| Aamir Khan
London, Jan. 21: Jessica Hines, the English film writer whose name has been linked romantically with Aamir Khan, is said to take her “love affair with Bollywood” very seriously, according to her friends and acquaintances in Britain.
About the “affair” with Aamir, reported in the Indian media, there is no confirmation unless this statement from one of Hines’s close friends is taken as one: “She has told me that she is involved with Aamir. Do I think it true' Yes, unless she is lying.”
There is plenty of evidence, though, that she has been persistent, obsessive even, in pursuing first Amitabh Bachchan and then Aamir.
The film world in London raised its collective eyebrow when Hines, on the strength of an academic dissertation on Bachchan, managed to land a commission from Bloomsbury Books, a prestigious London publishing house, to write a biography of Bollywood’s most famous icon.
Insiders say she must have provided proof she had been guaranteed exceptional access by Bachchan.
Female reviewers are waiting with sharpened stilletos to see if the biography will be a hagiography or whether she will deal with such issues as Amitabh’s relationship with Rekha.
There is an understandable jealousy among Asian women in Britain that Hines has been able to leapfrog ahead of them because she is a “gora” — or so they feel.
She has a few things in common with the actor — height, for instance, which is five something. And age, which is 30 something. Aamir is 38.
With short blond hair, and pale bluish green eyes, Hines has been sighted several times with Aamir in Britain, some or all of which could be innocent but collectively they have given Bollywood watchers the impression that this is “one hell of a determined lady”.
For example, Hines was present when Aamir came to London in October last year to deliver the Guardian Lecture at the National Film Theatre. After the event, which Aamir attended without his wife, Reena — the couple’s marital problems were public knowledge by that stage — she was in the group which went out to dinner with the much sought after Indian star.
In the summer of 2001, when there was a screening of Lagaan at Sadler’s Wells, London — and this time Aamir came with his wife, who was also the film’s executive director — Hines again seemed to be in the inner circle.
Before the Oscar ceremony in Los Angeles in March 2002, Hines joined the Aamir camp for a promotional tour of Lagaan in the United States and worked on a documentary of the production. Her qualifications for being included in the party appear unclear. She was not present in Los Angeles at the actual Oscar ceremony. Reena Datta was.
What is known about Hines is that she studied religion and some units of Hindi cinema at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and went on to do a Masters degree at the British Film Institute on Indian cinema.
During that time, she organised an Indian film season at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Pall Mall, London, attended by Bachchan. At that stage, she and Bachchan were thought to be close.
When Bachchan gave a talk at Bite the Mango, the 5th International Festival of African and Asian Cinema in Bradford in 1999, Hines was on hand to ensure he got into his car safely. In fact, while others watched, she calmly climbed into his car and accompanied him to the Pakeezah restaurant for a meal and reception afterwards.
It was unclear why Bachchan, who is polite but always formal and impeccably correct in his dealings with female groupies and hangers-on, allowed Hines to give the impression that the two were on such intimate terms.
In early summer last year, she went to India as a “minder” and “door opener” to help Vanity Fair magazine put together a special issue to mark Bollywood month at Selfridges, the Oxford Street store.
She has shown great enterprise in getting into Bollywood parties to which other film writers are not invited.
Those who know Hines are reluctant to be named but the common verdict is that “she is a funny and witty person and good company”.
One of her mentors, Rachel Dwyer, her former teacher at SOAS, cannot understand what the fuss is all about.
“I don’t see anything scandalous about it,” Dwyer argued. “Divorce is always difficult and people get hurt. But he’s separated now.”