Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Star encounters

“You keep asking others. Why don’t you share your experiences?” asked colleague Neena Sharma. I slipped down memory lane.
1983. Absolutely raw out-of-college Madrasi enters the never-sleep city Mumbai. Joins “Free Press Journal” daily as a sub-editor on Rs600pm salary. Does not know Hindi. Shy, but wielding a strong weapon: Confidence.
“Hey, I want to interview some Bollywood star,” I told colleagues. The immediate reaction was laughter. “You Madrasi. First speak Hindi. Will you have the guts to interview a film star?”
“Maybe you should start with Rajesh Khanna. He is coming back with new films,” said one. He was starring in “Avtaar” and “Souten.”
Took up the challenge. Rang up the number they gave and told by the voice, “Come to Bandra residence.” I took a bus the next day.
(Vague memories): There was a huge black door which was not locked. I entered and saw Rajesh Khanna watering the plants. Being a raw journalist, I approached him straight and said loudly: “Mr Khannaaa..”
Two stout guys rushed towards me and pushed me into a room.
“Who are you?” they asked in Hindi.
Thank God, they felt easy. “Come to Esel Studios tomorrow. There’s a shooting,” said his secretary.
Took a Hindi-speaking paste-up artist Shashikant Nikshe along with me. Again by bus to Trombay.
Watched the “Durga” film shooting. (Hope my memory is right) Hema Malini was standing in a blue sari in a court room, while Khanna repeated his same dialogue twice or thrice as a lawyer. Hema was looking serious and so I was not keen to talk to her, except saying “Hello Maam.” My friend kept saying, “We have come to meet Mr Khanna. Stick to that.”
During a break, Rajesh Khanna called both of us. He talked in fluent English. One question I remember asking him was about “Haathi Mera Saathi.” “It’s a film without language barriers and about elephants. No wonder, it was a super hit,” he replied.
I asked about his wedding trouble. I distantly remember him replying about his then wife Dimple, “She’s just the mom of my two daughters.”
The story appeared in Free Press Bulletin under the title: “They want me back.”
For aspiring journalists, here is a word of caution: I have not been paid for that article as of now. And yes, Khanna was smoking branded cigarette, but he did not offer us one.


  1. wow !!!! thats a great experience and an insight !!! i always would like to know these people's real life... and their behaviour...


  2. :) Was he the only celebrity you interviewed? Or was it first in the long list of celebrities?

  3. You are back? how is ur flu??

    So bad they didn't paid u

    Share more of ur experiences

  4. Just last year spotted Rajesh Khanna in GHY airport looking all bloated(too much drinking),dressed up as a politician in a white kurta payjama ..he was collecting his bags and was recognized by only few ...he was on an election campaigning tour....it was rather sad..superstars of yesteryears and facing identity crisis today.

    Your interviewing him must be a great experience and yes its bad that you never got any bucks for the same.Great that you are back healthy and brilliant as ever.

  5. But the sotry you tell is so interesting, pay or no pay.

  6. well well, first film star interview n tht too of a supertar then, no wonder the story seems very close to ur heart..nice one..

    hope u feeling well now :)

  7. Well written post:) Must have been quite an experience. I love watching old movies and the songs from the 70's and 80's... would love to read more such stories. Cheers!

  8. hi Ramesh. good post. meeting rajesh khanna back in the 80s must have been a big thing. and journalism does not pay in the begining. hope things have improved for you since then ;)

    and we Indians are not exactly known for our politeness. I hope the branded cigarette did not haunt you. :)

  9. wow!! hes back and with a superstar!! Happy that you are healthy and witty as ever! That must have been quite an experience! who else did you interview?Hey btw I never got paid for any of the freelncing I did here for a national daily..yuk!!

  10. I am an aspiring journalist!!!

  11. Sir, It was great to know that you interviewed a big star of the country.

  12. :) That must have been such a unique experience.

  13. Oh WoW! what a memory..... i was not even born then....:) good writing.... share some more experience.... Rs. 600 to USD 60,000. whats say.. You deserve for your awesome writing..


  14. oh WoW! what a memory you have... good great writing...Rs. 600 pm to 60,000 USD whats say? you deserve for your writing...


  15. "They want me back"? Who came up with that?

    I bumped into Khanna's on-screen flame in London recently. She blew me off pretty badly. :-(

  16. I forgot to mention the celebrity: Sharmila Tagore.

  17. Your Star Experience also nice.Weapon confidence is most important in any walks of life.

  18. u do have confidence..i must say !