Few would remember that 34 years ago Amitabh and Jaya had wed pretty much the same way. For days on end, their colleagues couldn’t forgive them for not including their names on the guest list.
Like son Abhishek who loathes discussing his personal life, until the last minute Amit would refer to Jaya as only a good friend, although Jaya was more at ease, and certainly more forthcoming, about their relationship. Abhishek-Aishwarya may have been covert to begin with about their romance until they started stepping out together just before a formal engagement. But Amitabh and Jaya were a well-accepted twosome and all of us who were friendly with them knew that this was a serious partnership. In fact, when Amitabh, whose career was floundering, was cast in Prakash Mehra’s Zanjeer, the film that set him off on his angry young man trek, none of the saleable heroines had shown any interest in being a part of it. It was girlfriend Jaya Bhaduri, a popular name on her own, who had stepped in to play the leading lady in Zanjeer, a Salim-Javed script that gave birth to Amitabh Bachchan, the superstar.
Jaya was informal then and she wore her heart on her sleeve. Amit did too, but would never admit it in so many words. In fact, after their unannounced, sudden saat pheras, the universal comment was that it was a surprise wedding for not just the rest of the world but for the bridegroom, too, who found himself married to “just a good friend”!
It was one of those relationships that always had honourable intentions hovering over it. Still, when they got married, it was a hasty affair.
Zanjeer had just been released, turning Amitabh into a formidable marquee name. It was the first big hit of his career and the first time that Amitabh and Jaya had successfully starred in a film (they’d acted in a couple of flops earlier, like Ek Nazar). One clearly remembers PRO Gopal Pandey (the couple shared a common publicist too) coming one afternoon to a few, select newspaper offices with an address on a piece of paper. That, he said, was the venue for a small function for Abhimaan and to please be there. Amit’s and Jaya’s secretaries had joined hands to produce Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Abhimaan, with the star couple in the lead. The venue was a friend’s apartment in a building next to Simi Garewal’s Pavlova on Little Gibbs Road in Mumbai.
But no, not even neighbour Simi Garewal (who was not really their friend those days) was invited to the function which turned out to be the Amitabh-Jaya wedding. The piece of paper with the address on it was the invitation since no formal cards were printed — hugely different from the hefty invitations to the Abhishek-Aishwarya wedding that we’ve been reading about for the last 10 days.
Then, 34 years ago there were no intrusive TV channels or Bollywood-hungry dailies. The news that they were getting married leaked out only on the day of the wedding and although they were a popular couple, there were no hysterical crowds outside their houses or at the venue. In fact, we knew we’d reached the right address solely because we spotted Amit’s golden Pontiac parked outside!
Then and now had other differences as well. Amitabh and Jaya had wanted to make their first joint trip abroad to celebrate the success of Zanjeer. Going to London and Europe for a holiday was a treat those days, even for celebrities. But Mama Teji Bachchan put her foot down and insisted that they be man and wife officially before travelling together. That’s why the haste in getting married before flying out on their honeymoon. Quite a departure from the present scenario where you holiday together first and then call your folks to say, we’re getting engaged!
There was another marked difference. Apart from Gulzar (Jaya has called him Bhai ever since Koshish) and his pregnant bride, Raakhee, only close family members were at the Amitabh-Jaya wedding. Family those days did not mean Amar Singh; it meant the Gandhis. Childhood pal Sanjay Gandhi had flown down from Delhi for the wedding.
It was also all right those days to have a few friends in the media. One remembers meeting Amitabh during the interval at the press screening of Zanjeer and nobody had raised an eyebrow. Journalist-pals didn’t have to be met like clandestine concubines. It was quite acceptable for celebrities to invite the people they clicked with in the media and not fear a reaction from filmland colleagues for sleeping with the enemy!
Bharathi S. Pradhan is managing editor of Movie Mag International