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Celebrity encounters

My unexpected trysts with film stars

Friday July 21, 2017,

7 min Read

Way back in the late 80’s while I was pursuing my graduation in chemistry from D G Ruparel College, Mumbai I was unintentionally exposed to a close encounter with veteran Bollywood actress Mala Sinha. She was so simple and unassuming that it was hard to believe that she was a popular film star once. Her daughter Pratibha Sinha was studying in the same college (in the Arts section). Strangely I never had the opportunity to meet the daughter but the mother would always be there to accompany her daughter to and fro from the college. She had a Maruti Gypsy (if memory serves me right!). I once saw her walking on one of corridors in the college – she did not go out of the way to greet people and neither did she bother about the attention that she was garnering or the lack of it. Contrary to what was often reported in the media, there were no starry tantrums. Mala Sinha was so unassuming.

By the late 80’s, Mala Sinha’s innings as a Bollywood star was over and she did not seem to mind it a bit. Later in the mid-90’s she was only seen in two flop flicks – the Govinda-Juhi Chawla starrer – “Radha Ka Sangam” and the Anil Kapoor-Madhuri Dixit starrer – “ Khel” (which was a Bollywood adaptation of the Rajnikant-Sridevi starrer – Aduttha Varisu). Pratibha’s foray in films was unsuccessful and characterized by lack of acting prowess that her mother had displayed during her days of superstardom. Pratibha did a few forgettable films before fading into oblivion.

I have even seen Urmila Matondkar visiting the college library along with a bunch of cronies. She had not tasted success then and was more known as a television star . I am not sure if she completed her studies.

Hema Malini is known as the Dream Girl of Bollywood. She managed to carve out a niche for herself in the big bad world of Hindi moviedom. By the early 90’s Hema had begun acting in a number of B-grade starrers like – “Indira” . “Anjam” “Sitapur ki Geeta” and “Durga”.

While shooting for one such movie titled “Indira”, I happened to watch her shooting in a retail cloth store in one of the Western suburbs of Mumbai. As the store was located at stone’s throw from the railway station, a huge crowd had gathered outside the store causing a virtual stampede. The one thing that has remained with me is the image of the dream girl with dollops of pancake. True to her personality, the star-actress was unfazed by all the attention that she was getting. I often wonder how Hema Malini manages a wig all the time...

While I was a student at Jai Hind College, I happened to watch comedy actor Mukri walking on “A” road bang opposite Churchgate station. Then there was Shashi Kapoor who had gained lots of weight even then (1984). Shashi was walking into a building on “A” road but the man was astonishingly simple in appearance without any airs of being a famous film star. The actor deserves kudos for his affable and gentlemanly manners. He even had the courtesy to wave back to his star-struck fans!

I have even travelled in the same first class train compartment as Jugal Hansraj (the child star in Masoom who was recently seen in Kahani-2 as a paedophile). Jugal was a chubby kid then and was accompanied by his escort on the way back from school.

This happened in the early 90’s. Rishi Kapoor was riding on the success wave of “Deewana”. It was almost 10 pm and the Ayyappa temple in one of the Western suburbs of Mumbai was about to close. As I was circumambulating the temple, I noticed an unexpected visitor – Rishi Kapoor along with a close aide. Luckily there were hardly any devotees in the temple and Rishi Kapoor made an early exit after offering his prayers. The priests were probably clueless about the superstar!

In the mid 90’s we were waiting in the queue at the legendary Tirumala temple. Those who have visited Tirumala will recall the caged enclosures through which we are supposed to move ahead. Suddenly there was pandemonium in the crowd. We noticed Sreedevi walking along with Manjula and Vijaykumar on the streets outside the temple. Sreedevi was visibly embarrassed at all the eyes gazing on her. However, Manjula was sporting enough to wave back at the crowds who went berserk! Manjula was a famous Tamil actress.

The shooting of the Shabana Azmi – Farooque Sheikh starrer – “Lorie” took place in one of the cottages in our neighborhood. Both the actors were humility personified and signed autographs patiently. One of my aunts lived bang opposite Amol Palekar’s pad in Juhu but sadly we never got a glimpse of the actor. Now one hears that the actor is based in Pune.

On one of my sojourns to Bangalore, I had a chance encounter with actress Manju Bhargavi who attained fame with the critically acclaimed – “Sankarabaranam”. But I couldn’t muster enough courage to approach her and talk to her. But the lady had no airs and no pretense – she was dressed simply and appeared to be easy-going. I was wondering at her humility, modesty and simplicity considering the popularity that she had achieved due to her debut film (which is still now hailed as an all-time classic) thanks to her superlative dancing skills. I recalled the adage – “Success makes great people more humble.”

I have had the good fortune of meeting Tamil actors like Mouli, Y G Mahendra, Poornam Viswanathan, Delhi Ganesh and R S Manohar who had come to stage plays in Mumbai. Manohar’s penchant for punctuality is renowned. I recall telling Mahendra that – “Parikshaikku Neramachhu” (It is getting late for the exams) was my favorite film and he responded saying that that was his favorite movie too. Sadly the movie bombed at the box office despite the presence of a stalwart like Sivaji Ganesan, the Kollywood thespian.

As a little girl, I have had the fortune of shaking hands with actress-dancer Srividya. I realized how diminutive her stature was. But she proved to be an ace dancer mesmerizing the audiences with her performance. May be this was one of the reasons she bagged Bollywood films like – “Jaise Ko Taisa Mila” and “Arjun Pandit”. Her personal life marked by abuse, betrayal and despair, still makes one melancholic and gloomy. She certainly deserved better things in life! My dream to meet K Balanchander and Visu has remained just that – a dream.

In the late 90’s we had a dance recital by Bollywood actress Meenakshi Seshadri in Mumbai. By then Meenakshi had reached the end of her eventful innings in Bollywood. Sadly her foray in Kollywood (“Duet” and “Rathathin Rathame”) proved to be lack luster at the box office. She was humble and proved to be a woman of few words. But her dance was superb. I wonder why Meenakshi did not work hard to become an accomplished dancer like Shobana, Hema Malini and Vyjayanthimala Bali.

A few years after the release of Subash Ghai’s Saudagar, I was dining with my brother at a restaurant in Bandra. Vivek Mushran walked in along with his friends and there was hardly a mur-mur in the busy restaurant. Not that Mushran seemed to mind.

My dream to meet Amitabh, Shahrukh and Salman (strictly in that order) continues to remain a dream. However my unexpected trysts with these film stars made me realize the tough lives that these actors were leading and the enormous amount of pressure that they were exposed to due to the glitz and glitter associated with filmdom.