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Son shines without stardust

celebrity circus

Although the most heartening part of the UP elections was the total absence of frivolous, clueless film stars and their political mentor (read: Sanjay Dutt, Jayaprada, Amar Singh), not many recall that Jaya Bachchan made an astute but difficult choice last year. When it came to the crunch, she opted to stay with Mulayam Singh (though he was not in power) even if it meant ruffling the personal bhai-bhai equation her husband shared with Amar, after the obnoxious power broker was thrown out of his party. That the decision to throw out the film-struck Singh and back his bÍte noire Azam Khan worked for the Samajwadi Party (SP) is there for all to see and it has hopefully paved the way for less nautanki and more rajneeti in our future elections.

But much before there were so many major power shifts in the SP, Jaya Bachchan had once said to me in an interview that the one man she truly admired in politics was Mulayam Singh. “He reminds me of R.K. Laxman’s common man,” she had said. She had also added that up in the air in a helicopter, the politician knew each and every village he was flying over in UP, he knew who was the leader down there, who did what and who was in charge. “He knows every corner of UP like the back of his hand,” she had said at a time when Amar Singh was very much part of the Samajwadi set-up. When Amar was shown the door, Jaya showed her loyalty by staying with the man she thought was right for UP. So even if Akhilesh, the new celebrity in politics, got his cycle to win the race impressively without an ounce of stardust, Jaya Bachchan is a happy, much-vindicated woman. The man she backed is back in the saddle.

It has become fashionable for death to be celebrated rather than mourned, however untimely and heart-rending the end may be. But whatever the attempts to celebrate the life of Fardeen’s half-sister, the death of Soni was truly sad. For someone so chirpy and friendly, Soni had taken some pretty hard knocks in her life.

In her sudden death too, which came unannounced in a late night car crash in Delhi just when she’d settled down blissfully with a man, there were insensitive write-ups in the dailies questioning whether Soni was Fardeen’s and Laila’s sister or aunt.

For those who want to know, yes, Soni was Fardeen’s elder sister, born to his mother Sundari in her tender teens before she married Feroz Khan. Sundari’s parents had rallied around her and helped her bring up Soni. Sundari and Soni were very close, growing up almost like siblings. Everybody close to the family knew about it, Feroz and Soni included. Many of us too knew Soni and her story, even if we never wrote or talked about it. It’s no big deal, nothing to flinch over anymore. And ultimately does it really matter except that Soni was a wonderful person in Fardeen’s life?

At a beautifully organised prayer meeting for Soni, Fardeen showed just what a reliable man, son and brother he has grown up into. Firstly, his message about the prayer meeting carried the names of all the family members, including that of businessman Rajendra Sethia (Google to know more about him) who gave Soni the happiness she richly deserved in her last few years.

Apart from starting off with a couple of well-rendered, soulful bhajans from a stage that was done up splendidly (with white and lots of green), Fardeen invited Rajendra Sethia to say a few words, which he did with love and humour. One could see what Soni had seen in the man she chose to spend her last few years with.

Fardeen himself is such a well-balanced speaker that he quoted from a tender poem, told funny tales about Soni, his partner-in crime, how she caught him smoking a beedi but never tattled on him, how she made him jump on a resting bull’s back and laughed her guts out even as he learnt early in life that rodeo was not for him, and so on.

Best of all, Fardeen played his part as man of the family with gentlemanly panache. Soni will rest in peace now as Fardeen stood there and talked of “my sister Soni” like a man, burying forever any speculation on their relationship. And it was wonderful the way he sat with his arm around his mother’s shoulder. He didn’t need words to tell Sundari that he would be her support, no matter what.

Truly, real life offers far more moving stories than fiction ever can.

Bharathi S. Pradhan is editor,The Film Street Journal

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