By Jyothi Venkatesh
I remember fondly how Rajendra Kumar was known as a Kanjoos Makkichoos among the industry folks, because, as a matter of fact, he did not like spending money on booze parties for friends from the film industry. Ironically, I was lucky to strike a very good friendship with Rajendra Kumar, also known as the Jubilee Kumar, when I wrote about him in the then popular evening paper of the 70’s -Evening News Of India that Rajendra Kumar had staged a comeback with a particular film one Friday in my weekly film column.
I remember the Jubilee star had literally accosted me at the Jubilee Room of the then only popular five-star hotel in Mumbai then Bombay- Sun N Sand only to reprimand me for my statement. “Am I a local train that I should stage my comeback in films? For your information, I had never retired from acting in films. My films may click at the box office or flop, but I have never announced my decision to quit acting in films. How can you write that I have staged a comeback in films in acting just because I did not act in a few films for a few Years”? He thundered at me.
The year was 1975 and luckily for me, my senior colleague Devyani Chaubal was nearby to come to my rescue from Rajendra Kumar, who was not even known to be Media Savvy. The Gentleman that he was, Rajendra Kumar did not bash me or drench me with swear words at the party but had taken my landline number from Devyani Chaubal later On. Though I was trembling and wondering whether he would send his henchmen to beat me up to my Worli house, one fine day Rajendra Kumar himself called me on my landline and invited me to his bungalow for drinks after enquiring whether I liked drinks.
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I landed at his bungalow in Bandra in the evening, straight after working the whole day at Hotel Oberoi Sheraton at Nariman Point in Bombay (where I was working as The Accounts Supervisor). Rajendra Kumar showed me his well-stocked bar where he had displayed scotch of every brand. I was surprised because my so-called friends in the industry had warned me that though he had invited me for drinks, he would end up offering me only tea or coffee since he was a pucca kanjoos. But I was thrilled because it was for the first time since I had become a freelance journalist just three years back in 1972 that a big mega Jubilee Star had actually invited me to his bungalow.
When I hesitated because I did not know which brand of Scotch to take, Rajendra Kumar himself volunteered to offer me Black Label. It looked like Rajendra Saab had studied what I was thinking in my mind. “Are you wondering how come a Kanjoos like me is offering you Scotch? At the very first glance I liked your frank approach and the way of writing by calling a spade a spade. It Is a fact that I had staged my comeback after a gap and you wrote that but as I was so used to journalists always talking highly of me, I did not take to It kindly but when I pondered over it, I felt like I should call you home to apologize to you for having scolded you In public that day”, he said in all humility. Gradually he started liking me a lot especially since I had put in only three years in journalism and was a novice at that time and used to call me at least once every month for a drink and dinner session at his palatial bungalow.
On one such occasion, there was a private party at his home for his birthday and I went there though I was suffering from a bad cold and cough. Though I had preferred to have just warm Soda, Rajendra Kumar insisted that I should have Scotch with warm Soda Instead Opting for only warm Soda, though if he was a kanjoos like all used to tell me, he would have been happy if I avoided alcohol at his private party. Later in an aside with me, Rajendra told me that when it came to his friends and people who he liked, he was a generous host and liked to ply them with drinks and dinner, but he was not ready to offer drinks or dinner to any and everyone in the industry and hence people used to dub him a miser.