One for the other
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- Published 28.10.06
Who can ever forget Rati Agnihotri clutching onto to Kamal Hassan’s hand at the end of the film, Ek Duje Ke Liye and jumping off the cliff into the raging sea below. A tragic end for Sapna, the character. But the beginning of a wonderful film career for Rati, the actress. While 16-year-old Rati began her film career in the South and ended up doing almost 32 Kannada and Telugu films, Ek Duje Ke Liye opened a whole new world for her in 1981. She went on to star in 43 Hindi films including Shaukeen, Farz Aur Kanoon, Coolie and Tawaif. But Rati gave it all up when she married architect and businessman, Anil Virwani in 1985. Sixteen years later, it was director Rahul Rawail who persuaded her to make a comeback, which she did in Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi. Since then, Rati has appeared in several films like Govind Nihalini’s Dev, Subhash Ghai’s Yaadein and Yash Chopra’s Hum Tum. Recently, she even danced up a storm on Sony’s dance reality show, Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa.
Rati’s husband, Anil is an architect and runs his father’s Pune-based business, Virwani and Sons. A proud husband, he says he loves Rati’s films. But the two that come out on top in his estimation are Shaukeen and Pasand Apni Apni.
I first met Anil at the house of my dad’s friend. The friend in question had three daughters and after dinner, all of us girls holed up in a room for a good chat. Suddenly, Anil strode into the room without even bothering to knock on the door. Looking back, it’s funny that I didn’t even have an inkling that this guy would end up being my husband.
After our brief meeting, we met several times again as Anil happened to be one of the girl’s classmates. So we started going out along with a group of friends. Nevertheless my parents were very strict and used to insist that I return home by nine at night. I was already a few films old at the time, but Anil was never really in awe of my filmi status.
Gradually, we became very good friends and finally, we started seeing each other. Since there were no mobile phones around then, we used to wait eagerly for each other’s phone calls. And even when I was on an outdoor shoot, Anil used to call me up at night. But we never went out alone, as I was too scared of the rumour mill. I remember we used to go out with all our friends to the Sea Rock Hotel in Bandra Bandstand or sometimes, we would just tuck into the pani puri on Carter Road.
It wasn’t long before we realised that we wanted to marry each other. Our families gave their blessings too, and Anil and I got married on February 9, 1985. I was 23 and Anil was just a year older.
Marrying Anil has been the best thing that could have happened to me. Being an actress, I had no idea how to run a house. But Anil was a constant support and he even taught me how to make tea and manage our home. We may have had a large staff of helpers, yet I learnt a lot from him. I married Anil at the height of my career and a lot of people advised me not to give up films. But I’d already made up my mind. In my book, family had to come first.
Anil has helped me in every aspect of my life. Even when I decided to make a comeback in Bollywood, both he and our son encouraged me every step of the way. What I like about Anil is the fact that he takes care of each and every member of our family. Sometimes though, I get a bit annoyed when he overdoes it and people take advantage of him. You see, I can’t bear to see him get hurt — all the more because he’s the type to bear it all without a word to anyone.
Rati is a very private person, which is one of the main reasons why she didn’t like to go out with me alone when we were dating. She feared that the press would go into overdrive and gossip about our relationship. When we met, she was already an established actress, but I never allowed her work to affect our relationship at any point of time. I wouldn’t even accompany her to shoots as I didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable. However, the decision to quit the world of films was entirely her own. I had absolutely no say in it. In fact, I was elated when Rati told me of her decision to return to films.
Rati is a very committed person — and it shows in both her personal and professional life. This is her best attribute really. What also struck me from the very beginning was her enthusiasm and her spirit. She’s not only a very lively soul, but she takes genuine care of each and every person in the house. I am also very proud of the fact that despite a back problem, she agreed to feature in Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa. And I as I remember, her exit was very moving with even all the judges getting teary-eyed.
On the downside — if you can call it that — Rati is a cleanliness freak. She can’t tolerate an untidy house. Sometimes though, her obsession with keeping things in order gets a bit annoying. Nonetheless, after having spent so many years together, I can safely say that Rati is the balancing factor in my life. She’s the same old bubbly girl I met years ago and yes, she is so much more beautiful than the actresses of today.