“MY CHIL­DREN DON’T NEED ME ANY­MORE!”

-- Vinod Khanna Gets Sen­ti­men­tal!

Stardust (English) - - BLAST FROM THE PAST - Words BHARATHI P. G.

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…”

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