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Happy Birthday to Late Sanjeev Kumar!

Billions of children are born on this earth. Everybody remembers the birthday of people in their own families. But there are only a few people, whose birthdays are remembered by people outside their families. Even less number of people are remembered on their birthdays after their death. Such a legendary actor is my Sanjeev Uncle. I say my Sanjeev Uncle, because I knew him personally.

Someone had said about me when I was a child, “This girl looks good. You can try for any opportunities as a child artist.” We had been called to meet a director in a studio. On one shooting floor Sanjeev Kumar was performing, for a movie. In another floor, comedy actor Manorama was shooting. We were taken to the place where Manorama was shooting. Everybody liked my smile and someone picked me up to take me to Manorama. She being obese, I started jumping on her lap. She was actually enjoying it!

Unfortunately, the person we were supposed to meet did not come. Then we were told that Sanjeev Kumar was shooting nearby. Mom and Dad are good fans of his. The people over there took us to that particular floor to show him the craziest fan of his, my Mom. The first thing he asked her was, “Ladies coming to see film stars would wear 1 or 2 inches make-up, which even my leading ladies do not apply. Why do you have only your own skin on your face?”

Mom told him, “My husband likes me more without make-up. He likes me best when I just wash my face and come in front of him, with towel dried skin. He does not like truth, which is covered. The truth should be open for him.”

Then he asked my Dad, “How come you married this lady?”

Dad replied, “I went to meet her and her family after a lot of drama. At that time, my father-in-law told me, ‘She is wearing a simple voil sari. Her face has been washed and towel-dried. Every morning you will see this face only. If you like her as she is then we will proceed. Otherwise, leave it.’ They had sent a full-size photo of hers in the same dress, in the same way. That photo attracted me. I felt like something pulled me towards her. That is why I went to see her. She had good features and thick long hair. She also had a very graceful matured look. I met 21 girls before her. They were all wearing kanjiveram saris and were loaded with gold. But this was a different experience. And my father-in-law said, ‘I am a government servant and against dowry. And she is my third daughter. I have already married off my first 2 daughters. I will hold the wedding at Thirupati and there should be no demands.’ I liked her simplicity and thought that she will understand me better. I told them my approval then and there. That is how we got married.”

I had been picked up by someone and they had returned me to my Mom, just then. The moment I was introduced to Sanjeev Uncle, I began crying loudly holding my hip! Actually, Sanjeev Uncle reminded me of a doctor, who would often give me injections. Mom understood because there were slight resemblances in their appearance. He tried to soothe me so much. But I did not go to him.

Mom told him that I had received an offer for acting. He was staring at my Mom for some time. He asked my parents more about how they had landed there. When Mom said that she is a writer, he was very happy. He said, “You look like raw sandalwood. Similarly, the fragrance that you have inside is evident in what you do. Tomorrow you will come as my guest.”

On the next day, Dad had gone to meet some other people. He chatted with my Mom over tea. Mom wanted to get me into movies and asked him if he knew anyone who would help. He asked, “Why are you so keen on getting her into movies?”

Mom said, “Just for the fame and name.”

He pulled out a gray colour pen from his pocket. This was not there the previous day. He tapped the pen on the table a couple of times looking at my Mom. Then he gave it to my Mom. It was an old pen. He advised, “Hold this pen. You will get name and fame. Pass it on to your daughter. She will also get fame and name, when required. Someone has injected in your brain that she can be a child artist. This field is not so good, that too for ladies and children. And you are very young and good looking. You will get into danger first. Your husband will not be able to come daily.”

Mom told him to first look at her complexion and then say who will be dangerous to her.

He replied, “In the film line, chiseled looks are only seen, which you have. Complexion is not important. There are few workers here. Most of them are beasts and jungle animals. You are an educated woman and come from a very good family. So don’t select this line for your daughter. With this pen if you can do anything, do it. But don’t come to the studios often. It is not good for you. And about your complexion, you will look a little dusky among fair people. You will look lighter among dark people. You have been blessed with this complexion by God.”

Mom lost her charm after contracting Sarcoidosis. She was fluctuating between life and death for 24 days in Hinduja hospital. Still she has chiseled looks. People say that she looks like Durga Mata. At least Mom is alive with us. We thank God for it.

Coming back to Sanjeev Uncle. He said, “May be some people will backbite that this woman does not have fair complexion. There is no bone in the tongue. It will move as it likes. Do you think they have left me alone? I am a star. But people backbite about me. They say I am a miser. And I am a Mamma’s boy. And I am hefty. I eat so much. I don’t care for my body structure unlike other heroes.”

Mom told him, “Which other star has your talent?”

He continued, “Your inner quality you should know. I know my inner quality. When people like this come in front of me, I make fun of myself and make them an object of ridicule. I live my life the way I want.”

He did not live long after this meeting of ours. He fell down in his bathroom after a heart attack and died. Mom and I never cried so much for anybody else before him or after him. He was such a great Gujarati. Are all Gujaratis like him? (I am pointing a finger at Our Lady of Intolerance.)

Uncle, we miss you. Mom gave my sister and me the pen that you gave her after using it herself. Both of us chose journalism, with your blessings. I wish you were here. I would have interviewed you. Tough luck! But I know you are watching me from up there and sending blessings to us. We are the daughters of your crazy fan, my Mom.

About Gayatri T Rao

A double post-graduate (MSc. - Botany and MA - English Literature) Gayatri T Rao is a Senior Multimedia Journalist with vast experience in writing on varied topics.

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