Friendship & Bollywood – A Special Exclusive by Jyothi Venkatesh
Senior journalist Jyothi Venkatesh writes about friendship in the Hindi film industry
By Jyothi Venkatesh
Very few friends survive the test of time. In most of the cases, especially in the film industry, friendship is something, which is very time- bound. As long as one is successful, there will be any number of friends who would hover around him in show biz, where the dictum is matlab nikal gaya hai to pehchante nahin. Also as far as the film industry is concerned, har hath milane wala dost nahi hota hai. Very few friends in the film industry indeed prove to be friends in need. And very few in films indeed have friends, who are outside films.
Like Amitabh Bachchan and Amar Singh. Though Amitabh Bachchan had sworn off politics after his not-so-pleasant experience while dabbling in politics, when his dear friend Amar Saingh requested him if he could campaign for his Samajwadi party before the polls, Amitabh readily agreed. Amitabh could not forget his bhai- samaan dost Amar who had readily come to bail him out of his crisis when his ABCL almost went into bankruptcy a few years ago.
And though Amar Singh is actively connected with Sahara TV, Amar did not try to use Amitabh to promote his channel by roping him in for a game show like Kaun Banega Crorepati when in the first place it would have been easily possible for him considering the closeness he shares with Amitabh. But then later on their friendship could not survive time and started withering.
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Shiv Sena activists may have organized a chaddi morcha in front of the thespian Dilip Kumar’s bungalow in protest against the late actor’s statements in favor of film maker Deepa Mehta’s Fire, but it did not mean that the friendship between the actor and the astute politician Bal Thackeray was over. In fact Bal Thackeray had even gone on record in an interview then that Dilip Kumar was such a good friend of his from the days of yore when Bal was just a cartoonist that any time Dilip came over to his house he used to take the liberty of walking up to Bal Thackeray’s fridge and help himself with a bottle of chilled beer since the politician was also fond of beer.
Yet another friend of Bal Thackeray in the film industry was Mithun Chakraborty, who used to address the senior politician as Daddy whenever he bumped into him, though he shifted home to Ooty where he was running a successful hotel called The Monarch. Bal Thackeray was present in almost every mahurat of Mithun Chakraborty’s film in the 80’s before Mithun migrated to Ooty. Mithun who had this superstitious belief that if he takes part in the mahurat shot, the film will not click at the box office, used to consider Bal Thackeray as a lucky mascot for him and his films.I should know because at some of Mithun’s film parties,I used to share chilled beer with Balasaheb
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When the legendary filmmaker Manmohan Desai died, there were a lot of speculations whether his death was a suicide or a natural death. But Manmohan Desai’s son Ketan Desai, also a filmmaker on his own right was spared of all kinds of hassles by the police because his dear friend Anil Ambani, son of the late Dhirubhai Ambani stood thick and thin through Ketan’s side and made things move fast like police verification and speedy disposal of the body for cremation. Ketan Desai and Anil Ambani have been thick bachpan ke dost, who are celebrities in their own right for the outside world but are intimate friends who care for each other, whatever be the time of the day.
It is interesting to note that Anil had named his first son as Anmol because his wife Tina was carrying the child when Ketan was making his film Anmol with Rishi Kapoor and Manisha Koirala in the main lead and Anil was very impressed with the title Anmol.
Yet another filmland friendship, which has stood the test of time and blossomed with each passing year, has been the thick friendship between Jeetendra, Rakesh Roshan, late Rishi Kapoor, late Sujeet Kumar and Prem Chopra. Today none of the survivors may be as active as they were during their heydays but still the surviving three make it a point to meet at one another’s place as a threesome at least once a month.
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When Jeetendra hosted a party to celebrate the completion of his daughter Ekta Kapoor’s second film Kuchh To Hai a few years ago, all the five partied till late night and Rakesh Roshan had made it a point to see to it that his son Hrithik Roshan and his daughter in law Susanne were also present. Rishi Kapoor who used to hate going to parties, believe it or not was spotted walking in with his wife Neetu Singh. And interesting it is to note that though both are producers on their own rights, till date neither has Jeetendra asked Hrithik to act in his production nor has Rakesh asked Tusshar to work in his own home production.
Raj Babbar and Sahara TV’s big boss Subrat Roy are dear friends. In fact ,Subrat Roy had also made Raj Babbar one of the Directors of the satellite channel. Yet Raj Babbar has not all curried for any favor from Subrat. Raj has not made any film for Sahara though Subrat would have not thought twice before saying Yes to him. Raveena Tandon and Manisha Koirala have already made films for Sahara TV.
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The veteran producer director Arjun Hingorani made a film called Kaise Kahoon Ke Pyaar Hai to launch his son Amit Hingorani as a leading man opposite Sharbani Mukherjee. Sunny Deol made a special appearance in the film in order to boost the potential and sale value of the film. Sunny who does not agree to do special appearances, believe it or not, agreed to work in the film without charging even a single rupee to Arjun Hingorani just because he feels he owes a debt to Arjun who had actually given his father Dharmendra a big break as a leading man with his film Shola Aur Shabnam way back over six decades ago when Dharmendra was a struggling new comer in Bollywood
It is pertinent to note that Arjun did not even breathe a word to his friend Dharmendra to put in a word to Sunny to do his film. Dharmendra had attended the mahurat of his film at the far flung suburb of Kandivali where I stay in Mumbai for old times sake and had in fact suggested to Sunny to contact Arjun and offer to do a special appearance, without talking money matters, especially because Arjun Hingorani is not doing quite well as a producer these days. Dharmendra could not forget Arjun’s gesture when he had launched his own Sunny Recording Studios. On his own , Arjun had patronized Sunny Studios for the recording and background music work for his film Sultanat, which starred Sunny Deol and Sridevi in the lead, besides Dharmendra. It was Sultanat, which had served as a launch pad for Juhi Chawla as well as Shashi Kapoor’s son Karan Kapoor almost four decades ago.
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At the height of her affair with Akshay Kumar, one person on whose shoulders Raveena Tandon used to cry for hours on was Afeefa Nadiadwala who is none other than the younger sister of producer Saajid Nadidwala who has made films like Judwa, Andolan and Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega, Heropamti, the Houseful franchise etc. Says Affifa, “I worked with Jet Airways as an Assistant Manager in Quality Control, Customs Service and In Flight. I have known Raveena for ages. When we bumped into each other at a beauty parlor, I met her first. I wanted to tie my thin plaits with colored beads.
After listening to my conversation with my hair stylist, Raveena sweetly offered to give me beads since she had a lot of them, though I was a total stranger. We exchanged our telephone numbers and have been in contact since then. It’s altogether a different matter that she has not given me the beads which she had promised to give me then. When Ravs was wallowing in sorrow after the Akshay phase in her life, I helped her tide over and retain her composure. Both of us came out of our respective crises without going overboard. We decided that nothing else is worth it in life other than ourselves.”
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Yusuf Nalwala, who is by profession a contractor who deals with plumbing and steel fabrication, is Sanjay Dutt’s dear friend who has stood by Sanju through thick and thin, TADA or no. Says Yusuf, “Sanju has a terrific sense of humor. Once he told me that while he was shooting for Zameen with Rajnikant in Ooty, Sanjay Dutt had posed as Rajanikant’s personal bodyguard because the crowds had become uncontrollable and to save himself from the mob, Sanju had no alternative since down South Rajanikant is considered a demiGod.”
Yusuf adds. “Some times we have our own trivial fights. He gets angry when I tell him not to drive his car fast. He admonishes me, “Saala, Tu driving nahi jaanta hai! How can you ask me to drive slowly?” And I retort every time, ”Saale, Tum Mere Driver Ho! Gaadi teek tarah aur woh bhi aahista chalao! For me Sanju has remained the same. For others he may have become a mega star. If he had the tag of a big time star, I’d not have continued to be friends with him”
Thanks to the thick friendship between the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Nargis Dutt, the former had given a letter of introduction to Amitabh Bachchan which in turn fetched him a small role in Sunil Dutt’s Reshma Aur Shera, even when late Tarachand Barjatya of Rajshris had scoffed at him and asked him whether he had come to become a football player because he felt that he did not at all have the personality to be a film hero.
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Right from the time Shilpa Shetty was working in Main Khiladi Tu Anari, both Shilpa and dress designer Rocky Singhvi better known in Bollywood circles as Rocky S have become the thickets of friends. Says Rocky, “There is no gender barrier as far as Shilpa and I are concerned. Quite often we do have friendly fights over her costumes. At times they are even stupid fights but we patch up and make up within a day or two. Though Shilpa is very modern as far as her appearance is concerned, she is very conservative at heart. In fact I was the only person who used to take her out once in a while, before she was married. She does not keep late nights. Occasionally Shilpa, Shamita and I go out for parties or private dinners.”
What Ravi Goenka who is a private entrepreneur in Mumbai and the best friend of Suneil Shetty likes the best about Suneil is his honesty.Says Ravi, “I have rarely seen Suneil telling a lie. Sometimes he takes a dig at himself too. Like once he told me that while watching a film of his, his wife Mana, his mother and his kids had closed their eyes, especially when he was doing a hard-core fight sequence of his. He told me that when his own mother, wife and kids could not sit through his gory fight sequences, he could not expect his hardened fans to enjoy such scenes.”
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Jeetendra reminisces about his friendship with the late Sanjeev Kumar who he confesses he had met for the first time on the sets of Mere Huzoor way back in 1965. ‘I remember it was in Modern Studios in Andheri that Haribhai was shooting for Shikar with Dharmendra for the first time. We were sailing in the same boat as far as our careers were concerned. Believe it or not, nobody introduced us to one another. On our way to our respective sets one fine morning we just bumped into one another. Our friendship started right then and there. What I admired about Haribhai was his sense of humor. His jokes were all subtle and downright hilarious. I had never seen him getting angry with anyone all his life. He was very cool and composed whatever be the provocations that he had to face on the sets. He knew how to crack jokes at his own expense too.”
“Raj Kapoor was my best friend”, says Sanjay Khan. He adds, “I remember I’d asked Raj Saab at Ferozbhai’s birthday party before the release of Bobby whether he would work for me in my Chandi Sona. When I offered him the signing amount, he just tore off the contract and said, “What is the difference between you and Shashi? I will not accept any money from you. If you are a Muslim pathan, I am a Hindu pathan too. Out of affection, we used to address each other as Saab. I used to open up in front of him and even go to the extent of teasing him about his amorous escapades with his girl friends. He was a father figure not only to his brothers but also to the entire industry.”
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Rajesh Khanna and Dabboo Kapoor are on the same wavelength. Says Dabboo, better known to the generation today as Kareena Kapoor’s father Randhir Kapoor, “Rajesh and I have had a good relationship with one another right from 1965 when I had met him first when he was shooting for Raaz with Babita who I used to court then. I had not entered films then and had all the time in the world to squander. I have heard people accuse Rajesh of having ego tussles with every other actor in town but touchwood we have not had any misunderstanding or clash with one another till date. His daughters Twinkle and Rinkie have proved to be good actresses while my two daughters Karisma and Kareena have also proved themselves. Till his demise,Rajesh Khanna to me was always Kaka like in the good old days.”