Most people would agree that Shiney Ahuja could have never taken home a Mr Popularity trophy. And this has little to do with recent events — the actor has systematically cultivated the fine art of putting off people, especially co-stars and colleagues.
In todays messy scenario, nobody will offer an official quote against the beleaguered celebrity but Preity Zinta, for instance, was a co-actor who had made her displeasure obvious during the filming of Jahnu Baruas Har Pal. An unofficial whisper is that Preity would tell the production guys to make sure that Shiney was not even on the same floor as her because she couldnt stand the noises that emanated from his hotel room!
Long before his current legal predicament, one hears that Shiney had managed to rub even an easygoing senior like Juhi Chawla the wrong way. The story goes that when they were shooting for Pritish Nandy Communications Accident (in which Juhi makes a small guest appearance), Shiney would take his own time reporting on the sets. The general air of arrogance that he carried with him didnt win him any brownie points.
What is interesting is that Shiney, whose career took off with Sudhir Mishras Hazaron Khwahishein Aisi, has never acknowledged that his first release was Vinod Pandes Sins. In fact, even write-ups on him regularly count Hazaron..., Gangster and Life In A Metro as his films and Sins is never mentioned. Undoubtedly, even if Sudhir Mishras film was not a blockbuster (in fact, it flopped at the box-office), it did give Shiney Ahuja a certain respectability as an actor; something that Sins could never give him. But is that the only reason why Shiney maintains such a distance from Sins or, is it because the content of Sins makes him uncomfortable? Actually, an assignment done as an actor should never influence his off-screen image as a person. Still, if one were to look at Sins today, one would be prejudiced against the actor, given the present circumstances.
Sins was inspired by the real-life story of a priest who had a longstanding relationship with a young girl from his parish, an affair that turned into an obsession where he wouldnt let her have anything to do with her own husband!
Apart from showing him as a priest in an illicit relationship where he takes advantage of a girl, the film was replete with nude scenes. Yes, Shiney was in the buff in quite a few scenes and the film was strewn with passionate lovemaking and kissing scenes. In hindsight, maybe it will work to Shineys advantage that Sins was never highlighted in his short list of film assignments because imagine the glee with which TV channels would keep flashing nude, lovemaking shots of the actor in their coverage of the rape charges against him!
While opinion is divided on whether Shiney will wriggle out of the present crisis, the big question is: is this the end of Shiney Ahuja the film star? Is his career over?
Interestingly, it is director Vinod Pande who offers an unconventional opinion on this debate. Shiney may be deficient in his goodwill, he starts diplomatically, but he is very goodlooking and young. So, argues Vinod, if the actor can turn the incident around and transform himself into a good human being by atoning and doing social work, there is no reason why he cant make a huge, grand comeback.
Vinod Pande helps himself to three world-renowned cases to illustrate his point. Says he, My biggest example would be Bill Clinton. After first going into denial, then confessing, he became the darling of the people and he came to us as a state guest, with his wife standing by him!
Vinod also picks Gregory Roberts, author of blockbuster book Shantaram, who re-invented himself from hardcore criminal, jail-breaker and underworld gangster to social worker and best-selling writer.
His third choice is Jeffrey Archer who also made a successful comeback after a jail sentence.
This is not to say that Vinod Pande indicts Shiney without trial. In fact, he feels disconcerted that there has been an unfair trial by the media, especially by regional TV channels. What the filmmaker envisages is that if Shiney Ahuja could turn his crisis into a transformation, what a grand comeback he can make!
One thing is for sure. The audience has a short memory. It will be entirely up to Shiney to win them back.