When Juhi Chawla threw a party to celebrate the positive response to her film I Am (it bagged a National Award for Best Hindi Film) at a new night spot in Juhu, the highpoint was, of course, the presence of Shah Rukh Khan who came and stayed beyond the flashbulbs. He had obviously responded to Juhi’s personal invitation (her other partners, director Onir and actor Sanjay Suri barely know him) but the tabloid rumours that followed the celebration were a riot.
One story said this was the great patch-up between SRK and Juhi who were not on talking terms. The tabloids traced their alleged iciness to something Juhi had said last year after Shah Rukh Khan had dedicated the music of RA.One to her brother, Bobby Chawla (executive producer of most of Shah Rukh’s Red Chilli Productions), who was in a coma. He still is, after two years.
After the music release of RA.One, Juhi was quoted as saying she wasn’t happy about SRK dedicating it to her brother; Bobby should have been appreciated when he was around to hear it. Did Juhi say just that? And did that one sentence trigger off a cold war between Shah Rukh and her which finally ended last week?
The truth came to me months ago from the horse’s mouth, when Juhi and I were chatting one evening at her place. Juhi characteristically admitted that she had said “one part of it. When I was specifically asked, what do you think about them dedicating the music to your brother, I had answered, ‘I can’t be entirely happy about what has happened, I’m mixed about it. I’m happy that somebody remembers him and dedicates this to him but I’m also unhappy because I wish it had been said to him when he could hear it.’”
Of course, only the last part of the quote was played up to make headlines, almost making it sound like Juhi was venting against Shah Rukh.
Irrespective of what Juhi’s full quote was, the fact is, it did not lead to a six-month period of silence between the two actors because she had called up Shah Rukh immediately after the tabloid story. She told him, “Please, I wasn’t lashing out at you or anything.” She had explained to him that given her brother’s condition she couldn’t obviously “go out and dance about it and say, ‘Hey, I’m so happy the music has been dedicated to my brother.’ I’m sad that this had to happen. I wish Bobby had known that he was being appreciated for the work he did.”
Juhi’s response, as quoted by the tabloids, perhaps sounded doubly wistful because she was asked about the music release when she was returning from photographer Gautam Rajadhyaksha’s house after his sudden death. “I was coming back from Gautam’s where again I’d found all of us doing the same thing. When Gautam was living here, none of us went and met him. Then we were all saying what a wonderful person he was. Why do we have to say these things in the past,” she questioned herself.
Importantly, when she called Shah Rukh and explained what she had actually said, he had understood her and the matter got buried there and then. IPL watchers in Calcutta are the best witnesses to this because Juhi and Shah Rukh were spotted rooting together for their Knight Riders long before the I Am party.
Another little tale after the I Am party was about SRK staying on in his car and refusing to enter because some other actor was being photographed and he waited until the flashbulbs could be trained completely on him. It’s really a case of heads you win, tails I lose, at such moments for some of our celebrities. When SRK arrives, photographers pointedly lose interest in whoever they’re clicking and run after him. So it was actually etiquette and good thinking when SRK chose not to upstage another actor. Also, the security guards have much to do with when a big celebrity should enter and exit. In fact, when Shah Rukh left Juhi’s party, the security guards sent him back inside because of the crowds outside. Until his car could be manoeuvred up to the door and he could slide in, they didn’t want SRK to put a toe out.
Talking of security, if there’s anybody who still wants a glimpse of 89-year-old Dilip Kumar, the man can be spotted every evening in full white, taking his customary walk at Joggers’ Park in Bandra which is kept open for him after the rest of the public has left. Dilip Kumar arrives in his Merc with a police jeep as escort. Is Dilip Kumar’s life in danger? Isn’t security to be given only when there continues to be a threat to one’s life? Makes one wonder if the tax payer should really be made to shell out because someone achieves fame and fans have to be kept at arm’s length.
Bharathi S. Pradhan is editor, The Film Street Journal