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On Neetu Kapoor being the decision-maker of her own career

To interpret it as the happiest phase would perhaps be an injustice to the wife who’d rather have Rishi alive and demanding than this newfound independence, says the columnist

Bharathi S. Pradhan Published 05.06.22, 03:23 AM
Neetu Singh

Neetu Singh

So, how right are those who’re whispering that this is the phase where Neetu Kapoor is at her happiest? After two decades under her mother the gregarious Raji Singh’s supervision and then four decades as Mrs Rishi Kapoor, even doing films like Jab Tak Hain Jaan (2012) and Besharam (2013) only as his wife, this is the first time Neetu is the decision-maker of her own career. Therefore, at her happiest.

When Amjad Khan, immortalised as Gabbar Singh of Sholay, passed away suddenly in 1992, his wife Shehla’s stunned reaction was, “I don’t even know how to write a cheque.” A well-spoken graduate from Aligarh Muslim University and renowned writer Akhtar-ul-Iman’s daughter, Shehla had always been protected by Amjad. All that the barely 40-year-old widow could see was the anxiety of how she’d manage as a single parent to her three young kids. But 30 years later, the wife who’d never stepped into a bank could look back with satisfaction at what she’d achieved. Making sensible business decisions by converting their two bungalows in Pali Hill and some more property into profit-giving ventures, she continued to give her children the comfortable lifestyle they were used to, she gave each of her children five-star wedding celebrations and ensured that they had secure homes of their own. By making her own decisions, which turned out just fine, was Shehla Khan in her happiest phase?

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Shilpa Shetty’s father Surendra’s death in 2016 was a jolt for his cheerful wife Sunanda. Wearing a big, bright tika and colourful saris, Sunanda’s face had an animated glow. Five years down, she’s still the mother who looks straight at the cameras, irrespective of the situation. It was the principle Shilpa successfully adopted by going back to work and posing for the paparazzi just after the arrest-and-scandal that hit her husband Raj Kundra. Earlier too, when there’d been attempts to take sneaky pictures of her daughter Samisha, Shilpa had held her baby in her arms and told the cameramen, “Take good pictures, no need to take sneak shots.”

That same Shetty sunniness prevailed when photographers tried to take pictures of Sunanda’s second daughter Shamita with her actor-boyfriend Raqesh Bapat. “Wait, let me arrange my sari properly,” said Sunanda to the photographers as she told Raqesh, “Come, they want pictures,” and posed together as a family. She has continued to glow in her bright saris, tika on the forehead, saying, “This is how my husband liked me to look.” But does that mean Sunanda is in her happiest phase?

Long ago, Vidya Sinha (of Chhoti Si Baat, Rajnigandha and Pati Patni Aur Woh fame) told me after losing husband Venkat, “We want independence all our lives. But when we get it, we’d rather have our husbands back in our lives than the freedom we’ve suddenly got.” Neetu. Shehla. Sunanda. Different women, different stories. But bound by the commonness of being widows who won’t play the victim or grieve in public.

Neetu didn’t have a conventional childhood. Brought up by a single parent, nobody quite knew what had happened to her father — everyone just knew he wasn’t around. And more than classrooms, she knew the make-up rooms of film studios, Raji Singh shepherding her transition from child artiste Baby Sonia to Neetu Singh, one of the top five actresses of the 70s.

But with her first independently chosen film Jugjugg Jeeyo, to release on June 24, to conclude this is the happiest phase of her life would be a misreading of her situation.

What’s true is that whatever the trying circumstances of each phase, Neetu makes the most of the cards dealt out to her. To interpret it as the happiest phase would perhaps be an injustice to the wife who’d rather have Rishi alive and demanding than this newfound independence.

Whether her role as Anil Kapoor’s wife in Jugjugg Jeeyo will bring her back with a bang is questionable. What’s unquestionable is, whatever the outcome, Neetu will continue to carry the sunshine with her.

Bharathi S. Pradhan is a senior journalist and author

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