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BACHCHAN, BAARISH AUR MAIN…

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Ali Peter John

I am sitting in my favourite tea centre,‘Chaayos’ which I have turned into my work place even though I don’t make the kind of money to pay for the endless glasses of tea that I have, believing in the saying, “upparwala sab theek kar dega” and I have managed till now, thanks to the manager, Saurabh and his extremely helpful team, smiling all the time even as they keep shouting ‘Chaayos’ and serve piping hot tea to all the tea-lovers who are mostly young and I have never found myself a misfit here. It is raining heavily outside after several days of the monsoon surrendering to the shining hour sun.I am supposed to do some work according to my promise made to myself this morning, but the beautiful sight of the rain stops me from thinking about work and go on a nostalgic trip….

Those the days when the talk of the Bofor’s gun was everywhere in the air and one of the names said to be involved in the scandal was supposed to be Amitabh Bachchan, who was a very close friend of the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. Amitabh was still the most busy actor even though films starring him, like “Shahenshah” faced trouble from the Shiv Sena whose followers created unruly scenes outside theatres screening the film and Amitabh was booed and called names in public places like the airport in Bombay and places where he was shooting in the open.

Amitabh had tried his best to let people know that he was in no way a part of the scandal, but no one was willing to listen. He had made enemies in different places and one of them was the Indian Express Group of Newspapers and ‘Screen’ was a part of the group and I was a tiny part of ‘Screen’. I had made some kind of a name in the film industry because of my writings and especially my column, ‘Ali’s Notes’. There was a blanket ban on covering or writing anything about Amitabh, but I somehow kept writing about him without thinking of the consequences and receiving several threats and warnings from my bosses…

I wanted to talk to Amitabh about the scandal he was said to be a part of. I asked him for some time, so that we could talk. It was not as difficult as it is now when one has to go through two or more secretaries and several bouncers before reaching him. He asked me to reach him at his then residence, ‘Prateeksha’ at 5:30 pm the same day. I knew about his fetish for time, but there was a villain in my way. It had started raining very heavily at around 3:00pm and the rain showed no signs of changing its killer mood. It kept raining and I kept rushing after leaving office and taking a train to Vile Parle from where I had plans to take an auto and reach ‘Prateeksha’.

I was fighting time and the rain was in no state to give up its angry mood. I literally ran all the way from the station to ‘Prateeksha’. I knew it was a futile battle against the elements, but I also knew that Amitabh would be waiting for me and I knew that I had to keep my tryst with time. Needless to say, I was completely drenched, especially since I never carried an umbrella or used any kind of protection from the rain…

I saw a huge crowd outside ‘Prateeksha’ from a distance and there were many guesses running in my mind for that time of a crowd to stand outside Amitabh’s house at that time of the day…

In another ten minutes, I could see the reason why the crowd had gathered there on a normal week day. The man of the masses himself was standing outside his gate with a huge umbrella which he held himself even though there were many of his people around him. Little did I know that the megastar was waiting for me. I was both embarrassed and nervous and I knew the reason why when he took me under his umbrella and led me in, but not without looking at his wrist watch which was a hint to let me know that I was late by over forty minutes which was something Amitabh, the faithful devotee of time would not take even in the circumstances I was late in.

He called the man who knew me best, his security officer, Wilfred Vaz who was an ex-officer in the Indian Air Force and my neighbour in my village and asked him to “put me in order”. It meant making arrangements to get me dry and then make arrangements for some hot tea and snacks.

We must have spoken about Bofors for more than two hours. He was defending himself better than any lawyer could with facts, dates and figures. And as he kept reeling out details, he kept looking at me, I didn’t know why.

The meeting got over at 7:30 and he asked Vaz to make arrangements to have me dropped home, but I for my own reasons politely declined the offer. I walked out of the huge gate and saw that the crowd had only grown much bigger. The crowd went crazy when they saw him leaving me at the gate and I quietly got lost in the crowd even as they kept shouting,“Arre faaltu hai,faaltu hai”. He went in, the gate was closed and I walked all the way home in a state of trance. I couldn’t even believe that the most loved, the most wanted and the biggest star in the country had so much time to give me. It was a difficult but also a very memorable evening for me.

The article I wrote under tremendous pressure was published on the following Friday and I was tense, waiting for his reaction. He called me exactly at one o’clock and said, “what have you done, Ali?”I felt he was unhappy, but what he said after that was what made my day and the days and days to come…

He came to felicitate me at a function at the Sun n Sand Hotel where I was to get the K.A Abbas Award for Journalism and who better could I have than Amitabh to present me with an award named after my guru and his discoverer!!! All was fine till he rose to speak about me, Abbas Sahab and the award. But his masterstroke came in the end when he told the audience how I had done several interviews with him and what he couldn’t believe was that I never carried a tape recorder or took notes even if it was about figures which could make a very big difference and how I had written down every detail just as he had told me. He said he couldn’t imagine how I could do it and concluded by saying, “iss raaz ko mujhe Ali se jaanna hai ek din, kyon na aaj hi ho jaaye?”he said looking at me and I knew I had no explanation to give him or anyone, then and even now. It was all the grace of God and his grace is something that no ordinary human being like me could understand or explain.

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Tags: Bollywood, Bollywood News, Bollywood Updates, Television, Telly News, Amitabh Bacchan

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