the film.
The film was titled Rano and was a bilingual film as the makers had decided to release it in both Hindi and Punjabi. Then a newcomer, Rajesh Khanna was also in consideration for the role but finally, Dharmendra got the part because of him being fluent in his mother tongue. He was to play Geeta Bali’s brother-in-law. Meena Rai was signed as the lead opposite Dharmendra. She later went on to become the leading face of 70s Punjabi Cinema.
Shooting started in Banga, Punjab and everything was going as planned until Geeta Bali caught chicken pox. By the time she went back to Mumbai, her condition got worse. She passed away shortly and Rano got shelved. Had it been made, it would have been one great project for Punjabi Cinema.
After more than a decade, the same project was revived in the late 70s with Kiron Thakkar Singh (today we know her as Kiron Kher), but it could not go beyond the announcement stage. After Rajendra Bedi’s demise, it was finally made with Hema Malini, Rishi Kapoor, and Poonam Dhillon as Ek Chadar Maili Si by Sukhwant Dhadda.
On Tuesday, Dharmendra shared a picture of himself with Meena Rai on Twitter and quoted, "Geeta Bali , the great ka ikk anokha khuab jo adhura hi reh gaya ......Rano IKK punjabi film"
Look at the irony, Dharmendra’s wife Hema played the role that was meant for Geeta Bali and Geeta’s nephew Rishi Kapoor played the role Dharmendra was meant to do. Ek Chadar Maili Si did not do that well but over the years got the cult status, and Hema considers it as one of her best performances.