Big Mom of Bollywood

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  • Published 19.09.10

While Amitabh Bachchan accepted his fourth National Award (for his splendid acting as Auro in Paa) with a swift media release (managed by his new PR man) and Abhishek tweeted that he was off to do a monkey dance, Jaya Bachchan was in a sober mood. She spent a good part of Wednesday evening at a condolence meeting for cinematographer Debu Deodhar (married to National Award winning filmmaker Shrabani Deodhar). Their daughter, Sai Deodhar, a popular TV actress, married Shakti Anand, her co-star from Sara Akash. Along with her husband, she performed the last rites for her dad.

Debu, who filmed many of Amol Palekar’s movies and Prahaa, was a well-loved and much-respected professional, the condolence meet drawing a large number of actors and technicians. Actors like Vikram Gokhale, Sachin and Sonali Kulkarni also spoke on the occasion as did Jaya Bachchan who had a lump in her throat by the time she finished her little speech. Deb succumbed to cancer and his friends and colleagues who visited him in his last days spoke of how even when he was wracked with pain and unable to speak he would signal an approving “good” by encircling his thumb with the forefinger at a neighbour who came in with a new-look moustache or flash a smile at someone else.

After Debu passed away, Jaya Bachchan went over to their house and spent more than two hours with his wife and daughter. It was a typical Jaya gesture because when she cares for someone she is the proverbial pillar in his or her life. She will nag, she will cajole, but she will support and push the family into standing on their feet. Years ago, when filmmaker Ramesh Behl (whose banner, Rose Movies produced Jawani Diwani with her and Randhir Kapoor) passed away, Jaya went around hunting for a suitable apartment for his wife and young kids. A few days later, Jaya took Ramesh Behl’s wife Bubbles to their Rose Movies office, made her sit on her husband’s chair and said, “Now take over and run this office.” It was Jaya Bachchan’s unstinted support that saw Rose Movies survive the odds. Today, the kids have grown up into Goldie Behl (the filmmaker who made Bas Itna Sa Khwab Hai and Drona with Abhishek) and Shristi Behl who has forayed into television and made a whole lot of successful shows like Lipstick. Recently, Shrishti was in the news as the contact person who got Priyanka Chopra to strike a lucrative deal with Colors to host Khatron Ke Khiladi, replacing Akshay Kumar who had hosted it for two seasons.

So the firm stand taken by Jaya years ago that Ramesh Behl’s wife should sit there and keep the office going worked well for the kids. The Behls are to this day very close to the Bachchans with Abhishek and Goldie even calling themselves brothers. In fact, when Aishwarya Rai was in Cannes this year with Abhishek, Goldie flew down to be with them. Arriving before the Bachchan couple, Goldie had walked down the Croisette at night, looking wide-eyed and feeling alone when he chanced upon a huge poster of Raavan and felt instantly at home. Goldie had been so comforted by the sight of his “brother” as Raavan that he’d taken a picture of it on his cell phone and instantly sent it to Abhishek.

Somewhere, I’d thank Jaya for protecting all the kids and keeping them all together.

From such sober moments to popping champagne at home for yet another honour for Amitabh is par for the course for Jaya.

Amitabh himself, who has been heaped with honours like doctorates from Leicester and Leeds and the Legion d’Honneu from France to four National Awards from New Delhi, is mercifully not blasé about the accolades.

Recently I’d wondered, hasn’t he got used to this sort of recognition coming to him from different parts of the world?

“You never get used to it,” he replied. “You don’t look at it that way. You feel very privileged, you feel privileged for the country, for the profession you are in and for the fraternity that you represent. That more than anything personal.” Apart from his own success, it’s the recognition that many in the Paa team have received that has doubled the pleasure.

Meanwhile, Amitabh Bachchan’s happiness at the new recognition for Paa was accompanied by another press release cautioning everybody against believing a tabloid story titled “Birthday Bumps for the Big Boss”. The paper had reported that he would be celebrating his birthday this October with a big bash to coincide with his reappearance on Kaun Banega Crorepati. I can almost hear AB growl, “Rubbish!”

Bharathi S. Pradhan is editor,
The Film Street Journal