Recently, during a well-reported fashion week, a demure Raima Sen walked the ramp for a designer. Moon Moon Sen’s elder daughter was in a goody-brown schoolgirl’s dress, the kind the nuns back in convent school would’ve thoroughly approved of.
On the same occasion, vibrant younger sis Riya Sen strut the ramp in a saree, the pallu barely sighing over one part of her chest, the other half left tantalisingly uncovered.
Talk of chalk and cheese. For two siblings who live together and get on famously too, Raima and Riya Sen sure are a study in contrasts. They share the same surname and physically they’re both daintily cast. But the similarity ends right there.
To begin with, it was younger sis Riya Sen who first became famous, for a bunch of inconsequential Hindi film roles including Jhankaar Beats. Riya became a substitute name for screen glamour and celluloid kisses. Even film critic-who-tried-to-turn-filmmaker Khalid Mohammed, who by and large made those antiseptic Muslim socials, couldn’t resist throwing in a beach scene (in his unwatchable Silsilaay) , where he had Riya Sen passionately smooching former boyfriend Ashmit Patel. A completely unnecessary sequence, but when you had Riya it was kinda understood that smooches and skin were mandatory.
On the other hand, didi Raima Sen was uncomfortable even when Abhishek Bachchan fondled her stomach in Rituparno Ghosh’s Antar Mahal since she’d never done a truly intimate scene before. And when she had to kiss co-star Kay Kay Menon in Honeymoon Travels, she had to muster all her courage and pucker up, and still squirm embarrassedly after it. While Riya has been the steady fluff--glamour quotient of her starrers, Raima is the one who has done classic, substantial roles like Parineeta, Eklavya and Choker Bali. And when Aparna Sen runs into date problems with her daughter Konkona Sen, it is Raima who is asked to step in and play that meaty part.
Personally, both sisters have led free-spirited lives but you only got to hear about Riya Sen’s romance with super model John Abraham which ended before he put a toe in Hindi films. Or you heard (perhaps saw, too) the shocking 90-second porn video clip that another ex-boyfriend Ashmit Patel had made of their lovemaking, up close and intrusively intimate. If his filming her during foreplay was scandalous, Ashmit’s role in allegedly circulating the clip after they broke up was worthy of even more censure.
You don’t blame Riya for it (except for letting Ashmit film her thus on his cell phone) but her sis leads a completely low-profile personal life. Raima Sen’s friendship with Kunal Kapoor (of Rang De Basanti and Hattrick) went largely unnoticed and didn’t carry even a whiff of scandal in it. The two Sen siblings definitely beat two different paths even as they work and romance in the same film industry.
The same stark contrast has been spotted in the two Mumbai siblings, Karisma (Lolo) and Kareena Kapoor (Bebo). Kareena got the shock of her life when she found her intimate French kiss with Shahid Kapur on the front page of a Mumbai tabloid. True, she didn’t ask for that but it’s equally true that she had done it in full view of the public in a popular Juhu restaurant. Thereafter too, there has been nothing clandestine about the Kareena-Shahid romance as they holiday together in different parts of the world and check into the same room.
On the other hand, didi Karisma Kapoor is almost obsessive about discretion. There hasn’t been a single instance when she was even caught dating former beau Abhishek Bachchan, not even after they’d formally announced an engagement. Unlike Abhishek’s openly conducted romance with Aishwarya, there was nothing lovey-dovey about the Bachchan lad and Karisma. So holidaying together would’ve been completely out of character for Karisma.
With husband Sanjay Kapur too, Karisma has been so secretive that when he went to court over his daughter’s passport and a few details of their troubled relationship started trickling out, the former actress quickly went in for a patch up and ensured that her personal life stayed strictly private.
Lately, Karisma has been making it a point to be photographed with her husband (at a polo match, at a fashion show) which has been her silent way of scotching rumours of a separation.
So while Karisma plays all her cards close to her chest, her younger sister plays an open hand. While there can only be speculation over what Lolo’s next move will be, professionally or personally, with nary a word from the celebrity herself, you know plenty about Bebo — that Shahid has been a great influence on her, that she follows the Radhsaomi sect like him and that a Kapoor girl like her who was weaned on meat has turned vegetarian (“My vegetarianism has become my spirituality”).
Kareena is effortlessly open which makes her come across as honest, not brazen, while, unfortunately, Karisma seems more pathologically secretive than just naturally discreet. But there you have it — two siblings with completely different personalities and now, with different eating habits too.
A passing thought: Long before their marriage, they parked themselves in London for the premiere of Provoked (they return today to Mumbai), they flew to Malaysia for an awards function, they went to Toronto together for the opening of Guru; is there any place left on the planet for Abhishek and Aishwarya to officially honeymoon after their marriage'
Bharathi S. Pradhan is managing editor of Movie Mag International