Every year, on December 9, my dear actor cum politician friend Shatrughan Sinha, who was referred to and written as Shotgun when he had entered the film industry with a flourish with small roles in big films with actors like Dev Anand, Manoj Kumar etc, mostly as a villain and ended up stealing the show later on as a full fledged leading man, celebrates his birthday, for the last 75 years. I call Shatrughan Sinha as doston ka dost, who was and is always a darling as far as the media is concerned, though the same cannot be said about his daughter Sonakshi Sinha.
On this occasion, I remember with fondness about Shatrughan Sinha and the journey I have spent with him in the 49 years that I have known him closely, right from the time I had first met him for the first time during the location shoot of Kala Paththar way back in the late 70’s in Raj Kapoor’s Loni farm.
At the very first meeting of his, Shatru had endeared himself to not only me but also the other journalists who met him on location. He has always been a delight as far as the journalists are concerned, because he talks a dime a dozen and that’s good for journalists who get a lot of good copy when they meet him for an interview. And as and when I used to go to his bungalow Ramayan during the day for an interview, he would not leave me without lunch prepared by his wife, if it was day time and ahem without plying me with the choicest of scotch whisky and dinner if it was night.
Though the stars, whether it was Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh then or Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone or Priyanka Chopra, Kapil Sharma today do not bother to invite journalists for their weddings and call it strictly a private affair, Shatrughan Sinha had even made it a point to invite a few journalist friends of his to his star- studded wedding which was held in a grand style at the Taj in Bombay four decades ago, precisely on July 9, 1980.
I remember having met several stars at the wedding including Dharmendra, Anil Dhawan, Raaj Kumar etc. It is a kind of wedding I have not been able to attend in filmland for the past 40 years. I was thankful to Shatrughan Sinha for having thought of inviting me, a new journalist who had a standing of just about eight years then.
I also remember how I almost fell out with him when I as a newbie journo truthfully wrote down whatever he had said about Reena Roy. I had provoked him by asking what he had to say to Reena going on record that “she would never let him neither let him come near her or touch her hand” when they were picturizing a romantic number for a film of theirs, after Reena had severed his friendship and also separated from him after getting married to cricketer Mohsin Khan from Pakistan. That was enough to trigger Shotgun to retort that “jitna aur jahan jahaan usko touch karna tha utna aur wahan wahan usko maine touch kiya aur ab aagey usko touch karne ke liye mere dil mein bilkul tamanna hi nahin hain”. The quote was highlighted in a cover story by the now defunct popular film weekly Cinema Journal.
Also read: Veteran Art Dirctor Devdas Bhandare is confident that the film fraternity will bounce back with a bang after the pandemic
The story was widely read and since Reena had already married Mohsin who was also acting in films and Shatrughan also was then a newly married man, it obviously created flutters in both the households and the moment the magazine had hit the stands, I got a phone call from Shatrughan when I was working at Hotel Oberoi Sheraton one afternoon. Shatrughan Sinha first fired me for having carried the interview without bothering to censor it on my own and called me the same evening at Mehboob Studios where he was shooting for a song for some film.
I reached the studios waiting to be scolded more by Shatru but the honest man realized that there was no point in blaming me when he had in the first place blurted out to me in that interview and it was decided that I will not carry an apology for writing that interview but will add a footnote that what Shatru meant was “jahan jahaan filmon ke liye use chuwa tha wahan wahan maine usko choo chuka hoon aur ab dil mein tamanna bilkul nahin hai” and that footnote was carried the next week and no more collateral damage was done and we continued to be good friends.
I just cannot forget the fact that though Shatru could not attend my own wedding at Chembur, a week after the wedding, he made it a point to call me and my wife to his bungalow for dinner and almost made me ‘cry emotionally’ when I saw that he had invited almost half the industry to his bungalow to wish me. I remember among others there were Subhash Ghai, Anil Dhawan, Ranjeet, Prakash Mehra etc at his bungalow to wish me. I just cannot forget that evening. I felt as if my own elder brother had invited me to celebrate my wedding. Where will you find another actor like Shatrughan Sinha today in our film industry?
Shatrughan had this behavior of calling me with my name loudly whenever I used to enter the sets where he was shooting. I once told him that he should not embarrass me by loudly calling me and then he said his idea was to see to it that the moment he called my name aloud, the spot boys came towards him with two chairs to sit so that we could talk. What I thought was an obnoxious habit of his, actually was his way of welcoming me with fondness and I cursed myself for having told him to stop calling my name out loudly whenever I entered his sets.
It was the era when Amitabh Bachchan had banned the film press from entering his sets when Shatru called me to meet him on the sets of his film Naseeb. I told him that I may not be allowed on the sets since Amitabh Bachchan may perhaps be shooting with him. I reminded him that the day I had gone to interview actor Mukri on the sets of Naseeb at Film City, Amitabh had told Manmohan Desai that as long as I was present on the sets, he would not shoot for him and I had to walk out of the studios at Film City though Mukrisaab told me to stay back for the interview and he guffawed, “I, Shatrughan Sinha am calling you to my sets. Kaun hai maai ka laal jo tujhe mana karega? And sure enough that day, Shatru made me comfortable by making me sit with him and Hema Malini in one corner of the sets while Amitabh Bachchan was on the other, who obviously ignored me royally as the press ban was then on in full swing from his side.
The last time Shatru called me was for his silver jubilee wedding anniversary way back in 2005. It was a grand reception held at the Taj Land’s End where Shatru asked me to look after the guests and also organize drinks for them at the bar. Like a dutiful younger brother I was on my job though my wife also had been invited by Shatru Bhaiyya and Promi Bhabhi. I remember Sonakshi as a stout teenager who was hardly seventeen or so coming to our table to ask us if we needed anything and telling us that we had to bless her for her career as a dress designer. Yes. She had no idea that she would take up acting as her profession at that time.
Also read: Uttam Singh fondly recalls his ‘anokha rishta’ with ‘late’ composer Laxman of duo ‘Raam-Laxman’
I remember at the party, I had also met the shy Bhojpuri star Manoj Tiwari as well as Shekhar Suman, Govinda and Rishi Kapoor. It was such a wonderful and heartwarming star studded party and when it was too late and around 1 am, it was Shatrughan Sinha who told Govinda to see to it that I was dropped home at Charkop with my wife since it would take him more time to wind up the party and call it a day. I still remember how Rishi Kapoor had a sip of scotch and started walking out and I had to reprimand the guy at the bar who didn’t offer him his favorite scotch to give him his favorite brand of scotch Black Label, which made him change his mind and stay back at the party.
However, ever since Shatrughan embraced politics, sadly he has not been at all in touch with me. I had however bumped into him at the release of his biography by senior journalist Bharathi Pradhan at the Taj Land’s End and the grand party by Dr Jabbar Patel the Director of Pune International Film Festival when he was the recipient of the Award for outstanding contribution to the film industry. Forget about him not being in touch with me, his wife Promi Bhabhi also isn’t in touch and I was not at all invited for his son Khush’s wedding reception. In fact I wanted to wish him on his 75th birthday but since he has never given me his personal phone number, I could not wish him. I feel like singing to Shatru Bhaiyya Jaane Kahan Gaye Woh Din when I could call him up on his landline and just walk in at his bungalow Ramayan. Like the good old golden days.