On April 9, anyone who drove past the Bachchan bungalows (there are three of them in Juhu) would’ve noticed the cheerful marigold chains above the gates. It was Jaya Bachchan’s birthday and you could almost feel the celebrations in the air. Jaya is not really known to celebrate her birthday in a big way. Even as a young actress she was never the cut-a-cake-and-blow-candles kind of person who would have cameras clicking the birthday girl. It was always a casual, family affair.
But times have changed and the celebrations this week were not only because the Bachchans have a wedding around the corner which has put them all in a mood to pop the bubbly. There was politics mixed in the atmosphere as you couldn’t miss the huge cloth banners outside their bungalows which wished Jaya Bachchan a very happy birthday from the Samajwadi Party!
That the Bachchans might profess to be apolitical is, as we all know, mighty contradictory to the close political friendships they keep. Once, during a chat for a story I was doing with her, Jaya Bachchan spoke fondly of Mulayam Singh Yadav and disclosed that he was such a grassroots person, even from a helicopter he’d be able to identify a village below, tell you its population and name its sarpanch. She went on to say that the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh reminded her of R.K. Laxman’s common man!
All this was on record which is typical of Jaya who is as forthcoming as Amitabh is reticent. AB might endorse UP (free of charge, Mr Shatrughan Sinha) but he will hold back and not completely align himself with the political party that’s ruling the state.
The contradictions are obvious but they seem to be a part of celebrity lives. Jaya, for instance, demands privacy far more fiercely than Amit himself who will take a diplomatic stand that celebrities have to take in their stride the intrusion into their private lives. Yet, it was Jaya Bachchan who went on a public platform (the Filmfare night where she was given a Lifetime Achievement Award) and spoke about becoming a mother-in-law for the second time. It had nothing to do with her career or her achievements as an actress, for which we presume she was given the award. But she warmly welcomed Aishwarya Rai into her family, described her as a lovely girl with lovely family values and a lovely smile (all Jaya’s words) and said, ‘I love you’ to the new family member. Honestly, it couldn’t have been a more personal moment on stage, especially from one so famous for her discourses on the celebrity right to privacy. Several in the audience therefore wondered why she’d gone so public with her private emotions. Of course, there was the more incisive reaction that Jaya Bachchan publicly displayed her happiness over her son’s choice to shut up those who’d wondered in print why she wasn’t smiling much these days when Amit and Abhi were so openly ecstatic!
Meanwhile, the Aishwarya-Abhishek wedding may be just a handful of days away but old beau Salman Khan still seems to be badly affected by the most beautiful girl in the world. Whispers from a recent awards function in Malaysia point to a rather petulant Khan who did his best to upstage the impact of the Ash-Abhi performance.
His ex-girl was busy flashing her prize catch and there was no way Sallu was going solo. He had to prove that if his ex had moved on, so had he.
The story goes that Salman found out during rehearsals that Abhishek would go into the audience and fetch Ash and they’d dance together. The Katrina act that came earlier therefore found her man Salman joining her on stage and even climaxing with a huge hug. For someone who flexed his muscles at any close query about his personal life, here was Salman, ready to display his personal romance before a live audience. Ah, the famous celebrity contradictions once again!
A passing thought: When you watch Koffee With Karan this evening (April 15) with Hema-Esha and Jaya-Shweta, you’ll find general bonhomie all over the programme. People really have moved on as, 26 years ago, Jaya was the one actress who, on a matter of principle, had refused to go and visit Hema when she had delivered Esha. Jaya had frowned upon the marrying-a-married-man trend set by Hema and had registered her protest by not going to the nursing home to see the newborn. Today, of course, the ebullient Esha Deol is one of Jaya’s favourite young girls!
Bharathi S. Pradhan is managing editor of Movie Mag International