Star-struck at 36? Sounds silly? But it’s true – I’ve been hopelessly star-mad ever since I can remember. It may have had something to do with Amma, who’d regale me with stories of how she met Madhubala and Dilip Kumar on the sets of Mughal-e-Azam while we dashed from one movie hall to the other. Of how she’d had an outfit exactly like the one Nargis wore in Chori Chori. I was sick with envy, waiting for the time when I could match her story for story.
When I was fourteen, my uncle arranged for me to visit a film set. Okay, the star was only Sharmila Tagore, whom, in callous adolescent fashion, I had already relegated to ‘mother’ status. But it was the first time I was getting to see a film being shot. I was breathless with excitement.
When we tiptoed into Ms Tagore’s make-up room, she was on the phone, asking her housekeeper whether the kids had eaten and how was Saif baba’s throat now? I was shaken. Okay, she was looking very pretty. But where were all the glitter and ostrich feathers I’d seen on screen? Then Amma got into the act and the two spent ten whole minutes discussing the vexations of bringing up teenage girls. I could have wept. How utterly, utterly banal!
My star mania was part of the reason I chose to become a journalist, and yet, after toying with the idea of joining a film magazine, I decided against it because I just could not see myself standing in front of, say, Shah Rukh Khan, my crush of the moment, and asking him mundane questions without swooning straight into his arms.
But being a journalist paid its dividends some years later, when I was presented with passes to the muhurat of Shikhar. The husband looked visibly daunted at the prospect, but I was treading air. ‘Shah Rukh!’ I breathed. ‘And Jackie. And Madhuri. And Manisha Koirala. Oh, I hope they’ll let us in!’
‘You mean to say there’s a chance we won’t be allowed in?’ The husband looked instantly brighter.
Nevertheless, when we reached the muhurat venue, I was waved in cheerily. When we moved inside, I understood why. The place was jam-packed. ‘How will we see anything?’ I wailed. ‘See, they’ve got those huge screens up,’ pointed out the husband. ‘Let’s find our seats.’ The seats, when we finally found them, turned out to be behind one of the huge screens. ‘Now what?’ I was querulous by this time. This was not my idea of a film muhurat. ‘You look at the other screen,’ said the husband, his outwardly patient air barely concealing his inner glee.
And that’s how I saw the muhurat of Shikhar. The screen crackled when Madhuri and Manisha made their entrance on stage, and not because of their sex appeal, but because both were wearing red. And Shah Rukh, well, he never appeared at all. I read in the papers the next day that much after we left, he descended onto the stage from a helicopter. As for the film, Subhash Ghai apparently spent so much money on the muhurat that he didn’t have any left to make the movie!
I had another go at meeting Shah Rukh Khan some years later, son in tow this time. It was a press conference for his first production and I’d told the person in charge that I was bringing the son, an equally avid fan then, with me. But I was still stopped at the door. ‘No children, madam.’ I argued in vain that I’d sought permission. Finally, when it got nasty, I decided to exit the scene altogether. But the son and I’ve never felt quite the same again about SRK.
Then, I got to go to the National Film Awards function. I could hardly believe my luck. It was only Anil Kapoor and Raveena Tandon, but what the hell! When I came down all dressed up, the husband eyed me quizzically. ‘Are you planning on going up on stage?’ he asked drily. I ignored him, I was already shaking hands with Javed Akhtar in my mind, and Raveena was looking enviously at my outfit.
As it happened, the only person who looked at me was Anu Malik, who actually stopped in his tracks when I congratulated him in the lobby, and said huskily to me, ‘Have I met you before, ma’am?’ But even he wilted when I said, ‘Hold on a minute, my son needs your autograph.’ At my side, the husband hooted derisively, but I tossed my head dismissively. My star-struck self had finally made contact with a star. Who needed Shah Rukh?
First published in The Financial Express.