As someone who has been close to the stars and written about them for two decades, what is your take on how they handle their private lives and complex relationships in the glare of the media? How does it affect them when everything they do gets amplified for the public?
They live an extremely guarded life. They take time, even years, to trust someone. Most stars enjoy attention, but they don’t like to spell it out. In fact, some actors hire publicists to spread news (linkups, breakups, airport hopping and even those ‘spotted’ snippets) just to get visibility. While stars behave slightly weirdly in the presence of the media (they will cover their faces, run, use tinted glasses, glares, head gear), the media too behaves equally insanely with celebrities. They run behind their cars, climb up trees to take pictures or bribe hotel managers to sneak in for a cosy picture while they are dining. But that’s how the industry functions.
Does it affect them? Yes, it does.
Most stars are megalomaniacs. They can’t see beyond themselves. They seek attention from anyone and everyone. I could tell you about an actress who had once slapped her fiancée for not complimenting her on a new dress she wore for a party.
You wrote a coffee table book on Hema Malini and have been close to her and her family for many years. What are the relationship lessons that you have learnt from her?
Hema Malini is one of the most grounded stars I have seen. I have seen her balancing career and family in a beautiful manner. She would never behave like a star when she is at home. I have seen her dusting, doing her own things, keeping track of everything that matters to Dharmendra, Esha, Ahana, Bharat and Vaibhav. She’s an extremely doting grandmother to Darien. Her staff has never changed. That speaks a lot about the kind of person she is really. She is passionate about her dance and her political commitments, even at this age. In one word, she taught me how to balance everything in life.
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In your book of short stories, Long Island Iced Tea, you have dealt with complex human relationships. They are mostly dark. Is that how you look at life? With a lot of cynicism? Or do you consider yourself a realist?
I don’t think life is dark. But yes, it’s one of the most prominent shades of life. Darkness makes you creative. It takes you to the world of imagination. Cynicism is just a trait, it cannot be termed as totality.
My stories are not dark, they are grey. They end with hope, at times they don’t. But that’s exactly what a slice of life means. Am I a realist? No. I am a weaver. I weave with words.
Which is your favourite story in your book and why?
Ask Gandhari who is her favourite son or ask Rabri Devi the same question. The answer would be the same. They’re my babies, so I love them all. I just realised for the first time that I can relate to both these women. Ha ha ha! On a serious note, all eight stories are special, but I guess people are appreciating Madam Shot Is Ready, Truth Or Dare and Favour the most.
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Who do you think in the film industry has had the most challenging personal life? And who has inspired you the most in the way they handled adversity?
I admire Amitabh Bachchan for whatever he is today. From super stardom he had hit rock bottom. But he survived every challenge thrown at him by destiny. At 73, he is standing tall, as an inspiration to an entire nation.