Poker in the pack

Traditional Bollywood taash parties with high stakes, which often culminated in drunken brawls are out being replaced by fun games with low stakes and get-togethers

Card playing is no longer very fashionable in Bollywood this Diwali. The fact that Shakti Kapoor, a notorious Diwali reveller known to get into brawls over card games, is  inside the Bigg Boss house this Diwali may have something to do with it. Shakti represents the bad-boy aspect of Bollywood's Diwali. His absence takes away the edge from Diwali in tinsel town. However, there are actors who are willing to play, even if Shakti isn't around. Murder sizzler, Jacqueline Fernandez is all set to give that tantalising game of taash a big hand this Diwali. Says Jacqueline enthusiastically, "I'm planning  to play cards during this Diwali break." Veteran actor Kabir Bedi will devote a whole night to cards. "Today, the day of Diwali is the day of festivities, fireworks in the night-sky, mouth-watering sweets and a family feast. But during Diwali week a full night of poker with friends is on the cards for sure." Actress Minissha Lamba is looking forward to a game of cards with friends. "I'm not at all a high-stakes person. Just a very small token amount for fun. Otherwise Diwali, for me means puja and family."

Girls have a whirl: Celina Jaitley (left), Gul Panag  (centre) and Isha
Koppikar on the sets of the film, Hello Darling. Both Celina and Gul
recently got married

That entertaining quipster Chunky Pandey has sworn off cards this year after losing money drastically last Diwali. "There was a time when I played cards on Diwali for amusement and tashan (as a style statement). But now I'm allergic to it. I lost a lot of money last year!" said Chunky when asked two days ago what he was planning to do this Diwali. "I will escape to Delhi this Diwali," he added. Newly married actor, Gul Panag cautiously recommends a game. "One-off game of cards and I'm done. And I'd never play for high stakes." The just married actress will spend the day with in-laws and parents.

This year, a number of Bollywood-waasis are moving into a new abode... Raveena Tandon, Vipul Shah, Sameera Reddy and Farah Khan are some of the celebrities who have moved into new homes this Diwali. Each one is too busy designing the interiors of their homes to bother with the mandatory card-playing ritual tonight.

Raveena is on an all-time high. After two years of construction and designing her dream bungalow on Carter Road in Bandra is finally ready �.well, not quite ready yet. There's still whole lot of hammering and pounding going on. But Raveena , her husband Anil Thadani and their two children have moved into their new bungalow. "We can't help it," Raveena shrugs. "If we waited any longer my husband and I wouldn't be able to enjoy our home. Anil and I have built our dream home brick by brick. And although our home is still under construction we've moved in." A Diwali house-warming party was being planned, when this correspondent spoke to her recently. However, Raveena  hates playing cards.

Hindi-Tamil actor Sameera Reddy can barely contain her excitement. "I love playing poker and it's fortunate that the poker fever has caught on this Diwali. I don't like playing for very high stakes. More than cards, it is a time for puja and meeting friends . This Diwali is a big step ahead for me, into my new home. I was busy getting the house ready." 

There was time in the not-too-distant past when Diwali meant all-night card sessions for stars. Huge amounts of money were won and lost over these drunken games and brawls often broke out over the cards session.
Now it's more about keeping the cards close to the chest. Shabana Azmi who throws open her beautiful home to family and friends every Diwali says, "We play for baby stakes. 10 paise a point! All my relatives from Hyderabad come over. It's a tradition we've observed over the years. My husband Javed Akhtar and I sneak in an intimate Diwali party." Diwali decorations are done in-house by the aesthetically inclined Shabana. "We don't call in decorators to do up our home. I do it all, from the rangoli to the diyas and flowers. The decoration is not elaborate but aesthetic. We're also conscious of noise pollution. Abba (father, Kaifi Azmi) would go to a particular shop to get the fireworks for us when we were kids. We still buy our Diwali fireworks from the same shop for the last 40 years."

Diya Mirza too loves her game of cards during Diwali. "Diwali is the only time I enjoy playing cards. But I'm not half as indulgent as many of my friends. I don't play for high stakes and when I win in cards I distribute my winning sum before leaving the party to all my friends who continue playing.  For this Diwali I'll be at a close friend's party."

Dino Morea says he gambles for small stakes. "Otherwise I don't gamble. I play cards with friends for Diwali, but only for 100-200 rupees." Actor Divya Dutta and director David Dhawan too enjoy their game of cards, but only for fun and not for high stakes. Celina Jaitley, who is celebrating her first Diwali after marriage says, "I love playing cards. But for very low stakes. I like the fun, not the money in the game. I am looking forward to introducing my husband, Peter, to the whole card-playing culture." Actor Sonu Sood of Jodhaa-Akbar and Dabangg fame, loves playing cards. "I play cards on Diwali just for fun. But I must admit I'm a terrific player. The stakes are high once in a  while." Urmila Matondkar is horrified at the thought of playing cards during Diwali. "We never play cards during Diwali. It is not a part of our culture at all to play with Goddess Laxmi on the day when we worship her. I love Diwali for the lights and sweets and because everyone looks so happy. This Diwali, I will be at our farmhouse with the entire family." Bheja Fry star, Vinay Pathak too is not into playing cards. "I will spent the day with friends and family. My daughters, who are 9 and 7, will help me with the puja in the house."

Rishi Kapoor, wife Neetu Singh and  actor Manoj Bajpai stay away from cards. Says Manoj, "I hate playing cards and ruining hard-earned money." Southern Bollywood star, Rana Daggubati is not into playing cards at all. "I will be with family and close friends. I will watch either Ra.One or the new Tamil Suriya starrer, 7Amarivu." Adds actress Mahie Gill, "I will be at home this Diwali. There will be a puja in the evening followed by dinner with close friends. Who needs cards when there is so much to look forward to during Diwali?" Jackie Shroff, too, doesn't play cards on Diwali. "Diwali takes me back to those days when Diwali for me, and my friends used to happen the day after Diwali. After all the rich people used to finish bursting crackers, we boys used to collect the ones that had not burst. With those, we celebrated out Diwali a night later." That's Bollywood for you. Philosophy, fireworks and a few aces up their sleeves.

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