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Art is not a luxury, but a necessity.


Ali Peter John
Having parties, inaugurations and other star-studded events has always been a part of show business, but it has never been so much a show as it is now. There are such glitzy affairs in a city like Mumbai and now even in other cities of India and different cities in the world where having awards and giving awards and having stars to perform at fabulous prices has become a way of life which the stars and celebrities of the world of films have gladly accepted. They not only give them an extra source of income which helps them to afford giving the kind of flops they have been giving in recent years. These days the presence of anyone from the world of glamour at the opening of a jewellery store, a stationary store, a furniture store and even a saloon is not complete unless it is declared open by a star, a semi-star,a retired star or even a junior artist with a known face, and all this strictly happens for a price. I remember a time when Shakti Kapoor inaugurated three different shops in Mumbai, taking just two minutes at each place and charging them twenty-thousand rupees per appearance and then taking a flight to Delhi with his make-up man Shyam and two of his cronies. He was invited by the groom’s side and was paid a hefty amount to dance in the ‘baaraat’. He ended up dancing in the ‘baaraats’ of both the groom and the bride, both of whom he had never seen till that evening. He made a good pile of money and came back to Mumbai and said, “yeh dhanda achcha hai bhai,aish karo aur saare paise ek saath cash mein lekar aao. Koi filmo ka jhanjhat nahi, koi producer ke peeche paise ke liye bhaagne ka nahi. Many of the biggest stars followed Shakti’s new system of making money…..
In the midst of all this tamasha and this new game of being in the limelight and making money came a new star called Jackie Shroff (Jaggu Dada), who was discovered by Dev Anand and who shot to stardom with Subhash Ghai’s “Hero”. He was a simple boy with a torrid background in the Teen Batti sophisticated slums in Walkeshwar, close to the governor’s house, Raj Bhawan and Dev Anand, Subhash Ghai and all the other filmmakers who signed him tried to make him believe that he was a star and should believe and behave like one, but he couldn’t and he still can’t after more than thirty-five years and after being the father of another star, his son, Tiger Shroff.
If there was one thing he seemed to be literally shy and scared of, it was being a special guest, a guest of honour or a chief guest in any function. After the success of “Hero”, he was invited to countless functions and felicitations and there were times when Subhash Ghai even forced him to attend and even if he did, he went and quietly stood in the last row with his back to the wall and his hands folded across his chest and his eyes half closed and half looking at the crowd that had gathered….
Subhash Ghai who was very fond of having parties, had one big partyfor the international delegates of the the SAARC, who were having a two-day conference in Mumbai.I had invited all his celebrity friends which included Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff, who were now his favourite stars. Jackie walked in late, looking as dashing as ever and even as every guest focused their eyes on him, he grumbled, “yeh kya SAARC WAARC hai.Apun toh bilkul anpadd aadmi hai.Woh apna bhidu hai na, Anil, woh bheedaiga unke saath”. He walked into the kitchen of Subhash Ghai’s wife and spent the rest of the time with the women supervising the cooking and came back only when it was time for the the group photographs and then ran down the 12 floors from Ghai’s 12th floor apartment.
Bappi Lahiri once made the big ‘mistake’ of inviting him to be the chief guest at the the cake cutting ceremony of his grandson’s birthday at the Sun-n-Sand hotel. I told Bappi that he had made the wrong choice, but Bappi was very confident and kept saying, “hamku bolana Jackie da,ayega ayega.”Jackie came exactly at 4:00 p.m, it was the time he was asked to come. He asked me how much more time it would take to cut the cake.I told him it was not my birthday. He just walked down into the basement and told me to meet him in the pantry when everything was ready. It was 5 o’clock when things were ready and I went to the pantry. I saw him sitting on the floor in the centre with all the chefs and the waiters surrounding him and trying to pamper him with the latest delicacies they had prepared. He reluctantly came up and asked me for the name of the the boy whose birthday it was and then hurriedly cut the cake and fled from the scenes. He had waited for more than an hour and had scooted in exactly 3 minutes. I asked him why he had waited so long and he said, “woh apne log the na,sab bhidu log unke saath baithne ka maza le raha tha.Aisa mauka kaha milta hai baar baar?”And he drove away in one more of his fancy cars.
Next time, it was my turn to see Jaggu Dada as my guest at my wedding reception. I had not invited anyone, but people came to know and they the started coming in and then there was no stopping and Anupam Kher asked,“is this your wedding reception or some public meeting of the industry?”Jaggu Dada tagged himself with Mahesh Bhatt and others of his group and was the star attraction, dressed all in black and a stylish bandana round his head. And what he told me out of sheer nervousness still haunts me. He in his own inimitable way said, “kya bhidu,khush tha itne din,fhas gaya na”.I didn’t know how to react then, but I react late everyday now.
There were any number of times when Dev Anand, his mentor invited him to party or just to meet him at his Pent House. He begged of Dev Sahab to excuse him from the party, but the very next morning, he would come to the Pent House and sit at the feet of Dev Sahab and refuse to get up and keep saying, “mera baap,mera baap”.
I was releasing my most ambitious book,‘Witnessing Wonders’in which I had 19 major stars and celebrities on the stage to speak about my book, my contribution and me. They all came in time. They all spoke not with their tongues, with their hearts.Jaggu Dada was the first to arrive in the latest version of the Mercedes, dressed in a  white pajama, a kurta and a white Gandhi topi and Kolhapuri chappals. He was the cynosure of all eyes. And when it was his turn to speak, he said something in a language which I and many others felt not even he understood. The only words that were clear were ‘yeh apna bhidu, Ali’.
There are many other such instances about this amazing reluctant guest and chief guest, but the most recent one really takes the cake to auditorium and the audience in which the function was being held. It was the book launch of my friend and well wisher Dr Trinetra Bajpai, who had come out with an exhaustive and enlightening coffee table book on Dev Anand called ‘Dev Eternal Anand’. I knew the function would be incomplete without Jaggu Dada making it. I kept telling him about the importance of his being there and he kept saying,“apun kaun hai bhidu? Aur bade log ko bulaao na”. I still had a feeling that he would manifest himself from wherever he was, not for me or for anyone else, but for his infinite love and respect for Dev Sahab. But I had known Jaggu Dada from the day. He finally agreed to come to the function.  And he kept his word. He took a flight from wherever he was, flew down to Mumbai and drove down to the auditorium and stood in the last row as usual and some saw him and some didn’t and before everyone could see him he had vanished. Mr. Bajpai and his family felt he was being arrogant and behaving like a difficult star. How I wish I could tell them the whole truth about Jaggu Dada and his reluctance to be a guest, a practice about which he was helpless and could do nothing about. He was born like that.
Will Jaggu Dada ever change and take a place in the front row or be seated on the dais? I don’t think he will. I don’t think he should, because that will be taking away the Jaggu Dada from Jackie Shroff