What’s it about women born on November 19 that makes them clutter-breakers of extraordinary dimensions? Zeenat Aman, Rehana Sultan and Sushmita Sen - all November 19-born Scorpios. Fiercely independent, redefined the perception of a Hindi film heroine and ushered in a new-age post-feminist female protagonist who could look after herself quite well.
Zeenat's Hare Rama Hare Krishna - Beginning your career as the heroine’s sister? No way! Many leading ladies said no to the role of Dev Anand’s hippy sister. Zeenat grabbed the part and added Dum Dum and more Dum into her career. Her Satyam Shivum Sunderam had her face scarred and her body more exposed than any mainstream heroine dared. Zeenat romped across this epic film with a couldn’t-care-less grace that most heroines only dream about. In Manoranjan, she essayed the role of a prostitute, not the filmy kind. Zeenat played a full-blown streetwalker in Shammi Kapoor’s directorial debut. She oozed oomph in the shortest of dresses and floored everyone with her sheer charm. In Pyaas, she played the role of a sweeper. Yes, you heard that right! In a film directed by her discoverer O.P Ralhan, Zeenat was as convincing as Smita Patil would have been were she to play Zeenat in a biopic. She failed. So what? Zeenat never shied away from trying. In Roti Kapada Aur Makaan, Zeenat played another unconventional role where the heroine dumps her middleclass jobless boyfriend to marry a rich man. Sharmila Tagore had refused the role.
Rehana Sultan made a career by playing unconventional roles. As for Sushmita Sen, she made a life and career by breaking the norms. And how can we forget Tabu? Another November born who is among the most adventurous and incandescent divas of the Indian Film Industry.
This month, when so many divas turn a year older, I think of all the birthdays that come and go in Bollywood every year. As every producer and his favourite financier know, the number of bouquets that one sees in a star’s house on the day after a birthday determines his or her popularity. Many years ago, I had been to my friend Urmila Matondkar’s house on the day after her birthday. The entire space outside her apartment was strewn with bouquets.
“What do you do with them?” an exasperated Raakhee Gulzar had wondered aloud after her birthday. She firmly believes flowers look nice on trees. “I give the bouquets away to friends and neighbours as far as possible. But a lot of stars just dump them anywhere,” Raakhee was genuinely perturbed.
I remember she had cooked this sumptuous meal on her birthday. The menu at her place remained unchanged whenever I’ve been treated to her impeccable cooking.
Coincidentally I’ve been in Mumbai for two of Urmila’s birthdays. Last year the number of bouquets remained undiminished. Urmila and I, just the two of us, had a blast. After I imperiously informed her that I won’t have any of the cake that I had gotten for her, I dug into the sumptuous cake she offered. By the way, Urmila is one of the best hostesses in Mumbai. And one of the few people from the industry who actually enjoy the meal with you. Others, just smile and pretend to eat. It’s known as the weight- and-watch formula.
Incidentally, Urmila and Abhishek Bachchan were born a day apart. And he often jokes they could’ve a joint birthday party. I was once in Mumbai for Abhishek’s birthday. He was shooting with his dad and Aishwarya Rai for the soon to be hysterically-historical item song Kajra re. Abhishek was in his element, goofing around, attending the endless stream of calls from strangers and acquaintances who wanted to wish him.
How many calls does an average star get on his or her birthday? It all depends on how ‘un-average’ you are. For Shah Rukh Khan or Amitabh Bachchan it would be impossible to attend to all the calls and messages on their birthdays. However, after the event Big B sends out personally signed letters to all his well-wishers.
When it comes to remembering friends’ birthdays, the Bachchans are the uncrowned royal-family of Bollywood. On my birthday, I look forward to their individual calls, and they never disappoint. In fact, there’s not a single person in their list of friends whose birthday they ever forget.
I wish my other star-friends would be just as particular about birthdays. A lot of them forget your existence on the most important day of the year. “Oh forget it yaar!” my colleagues in Mumbai console me. “They’re stars. They aren’t expected to remember ordinary mortals’ birthdays.”
But I refuse to be cowed down. Once when the stunning Ashiwarya sent me an SMS on my birthday(our birthdays are separated by a day), I immediately demanded she call me to do the needful. Lovely obliging girl that she is, she did. We now have a pact. I call her on her birthday, she calls on my birthday the next day.
I now understand not too many people have the privilege of Ms Rai calling them to wish them a happy birthday. That feels good.
A lot of stars love to get lost on their birthdays. Even Urmila until a few years ago used to vanish to destinations-unknown. And even the closest of friends won’t find Gulzar Saab at home on his birthday. He’s just too shy to take the barrage of good wishes on his birthday.
The hermetic Lata Mangeshkar generally checks into a hotel on her birthday to avoid the unending stream of guests and greetings at home. Kareena can be either all over the place or nowhere to be found, on her birthday. Raveena Tandon starts her birthday with a visit to the temple, while Preity Zinta and Karan Johar spend the entire day glued to the phone talking to the well-wishers. Shabana Azmi is eminently accessible while Rekha’s birthday messages have to be left on her answering machine. She’ll respond later if she so wishes.
But there’s only one person in Bollywood who hates to be wished on his birthday. And that’s Ram Gopal Varma. So any aspirant hoping to get a role by sucking up to Ramu on his birthday better get wise quick.
Image source: Instagram/zeenatamanfanclub/ Wikipedia
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