I enjoy meeting Akshay Kumar. We haven’t met for some time. He hasn’t changed at all over the years that I’ve known him. We’ve gone through our share of ups and downs. But Akshay is still there. He has a sense of humour about everything including his career. Akshay knows that to last long in the industry, you’ve to be able to laugh at yourself.
But Mumbai without Kareena Kapoor is no fun. I still remember the first time we met. She had just landed in Mumbai after a long stint abroad. I expected to see a jet-lagged child-woman when I landed. Instead, my eyes caught this mesmerising beauty running across the terminal with flowers in her hand.
A sight meant to be captured for posterity.
Not everyone is as bold as our spunky Kareena. Other stars who come to receive me at the airport generally stay in the car hidden away from the public while their drivers stand vigilant at the terminal.
The problem with being seen with stars is that you inevitably end up being embarrassed by the attention they attract. I remember a rendezvous with Kareena and Shahid at the Marriott when they were a couple (I haven’t met her with Saif).
A star-struck gentleman came and asked me if the super-couple would mind posing with him and his family for a picture.
Kareena and Shahid happily obliged. But the demand grew. The star-struck gentleman then wanted the pair to pose for his friends by the swimming pool, etc.
The trouble is that we are a star-struck nation. Some of us enjoy the stars openly. Others do it surreptitiously. Eyes follow me as I lunch with one of my favourite human beings—Jaya Bachchan. As I head to the loo, I’m accosted by a well-dressed overweight lady who wants to know how I know Jaya Bachchan.
How? I wonder how I should answer that question. I’ve known her since I was that high (on cinema). Before I can frame an answer, a barrage of other queries follow. Is she a warm person? A good wife and a mother? Er…yeah yeah, I mumble and I run out.
Another memory…TV tycoon Ekta Kapoor sits down to lunch. She doesn’t touch a morsel while I tuck it all in. Ekta is on a diet before she leaves for Mauritius to shoot for a serial. “You wouldn’t want me to look fat in an alien land, would you,” she dares me to contradict her as I dig into a scrumptious chocolate dessert.
Who would dare to cut short the Ekta Kapoor? I tell you, my star-friends are such poor eaters…Except for Urmila Matondkar who’s always a delightful host. In her spick-and-span home (done up almost entirely in white, beige and blue), we sit on her spacious terrace, jab till our jaws drop, bitching about the entire world (all off the record, of course).
At dinner, she serves as good as she eats. And for dessert, she serves up the best kulfi civilisation has ever invented.
It’s always more fun to meet your star friends in their homes. When you catch them in their home ambience, they are far more relaxed and their natural selves.
Alas, most of the stars are so busy, they’re hardly home. Some like Karan Johar are able to cope with prying eyes and probing queries far better than others. My once-dear friend Ekta Kapoor (we don’t speak any more) is not that good at facing the crowds. I realised it when we sauntered into a lunch and a middle-aged lady and her mother accosted her in the middle of the restaurant.
“Ekta Dear, my mother doesn’t miss any of the serials. So tell us what’s going to happen next in Kyunki Saas…”
Ekta mumbled her thanks and beat a hasty retreat.
Is there any place on earth where stars are given the space to be themselves? Yup, at home. That’s where the defences are down. Or maybe it’s just the food. Ghar ka khana always brings out the best in anyone. Take your pickle.