Bollywood stars who made a stunning impactBy Subhash K. Jha, IANS
4/28/2004 12:00:00 AM
Did you know that scriptwriter Gulzar is a keen tennis player, or that Hema Malini misses a man's presence in her life, or that Lata Mangeshkar loves a good joke?
Here's a low down on the lesser-known facets of some of Bollywood's most famous personalities.
Amitabh Bachchan: Every one knows him to be this flawlessly well-behaved public persona. Only his close friends know what a 'yaaron ka yaar' he is. Trust me, I know. Some time back a Kannada filmmaker wanted Mr. Bachchan to make a guest appearance as himself in a film. After having failed to get access, the anxious filmmaker asked me. I spoke to Amitabh. He not only readily agreed to do it for my sake, he also refused to charge a single penny for his precious time and attention.
On the other hand, nothing can make Amitabh do what he doesn't want to. Some time ago this Bengali filmmaker from the US had nearly finalised him for his second directorial venture. Then something happened. The desperate director even offered to change the script, producer, whatever to have his main lead on board. Amitabh didn't budge. "What can be said about the convictions of a man who's willing to change everything in his creative vision for the sake of one actor? Thanks, but no thanks." That's what legends are all about. They know.
Shah Rukh Khan: One of the best minds in the film industry and a very loyal friend. Ask his buddies like Karan Johar and Farah Khan. They would give their left arm for him, and probably throw in the right one too. Shah Rukh doesn't demand, he commands that kind of loyalty. Though we share the same birthday, I can't claim to have him as a close buddy. But whenever we talk he warns me to make a clear demarcation line between my professional and personal interests in Bollywood.
"Never make the mistake of believing any one of your star-friends are going to stand by you if you're in a crisis. Ultimately all you have is your family and close friends," he warns me.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali: My closest friend in Mumbai and also the most uproariously funny person I've ever met. Sanjay has taught me how to laugh out loud from somewhere deep down inside my throat. His sense of the comic is so sharp and visually alive he can paint prolonged pictures featuring immense comic details. A terrific raconteur with an unbeatable sense of satire, Sanjay, who according to me is the best filmmaker in the country, has yet to arrive at his forte in films. It's farce. One day he'll make a funny film. Trust me people will have more tears rolling down their eyes than "Khamoshi" and "Black" put together.
Karan Johar: Everyone knows Karan is the most clued-in director in the industry. But how does he manage to know everything that goes on in the industry? If Karan was a journalist, he'd put every scribe in the shade. He can hold forth for hours on the exact activities of everyone, and can even inform you about how to go about writing a review or framing a story. If he wasn't a filmmaker, Karan would have been a journalist for sure.
Lata Mangeshkar: She sings like an angel, right? You also know her second favourite passion in life is photography. But did you know Lata ji loves a good joke? During my first meeting with her many years ago she had me in splits by describing a colleague as an 'I specialist'. That reminds me of her most historic rendezvous with humour. Long ago when composer Shankar (of Jaikishan fame) was busy promoting the atonal Sharda as 'the next best thing', Lata ji had succinctly quipped, "We had heard love is blind. We had never heard love was deaf as well." Ear ear!
Gulzar: You know him as a poet, author and filmmaker. But did you know Gulzar the tennis player? For as long as one can remember the poet has been getting up from sleep at 4.30 a.m., getting into his tennis togs and leaving home for an invigorating two-hour game of tennis. Gulzar saab's tennis habit remains unbroken, unless he's travelling out of Mumbai. "I think the secret of my good health is tennis," confesses this avid sports fan who also loves cricket, though only as a spectator.
Hema Malini: She's stunningly beautiful and incredibly outspoken. But she's also very lonely. Although she doesn't show it, this woman of substance truly misses a man's presence in her life. "Though I love Dharam ji very much it's my misfortune that he hasn't been with me to watch our daughters grow up, and to give me company. So, yes, I do miss a man by my side," Hema once told me in an unguarded moment.
"But then I've so much to keep me occupied. There's hardly ever any time to feel lonely," she cheered up the very next moment.
But it's a sobering thought: the dream girl of millions getting nightmares about aging all alone.
Shabana Azmi: If there was a prize for the most private person in Bollywood it'd have to go to Shabana Azmi. No one knows the real Shabana. The public face isn't a mask. It's the way this brilliant woman sees life. In all the years that I've 'known' her the only time I've seen Shabana drop her defence was when years ago her niece Tabu had accused Jackie Shroff of making a pass at her.
"Sick sick sick!" the visibly upset and protective aunt had exclaimed. Whether she was making a comment on the moral underbelly of the specific incident or on the way sexual mores prevail in Bollywood, I never got to know. With Shabana you never question, you just accept her persuasive words. For some domestic reasons Shabana always loved Tabu, though there was never much love lost between Tabu's elder sister Farah and Shabana.
Rekha: Doesn't feel the heat, nor the cold! That's right. Rekha doesn't use the air-conditioner. She believes heat and cold are a state of the mind. She has an inbuilt temperature control.
Jaya Bachchan: Apart from maintaining the most perfect home in Bollywood and looking after two of the biggest stars in Asia, Jaya is also the most meticulous phone person in the film industry. No message goes unnoticed. No call goes unreturned. Also, thanks to the Bachchans' ever-efficient secretary Rosy Singh, no friend's birthday goes unnoticed.
Urmila recalls how pleasantly surprised she was when she received a call from Jaya on her birthday. "I didn't know Abhishek's and my birthday were separated by just a day. Jaya ji pointed it out to me."
Abhishek Bachchan: On the sets he's wacky, wild and uncontrollable. But under the veneer of prankishness Abhishek is fiercely sensitive and a loyal friend. The only time he has ever been cross with me was when I made fun of one of his director-pals for making an unwatchable flop. For a couple of days he refused to speak to me.
"I've feelings too, you know," he admonished me later. "The director might not be as successful as some of your filmmaker friends. But he's my friend. And that's all that counts." Says a lot about Abhishek's sense of propriety and his undying loyalty to those whom he befriends.
Kareena Kapoor: Wild, untameable, unpredictable? Sure, she's all of that. But she's also got a golden heart, that gorgeous girl. I will never forget how she landed up at the airport to meet me for the first time. The visual of her running towards me across the airport exit clutching the most beautiful bouquet of roses I had ever seen will remain with me as one of those montages that pass through the mind when Yamaraj does his number.
Mercurial? Yes. But Kareena is one of her kind. She epitomises mercurial womanhood. But when you see her in love the glow on her face and the confidence in her gait are a sight to behold. When it comes to love, Kareena becomes surprisingly submissive. None of the infamous Kapoor temper-tantrums. See Shahid and Kareena together... and you'll immediately know who's in-charge.