A group of students learning acting at one of the many acting schools in Mumbai said they wanted to see me and asked me to talk to them about Sanjeev Kumar. I don’t stop students from gaining access to any knowledge that I may have and since Sanjeev Kumar was according to me one of the best actors and a very good friend I called them over to my café. By Ali Peter John
And if I expected them to ask me serious questions about Sanjeev’s histrionic skills or his contribution to Indian cinema I was stupid and wrong. The first thing the giggling girls asked me about were his relationships with women. I gave them a look which showed my displeasure about starting their talk with a frivolous question and I took it that they must have understood. But the very next question made me wonder why I had asked them to see me. The girl who looked like the leader of the group, asked me “kya Haribhai kanjoos the?” (was Sanjeev Kumar a stingy man?)
Unlike Dilip Kumar, he always compromise with his fees
I refused to take any more questions from them, asked if they would like some tea and I then got to seriously think about the question they had asked me, was Sanjeev Kumar really a stingy man?
Was Sanjeev kanjoos or stingy when he like his idol Dilip Kumar never claimed prices that producers couldn’t afford and even did so many films free or at half or less the price he commanded in the market?
Was Sanjeev Kumar a kanjoos or a stingy man when he could have bought a very good apartment in the city of his dreams but settled for an old two bedroom house in a very old building called Perinvilla on Pali Hill, well he had his own room which was more like a cubicle and the rest of the house was for his younger brother Nikul and his family? How could anyone call Haribhai a kanjoos when he turned down offers to have his own house in Juhu or anywhere he wanted from some of his multi-millionaire fans?
Haribhai, I am here to make films not Bungalows
Before I go into any more questions let me share this little story. Sanjeev and K Asif were driving down the lanes of Juhu one afternoon, it was a time when new stars like Manoj Kumar, Dharmendra and even Darasingh besides all the leading filmmakers of the time had bought land to come up with their own bungalows and mansions in the future. Sanjeev turned towards Asif and asked Asif “Asif saab, dekho kaise kaise log yahan bungle banane ka khwab dekh rahe hai, aap kyo nahi eik bungla banathe hai apne liye?” Asif like his style had a deep puff at his cigarette and said, “Haribhai, mein yahan filmein banane aaya hun, bungle nahi”.
It was a very strange afternoon because neither Sanjeev nor Asif had houses of their own till the very end. Asif died in an old two bedroom apartment and Sanjeev died in that same cubicle of a room in Perinvilla.
No one can dare to call him stingy if he knew him
How could anyone call Haribhai a kanjoos when the truth was that he spent most of his money on his brothers, Nikul and Kishore and his personal staff which included the world-reknowned make-up man, Sarosh Mody, his secretary Jumunadas and his ‘boy’ Narayan? And this was besides his entertaining and looking after the families of friends like Subhash Indori and Suroor Lucknowi, Satpal and his many friends from his theatre days?
How could Haribhai be called a stingy man when he lived a life king-sized with the only luxuries he indulged in being the best food, the best booze and the best company?
“Inviting to talk to yourself is the best party”
Did Haribhai’s not having regular parties at all the best hotels make him a stingy man or kanjoos? He once told me that he did not like having parties and even avoided parties because he never felt comfortable at them and he once said, “the best party is to invite yourself, dirk to your own health and talk to yourself.
And if you ask me, I think he was whatever he was because somewhere within him he knew, sorry, he was sure that he would die before he was 50. It was a prediction he had made for himself when I had met him at the Hotel Bangalore International in which he had said when he was quite drunk that no male member of his family had lived beyond 50 and he would be no exception. My friend Haribhai, who made me live like a king during all the evenings we spent together. He died in that same cubicle when he was alone with only his fan
Sachin with him and the first star to see him dead was the great Dilip Kumar who called him “An actor who both God and man would be proud of”