Mohan Studios was one of the many studios close to my house. It took me very little time that this was the studio where a great filmmaker like Bimal Roy had his office and where he also shot some of the best films made in Hindi – Ali Peter John
It was very easy for me to enter this studio as most of the security men, junior artists and dancers lived in the same village where I was born and brought up. A little while later, I also saw young directors and writers like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Nabendu Ghosh, Gulzar, Raghunath Jhalani and Moni Bhattacharya who were all assistants of Bimal Roy before they branched out on their own. Hrishikesh Mukherjee was the first and had made a very bright start with films like“Anupama”,“Anuradha”,“Satyakam”,“Asli Naqli”, followed by many others.
It was in the early seventies that Hrishida wanted to make a film based on the relationship between a star and one of his crazy fans. He had taken a decision to cast Dharmendra as the star and was finding it difficult to find an actress who could look like a school girl. He visited the FTII and it took him very little time to find his school girl and her name was Jaya Bhaduri who was the daughter of a well-known journalist, Tarun Kumar Bhaduri.
Hrishida had several talks with Jaya and realised that he did not have to worry about finding the crazy school girl in his film which he is said to have decided to call“Guddi”, especially after he saw the height, the face and the full of life attitude of the girl called Jaya Bhaduri….
I first saw this new girl dressed in a school uniform at the Mohan Studios and was carried away by her and soon she was going to be the“Guddi”who would carry away the whole country as she had started a“Guddi”wave.
I was in college and as students of the Bombay University we were bringing out a tabloid every week called“Campus Times”. The editor, Claude Alvares who was a student of philosophy was against the idea of having films and film personalities as a part of the tabloid, but I showed him the magic this young actress, Jaya was working on her very first Hindi film and he was floored and agreed to allow me to write an article on‘The Guddi Girl’and the subject of the article more than the article itself became a highlight of the very first issue of the tabloid….
The film was released, it turned out to be very big hit and Jaya Bhaduri became a cult figure and was popular among all ages of people.
Jaya however was not cut out to be the typical singing and dancing heroine of Hindi films and she proved it when she was found to be extremely uneasy while playing the romantic lead opposite Randhir Kapoor in“Jawani Deewani”and when she played the nautch girl opposite a struggling actor called Amitabh Bachchan who had done several flop films before, in“Ek Nazar”.
It was only when she did films like“Doosri Sita”,“Koshish”and“Anamika”and finally with“Sholay”that she was recognised as one of the actresses in a class of her own.
She had taken up an apartment in‘Beach Apartments’in Juhu where she had neighbours like Asrani, Shekhar Kapur, the highest paid writer of the times Inder Raj Anand and his sons Tinnu Anand and Bittu Anand who were directors and producers on their own. Little did Jaya then know that she would have another well-known neighbour in Rekha who was going to create a storm in her life.
The struggling actor, Amitabh Bachchan had seen Jaya during one of his many visits to the FTII and was soon very friendly with Jaya’s friends and colleagues, Asrani, Danny and Romesh Sharma who introduced Amitabh to Jaya and they became good friends. Years later, Jaya was to go on record to say that the moment she set her eyes on the tall struggling actor, she knew that he was the man of her dreams she was looking for.
Their friendship grew and Amitabh who lived a few minutes away from her house in a building called‘Mangal’made it a point to visit Jaya every morning and sometimes joined her in travelling to the places where she was shooting. It was during the shooting of Hrishida’s film,“Bawarchi”that Amitabh had joined her. Jaya who was a star now was shooting with the superstar, Rajesh Khanna who as was his style reported late for the shoot at one of the studios in Dadar. The superstar arrived, greeted Jaya and then walked by both Jaya and Amitabh and then came back only to tell Jaya not to waste her time with the‘Lambu’who according to him was a‘manhoos’and could never make it in films, not even as a supporting actor. The superstar made those nasty remarks and walked ahead, but Jaya was fuming and told this writer who was a witness to the scene,“mark my words, Ali, look at where that man will be one day and where my man will be”. I still remember those words and the confidence Jaya had in the man who was ultimately going to replace the superstar and even marry the man of her dreams.
Prakash Mehra was desperately looking for a hero to be cast in his film“Zanjeer”. Big stars like Dev Anand, Raaj Kumar and Dharmendra had turned down the role of Inspector Vijay. It was first the two veteran actors Pran and Om Prakash who had mentioned the name of Amitabh to Mehra as a firery actor, but it was the strong recommendation and even the request of Jaya who was already signed as the heroine that finally got Amitabh the role and once he kicked the chair in which the villain Pran was getting ready to sit on, Amitabh Bachchan had become a superstar and no one could no one still can replace him.
It was after the success of films like“Zanjeer”and“Abhimaan”, two very different kinds of films with the same team that Amitabh and Jaya got married in a very private ceremony in which the only known name was Sanjay Gandhi, the elder son of Mrs Indira Gandhi who was in the midst of a major storm because of his being a strong influence on his even otherwise strong mother which led to the declaration of the Emergency. Amitabh always maintained that Sanjay was his better friend and he also said that Sanjay was the right choice to be a strong leader and not Rajiv.
Jaya took a complete break from acting after being married and concentrated on being Mrs Bachchan and the mother of their children, Abhishek and Shweta and even took care of Amitabh’s old and ailing parents when Amitabh was very busy. She was chosen to be the Chairman of the Children’s Film Society of India when Amitabh had taken a sabbatical from films and Amitabh proved to be a very supportive husband when he took over the responsibilities of looking after the entire Bachchan family.
Before I go into my personal encounters with Jaya, I would not be telling the complete story about Jaya if I didn’t talk about her two brothers in the industry, Sanjeev Kumar and Gulzar who she called“Bhais”and never failed to tie a raakhi around their wrists and they looked up to her as a younger sister and the feeling was mutual.
When Amitabh turned sixty, Jaya was very keen to bring out a coffee table book on Amitabh and she made it a point to give of her best to it. At one stage, she needed a lot of photographs of Amitabh while he was shooting and I didn’t know why she had to depend on me and call me. It was like a scene that relieved me of a very painful burden. At around the same time, I had taken on the responsibility of bringing out a complete issue on Amitabh in“Screen”. I had sought the help of as many people as I could, especially photographers. One of the photographers I approached was Indrajeet Aurangabadkar who belonged to a family of photographers and journalists. He was kind enough to hand me over an entire box of black and white photographs, but had given me a warning that Peter Martis, who was the production in charge of the issue would not use any of his photographs. I didn’t take his warning seriously and kept working on the issue with almost every article written by me. I literally was very tensed when I saw this heartless man, Martis not using any of Indrajeet’s photographs in spite of my begging and pleading with him and spending sleepless nights when he refused to use any of them. The issue was a grand success, but it was misery for me as the devil in Indrajeet got the better of him and he demanded money for all the photographs he had given me. I made pleas to the then editor, Mrs Udaya Tara Nayar to help me out, but she too did not take any interest because this man Martis who I had got a job in“Screen”even though he was only good as a cook was her favourite man who ran errands for her and brought her new recipes every day. A time came when Indrajeet whose entire families was known to me very well decided to sit on a“dharna”outside the Express Towers till he got his money. I had to finally pay Indrajeet from my own pocket and kept the box of photographs safely in my cupboard. Little did I know that the photographs would be very useful one day soon. When Jaya asked me for photographs, I handed over the entire box to her and she not only used every photograph, but also paid me handsomely and gave my name in the credits for the coffee table book.
When Amitabh was almost being given up for dead at the Breach Candy Hospital, no one was allowed to see him. I once came to know that he was getting better and walked up the first few steps to try and reach his room, but his tough secretary, Sheetal Jain spread out both his hands to stop me and in his Hindi-English accent said,“nyo nyo, you could not go up”and he was getting ruder till Jaya saw me and gave him a screaming of his lifetime and led me to Amitabh’s room and I saw him lying in his bed, all a bundle of bones and very little life in him, but he still recognised me, greeted me and even wrote out a letter of thanks for my editor who had not cared to visit him or even register her name as one of the visitors which she gladly published on the front page of“Screen”.
It was August 2,1982 and all the doctors had given up hope and around nine pm, Amitabh was declared“clinically dead”and his friends, Prakash Mehra, Manmohan Desai and Mukul. S. Anand were told that they could start making arrangements for his funeral the next day. Everyone had given up hope, but not Jaya. That same night, she walked barefeet from the hospital to the Siddhivinayak temple in Prabhadevi and walked back after praying for her husband. She reached his room where he was lying in a near dead state when she suddenly saw one of his little toes moving and she screamed her lungs out saying,“how can he die? He is very much alive”. Many believed that she had gone berserk or totally mad, but she kept screaming till the team of doctors attending on him were sent for in the middle of the night. Dr Farokh Udwadia who was in charge of the patient ordered the doctors to“pump him with Cortizone injections till I ask you to stop”. The other doctors now felt that the good doctor had gone mad, but miracle of miracles. The more Amitabh was injected with Cortizone injections, the more he showed signs of reviving and finally he was declared alive and safe. Could Jaya’s prayers for her husband be stronger than all the best doctors and medicines?
Amitabh was back home, but he was as good as a skeleton walking. He slowly fought back but the doctors advised him to shift to a bungalow on Madh Island and he had to follow their advice and soon he was back to work,starting with the scene in which he was knocked out by Puneet Issar in the scene in“Coolie”. He also started shooting for“Sharaabi”for his old friend, Prakash Mehra. I knew it was wrong and against my conscience to ask him to inaugurate the ICU unit of a hospital in Andheri belonging to a doctor who was a nephew of my boss, Kumtakar. The doctor was truly heartless and I had to ask Amitabh if it was possible for him to listen to the heartless doctor’s cruel request and without asking any questions, he asked me to come to his Madh Island bungalow. The guilty man in me reached the bungalow at fifteen minutes before nine. I was stopped by Ramola, the wife of Ajitabh Bachchan who naturally asked me how I could expect him to come to a function at nine am when I knew how he had just returned from the jaws of death, I felt like a horrible worm, but there was a team of doctors who were waiting like vultures to get their beaks on Amitabh Bachchan. Luckily, I saw Jaya coming down the stairs and she asked me what I was doing there at that time of the morning. I told her my painful story and she immediately ran up and within fifteen minutes Amitabh had his shower and came rushing down and repeatedly said sorry for keeping me waiting. He had returned home from shooting at five in the morning. It was a Sunday. He had given his driver a holiday. He asked me where my car was and I felt like sinking in the sand. But before I could do that, he got into a Maruti 800 and asked me to get in and drove at break neck speed and I was a bundle of mixed feelings and one of them was to reach the hospital and gun down the doctor who was giving me and more than me Amitabh so much trouble. Amitabh had asked the damned doctor not to make it a public issue, but the doctor seemed to have lost his senses and it looked as if the whole of Andheri had lined up every road and had piled up every terrace and tree. I saw Amitabh looking upset for the first time. He was whistling and humming all the way and suddenly became very serious. I got out of his car and found myself only the next morning. All this excitement would not have been possible without Jaya’s help.
The only time Jaya seemed to be in serious trouble was when Rekha came into her life and made it miserable, all because of her maddening love for the man who she called“my God”and Jaya had retorted,“if my love is true, no power can take my man away from me, even the devil called death tried but had to bow before my love”and Amitabh who is seventy-six and Jaya who is seventy-one are still as much in love as they were when they first set their eyes on each other more than fifty years ago….
JAYA TURNS SEVENTY-FOUR AND WHAT A LIFE IT HAS BEEN!
Jaya Bachchan celebrated her 71st birthday on April 9 and received a birthday wish from her daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and granddaughter Aaradhya . Sharing a picture of the three of them together, Aishwarya wrote: “Happiness always.”
Both her children – Abhishek Bachchan and Shweta Bachchan Nanda – wished her on her birthday with messages. Abhishek posted a simple message and wrote “Maa” in Hindi and added how the word sums it all, while posting a picture of Jaya from her youth. Shweta posted a picture of herself with her mother and wrote: “Oh Captain, My Captain.”
Aishwarya may have been missing from action post the release of her last film“Fanney Khan”but her many advertising assignments keep her busy. Last year, she was in France on two occasions: to walk the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival and later in the year, for the shoot of her advertisement for an international watch brand, Longines.
Aishwarya will reportedly be doing a film with Mani Ratnam next. A source said that Aishwarya has already signed on to the project, while her father-in-law Amitabh Bachchan may also feature in the film. “It’s a big-budget historical drama, which is being planned on the lines of the“Baahubali”franchise. It’s likely to be a bilingual project and star several other big names from the South Indian film industry.” Reports also suggest that Abhishek and Aishwarya may also be seen playing lyricist-poet Sahir Ludhianvi and poet Amrita Pritam respectively in a biopic of the former, to be directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Another source very close to Bhansali said that it was too early to say anything about the project dealing with Sahir and Amrita because Sanjay is now busy scouting locations for his next,“Inshallah”with Salman Khan and Alia Bhatt forming an unusual team. He is also the producer of“Malaal”being directed by one of his assistants and introducing Mizaan Jaffrey, son of the veteran actor Javed Jaffrey and Shameen, Bhansali’s neice and daughter of the well-known editor Bela Segal.
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