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June 29, 2000


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The price of praise

Meghna Gulzar can be a bit gushy at times. As she was recently when she went to town praising Shah Rukh Khan, not just for his performance but his production values in making Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani. And we hear the star was mortified, uncertain what it all meant.

Just when other people too were beginning to wonder why Bosky was being so lavish with her praise came news that the girl had decided to turn director and just happened to have a role that fitted Shah Rukh like a glove.

But all the preliminary butter hadn't softened Shah Rukh a whit. He firmly but politely told the lady he wasn't available. And we haven't heard of Ms Gulzar extolling his virtues again.

King Ashoka in the gym

Meanwhile, Shah Rukh is pumping iron with some vim. And that isn't to prove a point to Hrithik or to develop those muscles that contributed to his earlier image, but because he's gearing up to do the title role in his home production, Ashoka The Great. Shades of Hey Ram! you ask? We can't say.

So now no one can get him to pose topless or exhibit a bicep or that midriff. "You will have to wait for the film," he says to members of the filmi photographic fraternity who prefer such pics. "I am working out for my film and will pose only for the film." So there.

Incidentally, Kareena is the leading lady here, not Karisma. Sources say Mama Babita did try and edge Karisma in. But since both Shah Rukh and director Santosh Sivan were adamant, she let the matter be. After all, it was still all in the family, wot?

Of bills and cooing

Those who prophesied that Madhuri Dixit would maintain a marriage at long distance are wondering if they ought to go back for a refresher at the astrology school.

They've just learnt that after she came in for a long shooting schedule of Deepak Shivdasani's Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke, her telephone bill has shot so high that, once paid, it will keep MTNL in the black for years to come.

And the big bill is all courtesy one ISD call she made, no prizes for guessing to whom.

Chastened, Ms Dixit has got a computer installed at home and has downloaded ICQ so that she can keep in touch.

But then, all of this happens only when she is in Bollywood shooting for her incomplete ventures, and the one solo venture she has signed up. Otherwise, she prefers to be ensconced in the comforts of her home in the US of A. In the company of one Dr Nene.

How to forget an elephant

If we discuss Madhuri, can we forget M F Husain -- even if Ms Dixit has? The lady's apparently giving him the cold shoulder ever since she tied the knot. We hear she has even lost interest in Gajagamini, the film she was co-producing and which marked Husain's debut as a mainstream director.

The film, an artistic effort, wasn't to have a commercial release, but was to circulate only in film festivals. But it hasn't been entered in any such event.

Is it because Madhuri herself is so embarrassed by the product that she prefers to see it mercifully sink away into oblivion? Since we haven't seen it either, we can't tell.

Love finds Akshay -- yet again

And now for the latest romantic adventure of Akshay Kumar, co-starring Twinkle Khanna.

They make a cute pair, say the Khannas' nosy neighbours, who also claim that the pair is adventurous enough to zip around on a Kinetic Honda late at night to dig into some ice-cream.

Close friends of Akshay speak highly of Twinkle and claim he has found true love this time. Unlike the earlier women in his life who tried to mould him, Twinkle reserves all her moulding energy for her candle business, they say.

If all goes well, they insist, this is one romance that will end up with Akshay getting married.

Me? I'd rather bet on a fixed match -- of the cricketing kind.

Akshay and Jackie

More on Akshay...

Was Akki thrilled to bits when he was asked to perform some stunts at the International Indian Film Awards held in London along with his idol Jackie Chan? You can bet your nanchaku he was.

He was full of it before he left but his relatives and friends were shocked to see him perform all alone. And nary a Master in sight.

What happened was that after reaching the venue Akshay learnt that Jackie's stunt co-ordinators, and not Jackie himself, were going to perform with him.

Akshay was disappointed, of course, but being pretty level-headed didn't throw a tantrum and, committed chap that he was, went through the athletic motions.

Now if that isn't sporting...

Why Juhi stayed at home and other stories

In the film industry, it's best to do the done thing and be done with it. Juhi Chawla learnt it anew when she decided not to attend the music release of her under-production film Karobaar, directed by Rakesh Roshan.

With a career already in the doldrums she apparently didn't want to be associated with a film that was begun about the time the dinosaurs roamed the planet.

But canard and calumny have this way of catching up with you. And so the rumour spread that she boycotted the function because Roshan's son Hrithik is considered a challenger by Shah Rukh, her business partner in Dreamz Unlimited.

Juhi is reportedly trying to first work that one out before she reacts to it.

Guest who?

Believe it or not, Salman Khan has done it. Sorry, he's not got married, found a new girl, or built a new muscle somewhere south of the neck, but done a special guest appearance, appearing in a single scene in an upcoming film.

Of course, the film, Raj Kanwar's Dhai Akshar Prem Ke, did star his girlfriend Aishwarya Rai and... Oh yes, Abhishek Bachchan.

It happened when Salman went to Bikaner and Jaipur to spend some quality time with Rai. Director Kanwar, who is also a pal of the Khan, asked him to make an appearance. Salman did it willingly enough, particularly when Ash blinked her eyelashes and said something that amounted to pretty please, with sugar on top.

Salman first melted, then swelled up. And the scene was done in a shot.

Now Kanwar has gone all mysterious and won't reveal what Khan's guest appearance was all about. Wait and watch the film is what he says. Naturally, it must be something in the same class as Sean Connery in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves...

-- The Insider

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