Torn To Pieces! Does She Deserve Her Terrible Reputation?
For every Bindiya Goswami or Zarina Wahab who may find her too overbearing and competitive to co-star with, there is a Shabana Azmi or a Neetu Singh who finds her quite easy going and co-operative. For every S. K. Luthra (‘ KhelKismetKa’) or Vijay Sharma (‘ Gopal Krishna’) who find her too demanding and interfering an artiste to direct, there is a Basu Bhattacharya or a Raj Kumar Kohli who consider her most obedient and receptive on the sets. For every Sachin or Mithun Chakraborty who call her an incorrigible tease, whose favourite pastime is to make majnus out of men and drop them as soon as she’s bored (and they’re hooked), there is a Vinod Mehra or a Rakesh Roshan who can’t fault her behaviour in any way.
The point now arises:
DOES SARIKA DESERVE THE ‘PROBLEM-STAR’ REPUTATION SHE HAS BEEN GIVEN?
Abig NO is clearly written on both ma-beti’s faces before I can even ask the question. Initially, the mother is uptight, “We don’t want to comment on the controversies”, and the daughter pathetically, “I’m unfortunate…” at least, they are sensible (and smart) enough not to feign ignorance. Mother and daughter are fully aware of all the bak-bak that’s circulating within the industry, and aware also that none of it is complimentary! Slowly, the nothing-bothersme façade wears down. The real irritability, anger, hurt shows through. Sarika is too spirited a youngster to play the martyr, the woman wronged for long. Her voice rises, the pent-up words tumble out in torrents, tears rush to the bluegrey ryes. But she makes the same (convenient) mistake that all stars with ‘reputations’ have made before her. She blames the press for all the trouble. “They have nothing else to write about me.” Sarika fumes. “I don’t swing at discos, I don’t fight with anyone on the sets, and by God’s grace, I
don’t give bad performances. But since people want to read about me, the press has to write about me. So they make up things – how I use men, why I …” “Yeh journalism ki baat hamare samajh mein nahin aayee,” her mother interrupts. “As far as I know, it is supposed to project a person as he or she is. Morarjee Desai is Morarjee Desai. Sanjeev Kumar is Sanjeev Kumar. But nowadays, the press is showing a person as she is NOT!” And what they consider the grossest misrepresentation is what Sarika is most consistently made out to be – a sexy lil’ Lolita, who switches boyfriends as often as most girls her age change nail-polish. But this image is not so much courtesy the press, as the men in her life. I point out to her that there have been many break-ups in the industry but never has the man maligned his woman as much, or as bitterly, as is happening in her case. Sarika shrugs, “Perhaps they are bitter because I didn’t give them any lift. Perhaps they feel rejected…” Then, as if realising that she is being very vague, she says purposefully, “Look, I’m the kind of person who believes that if I have a quality, I should use it. What’s the point of wasting it? If I was a flirt, I would use this quality with people from whom I could benefit – not with those who would benefit from me! But I have never done it…”And she considers the fact that she is still struggling in spite of having been four years in the industry, ample proof of it. Further, she insists self-righteously that she has never stooped to take advantage of her personal relationships with the big people she worked with as a child-star (B. R. Chopra, Gulzar, Sunil Dutt) to get recommendations for films. “Just because there is a personal relationship, it’s not necessary that I must work in all their films. I’m confident that they will take me when they have a suitable role for me.” But her male-friends, Sarika feels, haven’t been so above-board in their dealings with her. “They have taken advantage of my name for publicity…” In Sachin’s case, she admits that there was a reason for the romantic pairing. They were friendly, they were seen together at parties, functions, and though “people saw fifty and made it out to be hundred! – it wasn’t all a smoke-screen. “But the way I’m being linked with a different man every month – one month it’s Vinod Mehra, the next month it’s Parikshat Sahini, the next it’s somebody else – it’s too funny! Is it possible for a girl to change her affections so fast? There should be some limit. It seems as if all these men are just waiting in line for Sarika to pick them up and drop them! As if they don’t have other girlfriends of their own!” Mithun Chakraborty she can’t forgive. Though she says, “Thank God, he’s married now – that should put an end to the rumours!” – I can see that the whole Mithun episode has left a sour taste in her mouth. “He took advantage of my friendship. That really hurt me…” Apparently, ever since she worked with Mithun in Ajay Biswas’s film. Sarika has had two intentions regarding him one, to be friends with him (“I liked him as a person. He’s great fun
to be with”). Two, to help his career where she could. Mithun misconstrued her ‘interest’ and fell in love with her. Sarika tried to clear the misunderstanding when he declared his feelings. She told him. “I consider you a friend. I have no other thoughts in my mind…” The next thing they knew was that Mithun was spreading stories about their love-affair. When Sarika’s mother questioned him, he declared, “Aunty, you need the security!” Mrs. Thakur flared up instantly. “All these years. I didn’t need security, huh? I have brought up my daughter on my own. Now when she’s old enough to take care of herself and look after me. I suddenly need security!” That was probably the climax when the ma-beti threw the paraya out of the house! “And now he says that I did everything for publicity!” Sarika looks aghast at his audacity. “Did I get publicity out of him? Or did he get it out of me? Who is Mithun Chakraborty? Which films of his have been released? Mrigayaa bhi kitni chali thi? If he is known today it is as the man who was involved with Sarika!” She tries to be dispassionate. But her ego is too provoked to keep the rising emotions in check. “Just see,” she continues, like a woman determined to squeeze the sponge bone-dry, “I was supposed to have had an affair with Sachin for two years. Yet, Sachin has never given any statements against me. And Mithun, whom I knew for just threefour months, he is talking – ‘She ditched me’. ‘She broke my heart’. Arre, char mahine mein itni jyaada
attachment ho gayi…?” If I was that type of a girl, shouldn’t Sachin have been saying the same things about me?” She laughs forcedly, and peers closely at my face to see if the point has struck home. To make doubly sure, she spells it out, “Just shows to what extent a man will exaggerate when he wants to lie…” As for herself, Sarika declares that she is too frank a person to lie about anything – even her affairs. “If I was having an affair, I would say so openly. Why should I hide it? What’s wrong with having an affair with someone you love?” Of course, she hastens to add that she’s no fickle flirt who flies from man to man like a bhavra, rather, she takes love and marriage very seriously. “I want to fall in love with someone, to have a small affair, get married to him have our own home, our own children… This is my little dream…” I bring her back to reality with a fresh attack. This time, it’s the girls at the firing end. To date, I can’t remember a single heroine having a single good word for Sarika. Everyone talks about her, yes – but only to tear her to pieces, and relish doing it. I’m surprised that one chit of a teenager can arouse this amount of back-biting. Sarika loftily dismisses it off as envy. “It’s obvious!” she declares. “Maybe they don’t have confidence in themselves… I don’t know why else they should talk bad about me.” I can’t let her off so lightly. I persist that while every actress is friends with another actress, Sarika in her friendless-state stands out like a sore thumb. What does she do to put the girls off collectively? Sarika is only slightly put off herself. Obviously, women are not all that important to her and she doesn’t want to waste time worrying about their bitching. Her reaction is studiedly underplayed. “In our industry, friendship is carried to an extreme. You hear of heroines being fast friends, they roam around hand in hand, do their shopping together, go everywhere together. Then suddenly there’s a jhagda and everything is finished. I don’t believe in quick friendships and quick break-ups. Naam ki dosti ka kya phayeda?” She finds it more practical to keep her relationships with her co-heroines within limits. This way, they’re not close enough for hassles, nor far enough for hostility. Every minute that I spend with her, it’s becoming clearer to me that Sarika is taking great pains to ensure a smooth-sailing passage for herself while she’s rocking her boat on the filmi seas. But she hasn’t managed to control the current against her yet. Even on the professional front, waves of disapproval and discontent are continuously lashing ashore. Sarika, according to the industry know-alls, is made out to be a little politician. Tales of her super starry misbehaviour on the sets, her clever strategies to get the best lines scenes/mileage and to reduce her co-star’s roles, etc. filter through the grapevine every day. I can’t help but wonder why Sarika is making herself unpopular before she can become popular in the real sense of the word. For once, Sarika is caught unawares. This is the first time she’s hearing that she’s “too difficult” to work with. She denies all the charges about her starry tantrums and demands (“I haven’t got enough success for it to go to my head!”) and as proof offers the fact that all her producers (Sohanlal Kanwar, Basu Bhattacharya, Raj Kumar Kohli) are repeating her in their future films. “Even superstars don’t get repeated if they give trouble. So why would anybody repeat Sarika if she was difficult?” The slight humility gives a slight convincing touch to her argument. About her lengthening her roles at the cost of her co-star’s, Sarika is equally vehement. “I have never believed in the length of a role. It is the quality of the role that is important to me!” She has learnt this lesson from Vinod Khanna. Though his was the smallest role in
Who is Mithun Chakraborty? Which lms of his have been released? If he is known today it is as the man who was involved with Sarika!”
PremKahani, he had nevertheless scored over all the others in the film. She gives her own example in Anpadh. Hers is the title role, but she doesn’t make an appearance till after the interval. And Zarina Wahab (the other heroine in the film) is there right from the first frame till the last. “Even the producer asked me why I hadn’t questioned him about the length of my role. I told him. ‘Why should I, the story demands it. ‘Still I’m not worried. I have the confidence that in spite of the small role, my work will be noticed!” Sarika sits back on the sofa. She has had her say, and is quite confident that she has managed to salvage some shreds of her reputation. She feels that it’s only a matter of time before all the controversies about her are cleared. I tell her she’s being too optimistic, but I can’t dampen her hopes. She can already see the air of change blowing across the industry. “People who know me, don’t even question me about the truth or falsity of a story. They only say, ‘Why are they saying such things about you?’…” Also, she has heard that some of them have started taking up and fighting for her. Recently, one director tried to sympathise with another who was shooting with Sarika that day, saying, “Poor you. That means your shooting won’t start before twelve o’ clock.” The ‘victim’ promptly shot back. “What nonsense! Do you know that Sarika is always the first one to report for work?” And if that is any inkling, things are definitely on the improvement track for Sarika. She is confident that even the magazine-readers who may have doubts about her ‘terrible reputation’ will realise it’s “all bullshit” and see the ‘real’ Sarika as she is. “I’m not a bad person,” she says. “I’m a good girl. And just as burrayi chhup nahin sakti, so also achchai can’t remain hidden for long!” The truth will be out, as Hamlet would have said. On that note, I leave Sarika to get ready for her two o’clock shift. I don’t want to spoil her new goodygoody reputation (of being the first on the sets) before she has had a chance to even establish it!
...with Mithun Chakraborty
...with Rakesh Roshan
...with Kamal Haasan
...with Randhir Kapoor