Love in times of terror

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  • Published 29.05.11

I had something to do with the break-up of Madhuri Dixit and Sanjay Dutt in the 1990s, a mutual attraction that is now being talked about again in the context of a film (a remake of Satte Pe Satta) that they are supposed to be doing together now in 2011.

To understand whether this film will ever get made, one will have to know what really happened between these two actors so many years ago.

The last time Madhuri did a film with Sanjay was when her mentor, Subhash Ghai, got her to do that chartbusting number, Choli ke peechche kya hai in Khalnayak. Off-screen, the film was memorable for several happenings. First, Sanjay was arrested under TADA for alleged involvement in the 1993 bomb blasts and there were the usual snide remarks that he had lived up to the title of the film. Second, the film and Sanju’s arrest for alleged treason marked the end of anything that might have been brewing between him and Madhuri.

After films like Saajan (a huge box office hit in the 1990s), there were strong whispers of a mutual attraction between the two. To be fair to Madhuri, she never once made it official. That Sanju was smitten was written all over his face (and he didn’t deny it to his buddies). Whether Madhuri reciprocated his feelings in full measure was never ever established beyond doubt because she never let her guard down.

However, when he was arrested, Madhuri nipped the entire Dutt episode by giving me an interview. Until then, she had never answered questions about a possible relationship with him. But this time, when I asked her direct questions on him, she answered unambiguously.

She made it extremely clear on record that she was not involved with him. No, she replied, she was not in love with him. No, she said, there was no question of marrying him, she had nothing to do with him. Her father and her faithful secretary Rikku were also in the vicinity when she was talking to me.

The next day, she uncharacteristically called asking if she could see the copy. We had covered a lot of ground in the interview, and she trusted me, which was why she had chosen to talk to me about a variety of topics, including her rumoured relationship with Dutt. But Madhuri is someone you can know as a professional acquaintance for decades without her ever turning into a close friend. She is someone who is always guarded, so she didn’t confide in me which part of the interview she wanted to check.

Anyway, I caught a cab and went across to her place. She quickly glanced at it, saw that what she had wanted to convey was there verbatim and gave back the copy without changing a word. She thanked me for coming over and, again very uncharacteristically, insisted that her car drop me back to office.

It was only a few weeks later, after the cover story was published, that I realised I’d been the messenger. She had unequivocally broken off with Sanju with that one well-timed interview.

Nobody blamed the straightforward Madhuri for putting an end to the Dutt chapter. She may have been guarded but she was always an above board, clean player. A Dutt-Dixit alliance would’ve been disastrous and she was too sensible not to see it. In fact, when she put an end to speculation about them, she did not come across as a woman who was deserting her man in times of crisis. If at all she had been temporarily attracted to him, the TADA charge was like a wake-up call to her that this man, his lifestyle, his friends, were not meant for a grounded girl like her.

Armed with this knowledge, it was difficult to digest a front-page story in a Mumbai daily on her birthday this May that she was reuniting with Dutt as co-star in the remake of Satte Pe Satta. There was even a quote from her on how she and Sanju had made a hit pair and was game to work with him.

Alas, that’s what happens when genuine journalism takes a backseat and front-page stories are actually paid news items. Anything chalega as long as the cheque gets encashed.

Sure enough, soon there was an item in another paper that she hadn’t even got the script yet. And another that Sanjay Dutt wasn’t keen on working with her.

If I know Madhuri (not as a confidante which I am not, but as someone who has interviewed her several times), she is too blissful right now to mess with an ex-flame. Flames are for extinguishing. She did that years ago.

Psst! Director Soham Shah who’s supposed to be directing the remark of Satte Pe Satta has been caught so badly in the crossfire of conflicting news items that he’s put off his cell phone and flown to Kenya with his wife for a quiet holiday.