While actor Imran Khan has earned himself a celebratory holiday — a delayed honeymoon if you must — and is somewhere in Europe with his wife Avantika, there is a lesser known actor who is probably wistful over what could have been his big ticket to fame. Few know that before Imran went aboard Delhi Belly, young actor Shayan Munshi (who acted in Sujoy Ghoses Jhankaar Beats) had been finalised for the same role by Aamir Khan.
Does the name Shayan Munshi ring a bell? He is the same actor who was a crucial witness at the party where Jessica Lall was shot dead by a wayward Manu Sharma. If youve followed the case or seen the film No One Killed Jessica, youd have seen the actor who went back on his eye witness account claiming he was a Bengali and didnt understand Hindi, and therefore his statement (recorded in Hindi) was incorrect. Later, when the case was re-opened, the actor was caught pants down for perjury. In No One Killed Jessica, the well-connected culprit had placed a Hobsons choice before the actor — either take Rs 1 crore and retract your statement or, youll get a bullet in your head.
In real life, the actor in that unenviable spot was Shayan Munshi.
To return to Delhi Belly, the story goes that Shayan, who went through a series of look and screen tests for the role, was even paid a decent signing amount to work in the film. Why then was there a slip between the cup and the lip, why did Imran replace Shayan just before filming began?
It would be too convenient to answer that by saying it was simply a case of a fond uncle gifting a great role to his nephew. Aamir has his principles in place, especially as a filmmaker, and he somewhat made up to Shayan by insisting that he keep the signing amount and not even think of returning it. Also, after watching Delhi Belly it was clear that Imran eminently suited the role, he carried it off with ease, perhaps better than Shayan would have.
But the whisper is that the Jessica case was just hotting up and that too, played its part in Shayan Munshi losing the plum role. One hears that Delhi Belly is not an isolated case, Shayan is still feeling the after-effects of the nasty case. If Shayan committed perjury, one may be sure that it was only under extreme duress; he had practically no other option before him. Meanwhile, his wife Peeya Rai Choudhary (who acted in films like Bride & Prejudice) had stood by him during those trying times but she doesnt figure any longer in his life. So, until Shayan gets a break, it seems like he was almost as much of a victim as Jessica herself. Actually, I wouldnt be surprised if Aamir Khan himself came up with something for Shayan because he is a fair filmmaker.
By the way, Aamirs fans in Calcutta will get a glimpse of him on August 2. The actor is scheduled to fly down and sit on the hot seat for Ke Bani Crorepati, the Bhojpuri version of Kaun Banega Crorepati, hosted ably by multi-lingual Shatrughan Sinha. Will Aamir play it safe by speaking in Hindi? Knowing the perfectionist, hell probably throw in a bit of Bhojpuri. Remember how he picked up a dialect for Lagaan and carried it off right through the long film?
The Bhojpuri show is being shot in Calcutta and every week a celebrity flies down to face Shatrus barrage of questions. Last week there was an incorrect story that was put out. Mumbai papers carried an item on how Dharmendra and Hema Malini had come together after two decades to shoot for an episode of Ke Bani Crorepati. Wrong news, friend. Yes, Dharam did come to Calcutta and so did Hema Malini. But they came on separate flights and they shot for two separate episodes individually. All is well between them but shooting together for a TV show is only on the cards, it hasnt happened yet. And if anybody does want to know about this charming couple, they have already got together on Tell Me Khuda, the film that Hema has produced and directed with daughter Esha Deol and Dharam in the cast. The film is ready for release.