If men are from Mars, women are from heaven

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  • Published 5.07.09

The battle of the sexes may be an ancient theme in Hindi cinema but what is refreshing is the hero’s off-screen turn on double standards. To the best of my knowledge, the real life Akshay Kumar (the hero of this week’s Kambakkht Ishq) is protective of his women and gallant with them, but he does not trade chivalry for chauvinism. Akki has had a string of girlfriends — Pooja Batra, Raveena Tandon, Shilpa Shetty, to name a few — but he hasn’t really played the MCP in their lives. In fact, because he has a flair for languages, when he was with Shilpa he’d even started picking up bits of Tulu, her mother tongue!

Once, we were casually chatting when I asked him if his present girlfriend, Shilpa’s past ever came in the way of their relationship. He’d quickly shot back, “So what? I’ve had a past too.” Sometimes, filmland men drop these modern lines but don’t really mean them. When it comes to marriage, they dump the colourful girlfriends and opt for an untouched mama’s choice. But not Akshay who went out openly with Twinkle and was serious enough to take the relationship to the altar. It didn’t matter that Twinkle had been an actress who’d done her bit of kissing scenes (Mela with Aamir Khan) and had her share of serious relationships.

Today, it is almost improbable to imagine that Twinkle as a young teenager was in a close relationship with Ekta Kapoor’s cousin, Abhishek Kapoor. Abhishek, known to all of us as Gattu, was also a star aspirant those days and he had even acted in a flop film with Twinkle Khanna called Uff Yeh Mohabbat.

Abhishek Kapoor is today better known as the smart young director of Rock On!! I wouldn’t be surprised if one day Abhishek even directs Twinkle’s hubby Akshay in a film since both are successful names in the same industry. Besides, all the parties involved in it, Akki, Twinkle, Gattu, have evolved into substantial grown-ups who can handle the past with dignity.

To return to Akshay and his Kambakkht Ishq, someone recently observed that the actor does interviews on email and avoids one-to-one meetings so that he gets enough time to think of appropriate answers. Not true. Personally, we’ve all done enough interviews with Akshay Kumar to acknowledge that he brings to the table a certain honesty and large doses of self-deprecating humour. Instead of being male chauvinistic, Akshay goes to the other extreme and grumbles that he has no voice in his household where his mother, his sister and wife rule. Forget about wanting time to mull over an answer, he spontaneously told a TV journalist that far from being a male chauvinist, he believes, “If men are from Mars, then women are from heaven!” Amen.

What about the other half of Kambakkht Ishq? Does Kareena Kapoor simper and give in to male chauvinism? On the surface, no. She has the same professional approach to her career as her man does — if Saif suavely smooches Deepika in Love Aaj Kal, Kareena smartly wears her bikinis and seduces Akshay Kumar in Kambakkht Ishq. Having grown up with only her mother Babita and her sis, Karisma, Kareena has that strong streak of independence. She has told me, “I’ve always had my own money. I’d hate to have to take money from my man.” But there are a few other areas where you wonder if Kareena is buckling under the veiled pressure of living up to the image of a Begum. Like one only hears the question, when is the nikkah? Is it to be taken for granted that Kareena will convert and have a nikkah? Don’t secular alternatives like a civil marriage (which Fardeen had with Natasha ) ever figure in their discussions? Kareena could say, meri marzi. But maybe it is really Saif ki marzi? For I do know that when Saif Ali Khan married Amrita Singh, he was unconventional enough to go for a wildly colourful, older woman. He was un-traditional enough to have a secret marriage that even his parents didn’t know about. But when it came to the ceremony itself, he had clearly told Amrita Singh (the daughter of a Sikh father and Muslim mother) that she had to fall in line and go through only a nikkah. Very nawabi when it comes to the crux.

Bharathi S. Pradhan is managing editor of Movie Mag International