Bollywood wives

The Bengali stamp is evident at Yash Raj Studios. There was a time when Aditya Chopra would never screen his productions before release and would, therefore, also avoid going to anybody else's preview. Adi, as most people know, still buys a ticket and watches every film, preferably in the stalls, to feel the pulse of the average audience.

By BHARATHI S. Pradhan
  • Published 1.11.15
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The Bengali stamp is evident at Yash Raj Studios. There was a time when Aditya Chopra would never screen his productions before release and would, therefore, also avoid going to anybody else's preview. Adi, as most people know, still buys a ticket and watches every film, preferably in the stalls, to feel the pulse of the average audience.

A few months ago, he relented when Dibakar Banerjee had the press screening of Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! on a Thursday evening instead of the mandatory Friday mid-morning show at YRF.

This week, Yash Raj did something even more surprising. The media had a choice of three screenings that were held on Tuesday and Wednesday for Titli , the gritty low-budget YRF film that Dibakar has supervised.

With Rani Mukerji's brother Raja firmly entrenched inside the studio, and Dibakar Banerjee having enough clout to be able to prevail upon Adi to hold previews much before the release of a film, the whisper is that the "Bongification" of YRF is complete.

The influence of wives on their husbands is interesting but sometimes goes unrecorded. Here's another interesting case.

On the last day of a one-month stay at Hotel Ashok in Delhi where I did jury duty to make a pan-India selection of films for the Indian Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India, I found a surprise companion at the buffet breakfast. It's the hotel where the crew of Air India also checks in. And coming in for breakfast, all by herself, was a casually dressed female commander with a smart haircut and fresh, clean face.

It was Manjeet, wife of Rajkumar Hirani, who may be married to one of the most successful filmmakers in the country today but continues to pilot our national carrier's aircraft. The fact that her husband fetches top bucks in the market has made no difference to Manjeet who seeks her growth as a person by simply widening her own sphere of activity. After years of flying, she's currently training to be a guide and instructor to other pilots.

Of course, she's proud to be Raju's wife and is often seen with him at various functions, although there's one adjustment she just can't make. She laughs that, however hard she may try, she could never get into a gown like other wives and filmland women do.

After the commercial success of their respective husbands, a lot of women like Maria Goretti (wife of actor Arshad Warsi) and Mini Mathur (wife of Kabir Khan, director of Bajrangi Bhaijaan ) who are thick friends, have put their careers on the backburner and chosen to turn into ladies who lunch, shop and stay at home. Many women, like Anjali Tendulkar who's a qualified doctor, do that, as if a woman's career is solely equal to making a living.

On the other hand, check out Manjeet Lamba Hirani's blog. Her profile states: A senior commander with Air India with a love for philosophy. Besides flying, enjoys reading, travelling, fitness and adventures.

There's nothing about films or about being a celebrity spouse.

If one were to read her blog, one would realise that she must have a hand in the philosophical bent her husband and his cinema are famous for. She quotes Kahlil Gibran on children, on holding the bow and letting them fly as high as arrows. She talks of Osho and repeats the wisdom that life is like a personal signature, have one of your own. She talks of paragliding and getting an aerial view of what's happening to people all over. She likens it to being upset when the monsoons this June stained her Ladakh-sourced cushions but the cushions vanished from her mind when her maid told her that her whole house had been destroyed in the same rains and her family had stood the whole night without sleeping.

Best of all, remember a cocker spaniel in the film PK ? The Hiranis' lives changed when Raju brought Buddy the cocker spaniel home after the shoot. Once petrified of dogs, Manjeet began to see a new world through the silky pet and began blogging on Buddy: My Master. She links and weaves philosophical thought into her discoveries about Buddy. Rajkumar Hirani is blessed to have a wife who has the substance and the sensitivity that his own films reveal.

It's no surprise at all that Karthika of HarperCollins has snapped up the rights to publish Buddy: My Master , as a full-fledged book. Characteristically, Manjeet has turned author on her own steam and husband Rajkumar Hirani had nothing to do with her bagging the contract.

So there's going to be another author in our midst. And it all began with Raju Hirani taking Buddy the cocker spaniel home after shooting for PK .

Bharathi S. Pradhan is a senior journalist and author