“MY CHILDREN DON’T NEED ME ANYMORE!”
-- Vinod Khanna Gets Sentimental!
It must have been a tragic moment for Vinod Khanna the day he became a celebrated, high-profile star and forfeited his private life for public consumption. There is something in the sexy, exsanyasin that invites more curiosity and speculation in his life than one would normally expect of any other star. Chunky Pandey romps around town with a new girl on his arm every night, but it’s the juicy details of Vinod Khanna’s hi-jinks in bed that makes every ear prick up. Raj Babbar meets his estranged wife, Nadira every second day, yet it’s V.K’s surreptious, (desperate) bids for a reconciliation with Geetanjali that sets many tongues wagging. He has only to bump into her accidently, and the news hits the gossip mills even before they’ve shaken hands. He takes his boys out on a Sunday walk and the whole street is there to watch them take every step. From the figures on his number plate to the name of his girlfriends to murky details of his chronic constipation, every single minute about Vinod Khanna is dug out, dissected and digested over coffee, cakes and cocktails with relish. With such microscopic interest directed at his private life, there should be very little about the ex- sanyasin that has not already been exposed. But as with most famous personalities, the periphery, superficial details have only served to cloud the true self, making the star appear all the more enigmatic to the world. Thus, while everybody knows the minute Vinod Khanna winks at Sonu Walia or when he splits with Amrita Singh, far too little is known about the man himself, the essence of him – or even at the very least, what makes him do the things he does. Did it for instance feel great to be such a soughtafter-star, to be such a craze amongst teenagers, to have girls throw themselves at him or did he long for familiar love? Wasn’t he ever lonely at the club, tired of its antiseptic corridors …? Who knew the real Vinod Khanna? Is there anybody at all? Perhaps I was a little too ambitious to have undertaken the task of seeking the man within all that media hype. Especially, when I knew what a tough nut he was to crack. Indeed it’s rather like handling a time-bomb barehanded – you never knew which of the wires will lead him to blow the fuse. For he has already put a hex on you where controversies are concerned (professional or personal). And as for talking about himself, well he would rather discuss the weather! The minute you ask him a sensitive question, he shuts up tighter than a clam. He drove me and my colleagues crazy by rejecting every single idea that we suggested to him either because they were ‘controversial’ or that they were ‘boring’. He had, believe me, agreed to do this interview with my editor almost a year ago, when she was six months pregnant! (her baby boy by the way, is now eight months old – talk of Libran indecision!) But although Vinod led me on a fine dance from studio to studio, and eyed me with suspicion (as if I were knave in the guise of a queen!) Whenever he could no longer avoid bumping into me, (our conversations used to run something like this – “Hi”, “How are you”, “Fine” Silence… “Bye”.) I still persevered. Because by now he truly intrigued me. What
was the man really like behind that smiling, charismatic mask? His elusiveness made him all the more interesting. My patience was ‘rewarded’ when I finally managed to corner Khanna on the sets of Ranjeet’s Kis Ke Liye (by then my shoes had worn out to a thread, my clothes drenched with the monsoon rains and I, in a bundle of nerves!) “What do you want to know,” he asked politely, flashing his famous smile at me, and shuffling his script meaningfully. I want to know you better, know the real Vinod Khanna, I said pointedly, but if you are going to be so polite and distant I might as well drop the idea. For the first time I saw a real smile crinkle around his eyes. He shifted around embarrassedly and then muttered something about being shy of strangers, I grasped at the last word, glad of an opportunity to forego formalities. Wasn’t he practically living among strangers himself? He resided in a club which was a little better than an impersonal hotel. And instead of a warm, welcoming home, it was a cold, empty room that he went back to every night. Was this what he wanted out of life? For what was he slogging his backside off for? “I am quite happy and satisfied with the way things are,” murmured Vinod. “Of course, it isn’t the most ideal situation. I won’t be here forever; I’m only waiting for the work on my flat to be completed before I move out of here. Anyway, it hardly makes a difference really, about where I stay. I get back from shooting only late in the night, after two or three shifts, and by then I’m so exhausted that my only thought is of sleep. And then, the next morning I’m on the move again. So I’m hardly there at all. I don’t even have time to make friends with my neighbours. The only time I meet them is at the billiards table or at the badminton court on Sundays!” But wasn’t he aware of what’s happening to him? Life had reduced to a mere drudge of work, work and more work and few light moments to relieve it. “Oh, it’s not all that bad,” he laughed. “I do go out for parties and sometimes even to the discos. I’m lucky to have good friends who see to it that I’m not left lonely. They are always devising ways to entertain me.” Well that’s the advantage of being Vinod Khanna! There always will be beautiful women around him, who happily throw themselves at him eager to spend even a few hours with their idol. What did
What makes you think I don’t chase girls too!”
it feel like to be such a craze? “I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about it in that sense. I guess it feels nice to be admired and loved so much,” mumbled the macho hero, shuffling his feet self-consciously. “But honestly, it’s not as bad (or good!) as you think. Women don’t keep throwing themselves at me, all the time (No, only most of the time!). And anyway, what makes you think they are the only ones who are doing it. I might be doing it as well!” he grinned. Realising that he was finally opening up, I decided to grab the chance and ask him a few questions while he was in the mood to answer them. Living in a club and having many good friends is all very fine, but didn’t he want a home (as different from a flat) of his own, a wife and children? Freedom and free-sex is fun in small doses, but even the most fancy-free men, after a certain stage, would like to have someone to care for. After all it’s possible to feel lonely even with several friends. It looked like I had touched a raw nerve, for Vinod’s face again shuttered into the cool, aloof, smiling mask (And I had not even mentioned Geetanjali’s name!). “Oh! I’m quite satisfied with the way my life is right now,” shrugged the charismatic star, his eyes following the twirling movements of the dancers, who were doing a wild hulla-hoo all around us. “I may be alone, but honestly, I’m not lonely.” My disbelieving silence brought his eyes back to me, “Look I know what you are implying but I cannot answer such a question right now. “Yes, everybody needs a home and a family, but I cannot expect
My friends see to it that I am never left alone…”
anything more than I have at present, for myself. And because I do not expect anything more, I’ve learnt to be satisfied with what I have – flourishing career and many good friends. All my friends love me a lot, and that’s really something.” Was there a teeniest bit of bitterness underlying his tone? “I’ve stopped longing and yearning for more, because that’s what brings unhappiness. My only need today is to work. I’m not thinking about tomorrow at all. I do not want more than this for the present. As for the future, I don’t know… I’m living by the day.” Now that sounded like a speech worthy of a Mahesh Bhatt or G. Krishnamurthy! The ex- sanyasin had obviously not forgotten all the teachings of his saffron-robe days. But he’s still extremely sensitive about the topic of the lost Rajneesh days. “I’ll never forget those years, but I prefer not to think about them. I’ve seen too much in life,
so much of unhappiness. My life is such that I don’t expect happiness to come my way either today or tomorrow! So I’ve taught myself not to be affected by happiness or unhappiness.” When I looked puzzled by this bit of erudite, philosophical explanation, he added. “Look, I’ll still get hurt or be dejected if someone passes away in my family or if a film of mine does not do well. But I’ll still keep a part of myself away from it all.” To protect himself from the pain he forgot to add! Well, it looked like his past experiences had coloured his feelings for today and made him more cynical (although Vinod insists that he is not). The constant rejection by Geetanjali had hurt him so badly that now he’s soldered and padded his heart to protect it from further darts and arrows. I was not in the least fooled by all that philosophical jargon. I knew he needed to prevent himself from baring his pain to the world, and earning everybody’s pitying sympathy. It wrenched my heart especially when he spoke about his children. When I asked him if he didn’t miss the need to see his children grow up, Vinod gave me a funny smile and said, “Why, I’m with them always.” When I looked at him questioningly, he added, “You know what I mean (I don’t!). Don’t press me into saying anything specific!” I let it pass, assuming that he meant it in the metaphorical sense. He then continued. “I spend Sundays with them. Of course that still makes me only a weekend father, but then they don’t need me any longer. They’ve got their school, their friends, their interests, they have grown up and grown away from me. One has to accept such facts,” he ended wistfully. Yet he must still be harbouring some faint hope of getting back with his family someday, for hadn’t he bought a flat bang opposite his wife’s residence? Vinod demurred a little and then said with a smile. “Well, you know I’m a town boy at heart.” I could not help laughing at his evasiveness, and even Vinod had the grace to look a little sheepish. Wasn’t he driving himself a little too hard by working three shifts a day? It was for this very reason why he had run away from it all, five years ago. He had driven himself almost to the point of breakdown, and he had to seek Ranjeesh’s help to piece himself back together, to communicate with his inner self, again. Vinod however assured me that he was not over straining himself. “I admit it gets a little hectic sometimes, but I do take Sundays off. And from next year onwards, when I will be a little free from my present commitments, I intend to take a month at least free. I’ve even stopped signing more
films. As for introspection, what makes you think that a person needs to take time off, and go to a quiet place to communicate with himself? (Well, I thought that’s why he went to Rajneesh!) I can do it anywhere, anytime. In fact I’m doing it all the time!” What about his drinking habits? Wasn’t that affecting his health too, even if overworking hadn’t? There were rumours of him entering parties’ drunk, and sometimes even shootings! Vinod threw up his hands in exasperation. “Give me a break, yaar. Doesn’t everybody drink in this industry? Why catch only me (we ask others too, Vinod!) Yes, I do drink, but I certainly don’t get drunk, except perhaps at parties, which in any case I attend only rarely. How did he see himself at sixty – retired and forgotten or still going strong? “Well, I see myself very much here in the film industry, perhaps not as an actor, but certainly as a producer, and a director. Yes, I can see myself making films sometime in future.” If he could live his life again, would he do it in a different manner, or would he commit the same mistakes, I wondered curiously. “Well, I wouldn’t be able to avoid the mistakes,” he said thoughtfully. “But I would certainly be a wiser, more aware and knowledgeable person at least!” On that note, I left the charismatic star. He had tried hard to show himself as impenetrable and invulnerable. But for all his defences he could not hide the little chinks in his armour!
I drink, but I don’t get drunk…”