It was one of those days when I had neither my driver nor the will to drive. So after having finished yet another boring look test to further my bollywood aspirations in the posh suburb of bandra, I hopped into the first rickshaw that past my way, and with a relatively bored look and expression told him to drive straight ahead into the mystic neighbourhood of lokhandwala andheri.
It was the mean machine that caught my eye first. The colour if i remember correctly ,was white, and it was unusually big and majestic for the cars I normally see. Despite not being too much into automobiles, this cool customer on the santacruz juhu road grabbed my attention so much that I actually, did something very out of character for my taste. One I asked my rickshaw wallah to drive fast and get close to the car and two stretched out my entire six foot ninety kilo frame out of the moving rickshaw to peep into the car.
Little did I know that this was a moment I had waited thirty years for!
It was somewhere in the middle of 1978 that the legendary film maker Dev Anand had introduced in his film “des pardes” a young teenager who emerged confidently from a barrelful of champagne and entered straight into the hearts of millions. Tina Munim, who made her debut with this classy film shot mostly in the lanes and by lanes of London, would have had no idea the kind of effect she had on a kid, somewhere living in the alleys of a small town in Uttar Pradesh called Allahabad.
I was nowhere close to puberty, when I fell completely in love with Tina. To me she was the ultimate combination of beauty, grace, charm and class. I had seen no one who could evoke the kind of vulnerability which she did when she sang “kaisi yeh nagariya kaise hain yeh log “in “des pardes”. She was the ultimate Elisa Doolittle learning “charu chandra ki chanchal chitwan “in “manpasand’, she was the ultimate prize to be won between Rishi Kapoor and Rakesh Roshan in “apke deewane ", and later between Rishi Kapoor and Jeetendre in “deedar e yaar”.My heart bled when Sanjay Dutt won the “aa dekhe zara “competition with Rina Roy over her in “rocky”. I travelled and travelled in local trains to see anybody similar sitting on a window seat for me to hum “suniye kahiye’ from “baton baton mein”, and forever hoped she would come one day to invite me for a cuppa tea singing “ shayad meri shaadi ka khayal “from “souten”. Even her forgettable films like ‘aasman’, ‘wanted”, “papi pet ka sawaal hai”, “karishma,’ “bewafai”, “saat bijliyaan”, “jigarwala “etc were nothing short of classics for me. From her entry into bollywood as a nubile nymphet to her exit as a diva in “kamagni”, she had one constant in life, a fan sitting quietly, far far away, collecting her photos and buying one “Stardust” after the other if it had anything to say about her.
Not just her films, her personal choices also began deciding mine…I loved and hated Sanjay Dutt and Rajesh Khanna when she loved and hated them, I disliked Poonam Dhillon and Rati Agnihotri when they spoke badly about her. I loved Gautam Rajadhyaksha who shot excellent photos of her, and I hated Devyani Chaubal when she bit her into pieces in her articles. I wanted to help her, love her, be with her and give her everything that nobody was willing to give her, happily,while studying for my icse exams in the mid eighties ! I felt betrayed ,but also a bit relieved when she finally tied the knot with “rich, young, single and very sought after textile tycoon” ( as per cine blitz in 1988),, since I knew that he would make her happy, although one day I was sure she would realize what true love is , ( that is when she would meet me !)…
And somehow with the course of time ,as Tina moved on to become, India’s most successful corporate wife, my life also drifted, and I , via UPSC exams and MBA aspirations, eventually landed here in the big bad world of Bollywood, The film industry became a part of my life, I began acting on stage, TV and films.. I started meeting, on a different level, various big film stars and artists who earlier were only shining stars for me. And after every hand shake I did with yet another top star, I felt I had come a long way, from Allahabad to Mumbai and had managed to take out these stars from their silver screens into my own space.
Almost everybody but Tina. I never met her anywhere. Never saw her at any award functions or parties, never bumped into her in any hotels or airports. Until that day, and the drive from bandra to andheri. As I peeped into the white sedan on the road to juhu, my eyes shifted from the car interiors to the lady who was sitting inside it, happily chatting with another lady friend, totally oblivious of this bystander ogling. She was facing me, on the back seat, in a lovely white dress, short dark brown tresses flirting with her still very attractive face. In a second I felt I knew her... that she looked very familiar, that I had seen this face somewhere before, although thirty years is a really long time. And then the realization daunted upon me… is this she? Is this the moment I have been waiting for? My god there was a freight train running literally through the middle of my head.
And then the inevitable happened. If only I could have frozen that moment for eternity. Very casually, while still engrossed in her conversation, she looked a little away and spotted me almost leaning out of my rickshaw. She looked at me, did a double take, our eyes met, she saw me for two seconds and turned back her face. She felt conscious, the fact that she was spotted, that she was still that elusive movie star and still had mad fans chasing her. With utmost panache and that little bit of nervous awkwardness, she ruffled her hair, leaned back on the seat, and smiled, as if she was telling me…. “Yes buddy this is who you think this is ’.
And her car zipped past me, leaving me completely overwhelmed. For the whole drive after that, I was shivering, literally with excitement. I was quiet, shocked, ecstatic and relieved, all at the same time. I kept looking at the car till I lost it, like very many things in the mad lightening speed of suburban Mumbai. I sat in my rickshaw like a zombie and came back into reality only when I had to take out 70 rupees to pay at my building gate.
I am an actor today, not really big, but still big enough for the very few admires and fans I have. Some people contact me, some send me friend requests on networking sites and some spot me when I am on the road mostly when I am out of Mumbai. There is a nervous excitement in these faces, looking at me, not sure whether they should come up to me or talk. And I understand them completely. I myself do not know still how I would behave if I meet Tina in person today. Would I shout, would I run to her for an autograph, would I request her for a photo? Or would I confidently go up to her and tell her my story.
In all sincerity, I guess I would just freeze. And would hope she would take the initiative, come up to me, call me by my name and stretch out her hand towards me.
Then maybe, just maybe, I would have the guts to smile…