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Happy Birthday, Kareena, we shared some wonderful times together by

Happy Birthday, Golden Girl. You still dazzle at 40 with the same radiance that you exuded when you were 20.

Happy Birthday, Kareena, we shared some wonderful times together by

Subhash K Jha

Kareena Kapoor,  back then without the Khan,  was  a  very special person in my life. She  still is. But for her I am now the past. Which is fine. We all have  our own priorities and perceptions in life. I knew her when she was far more spontaneous  and  interesting , always eager to share her thoughts with me on movie offers and potential boyfriends, willing to listen when I advised her, impetuous in her attitude  but with a heart of gold.

And the stunning beauty on screen. I have never seen a  debut quite like hers .

After  she exploded in  Refugee I thought  Kareena was the  next great actress  of Bollywood after  Sridevi and Tabu. She didn’t quite  live up to those expectations. But her  rare blend of ethereality  and effervescence was unmistakable.

Our first meeting at the Mumbai airport is still vividly etched  in  my mind. Kareena  had  come  to receive  me  along with my  dear friend Sanjay Bhansali. She virtually ran across the  exit-entry space  with a  bunch of lovely yellow flowers as  a gargantuan gauntlet of fans (HER fans) stared open-mouthed wondering who was this stranger whom the Kareena Kapoor was meeting so  warmly.

I  remember the great  Khushwant Singh once telling me that he had travelled with Shabana Azmi Mumbai to Delhi. On reaching Delhi airport he  requested Shabana to carry his mini suitcase so  that he could brag about how he made Shabana Azmi carry his luggage.

That  afternoon at the airport I felt something similar. It’s  a golden moment  of my life,uneroded by  aspersions that were cast on  Kareena’s exuberance by  someone very close to her sister who shocked me  by saying every relationship that the sisters nurture is an “investment”.

I was happy to be invested in while it lasted. When you win Kareena’s confidence she really lets go. Whenever  I was in Mumbai Kareena was  my unofficial hostess. I’d have engaging lunches with Kareena  and  her mother.I remember Kareena  flying back from a shooting schedule in Canada  to be in Mumbai in time for one of  my visits  leaving producer Boney Kapoor swearing to  burn the film in front of her  house . I remember her taking my then-12  year  old  daughter shopping, with the arcade blocked off  for her entourage.

Kareena was  capable of   warm spontaneous gestures. When  she got to know that my daughter had  travelled to Mumbai with me  for the  first time, Kareena  offered to look after her and  even offered to comb her hair!  Once she brought  Shahid Kapoor to the Marriott to meet me. “Did you  like him?” she asked  after the meeting ended(for  the record, I did).

I don’t know where  my mentor-cum-friend  role with Kareena  ended. After she started dating Saif Ali Khan she began to act wary and distanced herself. It was  all a bit strange to me. I couldn’t understand why  a relationship so indelible  could not be  freed from professional interests. Kareena was never a  source  of  stories for me. I still  look at her  life with the same  protective gaze as I did earlier. The difference is, it doesn’t matter to   her  any longer.

In  Bollywood parlance,  it’s called moving on.  Happy Birthday, Golden Girl. You still dazzle at 40 with the same radiance that you exuded when you were  20.

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