KOI BATAAYEGA YE TSHERING PENTSO KAUN HAI ? ….Ali Peter John
‘D’Zongrila’ is not the name of the house of some character from Up ina fairy tale but a house Tshering Pentso (Danny Denzongpa) had built with the kind of determination rarely seen in any man. This was the palatial house Danny had built as his answer to the very big filmmaker called Mohan Kumar.
Danny was a graduate and a gold medallist from the FTII, who was looking for work in Bombay in the early seventies. Mohan Kumar who was then ruling the roost as a writer-producer-director those days was one of the influential people Danny tried to meet. He somehow found the chance to meet Mohan Kumar who had one look at the new actor and then at the degree and finally at the gold medal and laughed aloud and said, “Hoi, tu kya actor banne aaya hain? Tu kya samajhkar actor banne aaya hain, yahaan par bade bade handsome ladke kaam dhoondhte hue sadko pe ghoom rahe hain. Haan, Rajesh Khanna thoda thoda Gorkha lagta hain, lekin woh toh Punjabi hi hain na? Jao bete jao, koi aur kaam dhoondo aur agar kahi koi kaam nahi mile toh mere paas phir aa jaana. Mere bangle mein teen Gorkhe toh hain hi, lekin jab tak tumhe koi kaam nahi milta tum bhi aakar join kar sakte ho. Do waqt ki roti free milegi aur das ghante kaam karna padega. Meri baat ka bura nahi maanana lekin yeh haqeeqat hain. Koi pagal hi hoga jo tumko junior artist ka bhi kaam dega.”
Some years later when Danny was a star, he told me how he felt like taking a “khukri” and hacking that man’s head of but he had controlled his anger because he knew all the people he would meet would not treat him in the same humiliating manner. But he remembered every word of that man and sometimes even thought of it by day and dreamt of it by night. He was determined to build one of the best bungalows in Juhu and very much next to the bungalow of Mr. Mohan Kumar
Danny slowly found the kind of work which also got him some good money. But it was not enough to think of building a bungalow. He worked harder, he was lucky to find work with companies which realised the potential in him and even offered him very good money. He lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Kalumal Estate in Juhu where many other small stars and the biggest female star, Parveen Babi lived. He made all kinds of sacrifices because he knew it was only if he continued working and thinking like this that he could come anywhere close to his goal of having his own bungalow. Some years passed but there was not a single day when Danny did not pass that open space next to Mohan Kumar’s house and dreamt of it and his bungalow on it at night.
Somewhere during the early eighties, Danny was a very big star and also one of the highest ever paid villains of the Hindi screen. He now had enough money to at least reserve that plot of land. But he was in for a shock when an agent told him that the land had already been sold to a Gujarati businessman. Danny was not going to give up his dream so easily. He met the man who was now the owner of the land and pleaded and even begged of him to sell the land to him. The businessman could not understand what Danny found so special about the property; he was a businessman and knew nothing about emotions and feelings. He wondered why Danny could have been so crazy about the land that he was even willing to pay him double the price. The businessman finally understood something of Danny’s madness and sold the land to him at the same price he had bought it for. Danny had won the first round.
He was determined that he would now build the bungalow of his dreams, a bungalow no one could even imagine of. He hired the best architects from Bombay, Sikkim and even London. He told them he wanted the kind of bungalow everyone would talk about and wonder how Danny who was still a struggler with no future could build a palace like one of the palaces in Sikkim. Danny was so obsessed with his bungalow that he even gave up some good films to supervise the building of his house for the future and for all times. He got all the material from places outside India because he wanted the best which could be compared with any place in the world. He got all the interior decoration of the bungalow done under his supervision because he said no one knew Sikkim the way he did. He bought all the decoration pieces, all the furniture, all the walls hanging and all the original paintings from Sikkim. He had made it a point to see that his house was a mini Sikkim.
It took more than two years to complete the bungalow and people who walked up and down and even those who drove in their cars had to stop and have a good look at ‘D’Zongrila’ (the house of peace), the name Danny himself had given it. Mohan Kumar could never believe that the palace built next to his age-old bungalow belonged to the ‘Gorkha’ who he had offered a job as a ‘Gorkha’ of his bungalow not so long ago. Danny’s bungalow became the talk of the industry, many wanted to see it but Danny was very particular about who to bring in and who to leave out. He sometimes believed in superstition and when it came to ‘D’Zongrila’, he was willing to believe in anything.
One evening, Danny was sitting in his attic and drinking all evening. Something was disturbing him and he was not the kind to share his problems with others. At around 9:00 pm he came down in a highly drunken state and crashed into the massive glass wall which he himself had designed. He was so badly hurt that he fell unconscious and had to be rushed to the nearby Nanavati Hospital where the owner of ‘D’Zongrila’ had to spend several months before he could fully recover. He was philosophical when he came home and said, “Aadmi ko kabhi ghamand se kaam nahi karna chahiye, aur maine wahi kiya aur uski sazaa mujhe mil gayi aur mere saath jo hua woh ek seekh hain, ek lesson hain doosron ke liye.”
It was at this stage that loneliness was getting the better of him. He needed someone at home. He needed a wife, some children and a family of his own. He was basically a very simple man with simple tastes. He also looked for a woman who would give him company. He thought of all the girls he knew and even loved, but believed that they were not home-makers. He finally sent a message home saying that he wanted a good girl to get married to. It was not very difficult. He found Soma a beautiful Sikkimese girl who was also a part of the royal family of Sikkim. She was also well educated. Danny did not think twice and decided to marry Soma and bring her home to ‘D’Zongrila’ which he said “is the place destined for a woman as beautiful and so full of so many qualities that can change me as a man.” Danny is now living a very contented life with Soma and their two children.
Danny personally is sick of the various kinds of pollution in a city like Mumbai but the one thing he cannot stand is the noise pollution. “Yahaan par jo silence bolta hain woh subse zyaada shor machaata hain. Yeh shor mujhe paagal kar dega, isse achcha hain ki main yaahan se bhaag jaaoo.” And when he really gets very sick, he just packs up his bags and runs away to the hills of Sikkim, Leh and the other neighbouring mountains where he pitches his tent and comes back only when that inner voice in him asks him to. That is where he is now, seeking peace in one of the tallest mountains in Sikkim.
Danny (it was a name given to him by his friend at the FTII, Jaya Bhaduri who felt that his real name, Tshering Pentso would not be understood or accepted by the industry) was born in a middle class family in a little town in Sikkim. He was very popular in his community, a good actor a good singer a good mime, madly in love with Hindi films and a great fan of Pran, the villain who is his favourite till this day. An astrologer had predicted that he would be a monk. – It was one of his elders who saw the ad of the FTII and asked him to apply. He just took a chance and was selected which was an occasion for his family and community to celebrate. He had never traveled down the hills of Sikkim, he came down Pune for the first time. Life at the FTII was very tough and he often says it “ could have been much more difficult if he did not have good friends like Jaya Bhaduri and Romesh Sharma. His struggle in Bombay was much more difficult. His features went against him. He slept in the Mahakali Caves were Subhash Ghai, Javed Akhtar and other strugglers slept in and dreamt of a new morning of success. The first few roles Danny played helped him to grow into an actor who could work on his own terms. He ruled the seventies and eighties as the bad man and was thrilled when Pran predicted a very bright future for him. ‘He will not only the a good bad man and I am sure he will cross all the bridges that I have crossed’ Pran said and Danny went to his house to touch his feet and seek his blessings. Danny who started as a small time villain rose to become the most popular villain and was pitted against all the leading male stars but he was always at his best when teamed with Amitabh Bachchan, his best friend. He had his own apartment in Kalumal Estate from where he shifted to ‘D’Zongrila’ where he lived alone with a number of servants of whom he did not even have a count. He once crashed into one of his own glass wall and spent six months at the Nanavati hospital. He has never been busy about grabbing films. He has done just one of two big films in a year but is very particular about his role and his price in which he makes no compromise. Madan Arora, the father of Karuna Badwal, the general manager of Shah Rukh Khan was his personal secretary ever since he started his career. Arora was also the General Manager of his beer brewery of which the Danzburg is the most popular beer in North East India. Danny hopes to expand his empire. Danny directed ‘Phir Wohi Raat’ for N. N. Sippy who also gave the first break to Subhash Ghai, but Danny did not try again because he found direction was not for him. Danny has a song recorded in his voice for ‘Yeh Gulistan Hamara’ starring Dev Anand and Sharmila Tagore, directed by Guru Dutt’s brother, Atmaram. The song was picturised on Johnny Walker. He has never sung professionally again but is very popular among friends as a singer. – Danny has always had an aversion for the small screen but he made an exception and played the title film in his friend Romesh Sharma’s ‘Ajnabee’ which ran for several years