Heart of darkness

Published: Nov 02, 2010, 08:24 IST | Naseem Mukri |

From living like a recluse to dying in mysterious circumstances, glitz has been the lure for established actors and strugglers. As yet another model Rinky Chaudhary's death is shrouded in controversy, stories of desperate loneliness and failed relationships expose the glamour world's ugly underbelly

From living like a recluse to dying in mysterious circumstances, glitz has been the lure for established actors and strugglers. As yet another model Rinky Chaudhary's death is shrouded in controversy, stories of desperate loneliness and failed relationships expose the glamour world's ugly underbelly

Being an actor's daughter has its advantages and if the actor is as popular and loved as my father Mukri was, then, with the advantages come many other perks.

The film industry is one big family and one automatically belongs to that family. Everyone, big and small, is your auntie and uncle, and their children are your best friends. Today, most parents may not be there any more but children are still very close to each other.


Suraiya who became the highest paid actress of her time

Which is just as well, because behind that glamourous fa ade, are lives often fragmented by bitter love affairs, failed marriages and finally mysterious deaths.

We lived at Churchgate and quite a few film personalities lived in that area. Mehboob Khan, Nargis, Suraiya at Marine Drive and Nimmi, O P Nayyar, G P Sippy, Shahid Lateef, we were all together at 'A' Road.

In such a close-knit family, you are privy to all the dark, dirty secrets, sorrows `n' smiles, problems 'n' pain, joys and tragedies.  The star struck layperson sees the glamour, but there is often grime and sometimes crime behind that fa ade too.

From Russia with love

Take Devika Rani for instance. There is nobody in the Indian film industry with her background. She was the great grand-niece of Rabindranath Tagore and had studied drama at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Music at the Royal Academy of Music in London, as well as architecture, textile and d �cor design, all this in the 1920s.

She met her first husband Himanshu Rai in London, who she married and together they founded the great Bombay Talkies that made some immortal gems of Indian cinema. In 1945 she met my father, who was then a young 23-year-old, who looked even younger because of his short stature.
 
By that time she had given up acting and was just head of Bombay Talkies, after the death of her husband. Years later, we had gone to Kulu Manali for the outdoor shoot of, Himalaya Ki Godh Mein, and when Dad heard that Devika and her second husband Svetsolav Roerich were at their Kulu Estate, he took us to meet them. I still have to come across a more distinguished looking couple.
 
They were the epitome of grace and dignity.

When a lady of her calibre, someone chosen to inaugurate the first BBC broadcast to India, who was member of the Executive Board of the National Academy, member of Lalit Kala Academy, the National Handicrafts Board, Indian Council of Cultural Relations had the Soviet Land Nehru Award conferred on her in 1989, and was the first recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1970, dies without a proper will and without proper organising and has all sorts of nurses, managers and housekeepers claiming to be her heirs, even governments of Russia and India can go to court to claim her properties, it can boggle your mind.

Dev-asted

After Devika Rani came Suraiya, very charming, very graceful and very soft-spoken. She lived at Krishna Mahal, very close to my house. Her parents had migrated from Pakistan and while still studying at the J B Petit School for girls; she made her debut as a child artiste in the year 1937.

Gradually, as she grew up, she moved on from child roles to secondary leads and then on to lead heroine. She had worked very hard to reach that position and the biggest edge she had over her contemporaries was that she could sing her own songs, and soon was easily the highest paid actress of her time.

That reign at the top was short lived though and the one factor that contributed to that was perhaps her involvement with Dev Anand. They were deeply in love with each other, but her grandmother was the villain who made sure they broke up.
 
I believe she had gone across the road to Marine Drive and thrown her engagement ring into the sea. Many people would stand at that spot and look into the water maybe waiting for the ring to wash ashore. But jokes aside, Suraiya was so serious about her relationship with Dev Anand that she remained unmarried all her life. Even Dev Saheb has openly admitted his feelings for her.

She had bought a lot of property in Lonavala, a bungalow at Worli, which later became an apartment building and the Krishna Mahal Apartments. She also had the best collection of antique jewellery worth crores and had done up her houses very tastefully.

When you think that she maintained her lifestyle for so many years, staying alone after her mother and grandmother's death, the question arises as to why an educated, well organised lady like her, would she not in a way, think about her death. Why would she leave everything in such a haphazard way everybody, from her legal advisor to all sorts of relatives are staking claim on her assets, and forcing the court to seal her possessions.

Murder most foul?

Priya Rajvansh was a well-read, very intelligent person. Poetry formed the common thread of our friendship Priya knew the works of almost every English poet. I met her when I went to interview Chetan saheb or Chetan Anand, years ago, at their lovely house at Ruia Park in Mumbai. I then interviewed her too and we struck a chord. She was the most unfilmi heroine I have known.

Born in Chandigarh and brought up in Simla, Priya went to the best convent schools and post-graduation, joined her father in England who was there on a UN assignment. In London, Priya joined the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She met Chetan Anand there.

She returned with him to Mumbai where he cast her in his film, Haqeeqat in 1962. She never worked with anybody else. Chetan Anand and Priya were proof of the adage, opposites attract. He was shy, reserved, and reticent and a loner, she loved to discuss, argue, and prove her point. He loved his walks; she loved mehfils with poets and singers and hated being alone even for one evening. She would often call me to discuss a 'sher'.

When I look back, I remember a conversation with her that disturbs me all the time. After I saw the movie, Kudrat I remember asking Priya, "Priya why are you dying an unnatural death with your eyes and mouth open, in every film of Chetan saheb be it Haqeeqat, Heer Ranjha, Hanste Zakhm, Hindustan Ki Kasam and now Kudrat. Please tell Chetan to stop it, it is very scary'.
 

Parveen Babi and Amitabh Bachchan in a still from Deewar

She laughed and told me,  "Don't be surprised, if in real life too, I die like that." That is exactly what happened. She died an unnatural death with her eyes and mouth open on March 27, 2000 in Chetan Anand's Riua Park bungalow in Juhu.

  As the city watched agog, a story of greed and deceit, lies and cover-ups emerged. Press reports at that time stated that the police charged Chetan Anand's sons Ketan Anand and Vivek Anand with her murder.  Their motive was thought to be rights to her inheritance of Chetan Anand's property.

Bohemian Babi

Parveen Babi led a bohemian life style and had a couple of well-publicised live-in relationships. She was born in Junagadh Gujarat where her family owned considerable land and had royal ancestry. Parveen came to Bombay as it was then called to follow her dreams. For the first few films she was called the, 'poor man's Zeenat Aman' but she soon shed that tag. After Deewar, with leapt to the top and she stayed there for 10 years.

Then, her mind started wandering. Parveen began to lose focus. Ultimately she just disappeared to seek solace first with Osho Rajneesh, then with U G Krishnamurthy. Mentally though, she was going out of control. She went abroad and then returned to India, excess weight lugging her down, Parveen then accused everyone she knew of persecuting, and trying to kill her. Soon she became the butt of jokes for the media with some of her sensational accusations.

 Suddenly, her death hit the headlines. She had been dead for nearly three days before being discovered. Reports stated that she had died of very high diabetes and its complications. Like everyone else, there was no will, and no other information. For two days, the body lay unclaimed and then her cousins came down to claim the body and give her a decent burial next to her mother in Santa Cruz.

No complaints

None other than Mehboob Khan discovered Nadira in 1952. Nadira blazed the screen as a haughty, conceited princess opposite Dilip Kumar in 'Aan'. You would think that with a debut like that, Nadira should have been at the top, but unfortunately that did not happen. In her second film, Shree 420 and in subsequent films, she was relegated to playing the vamp and then to playing character roles. 

Yet, Nadira had no complaints. She was married twice and both marriages had ended bitterly. What was commendable was the fact that in her last years, Nadira was absolutely alone, quite ill and low on finance. Yet on the first of the month, her salaries, cheques, payments were all laid out on the table.
 
All arrangements with precise instructions were given to her neighbour and when death came knocking at her door, Nadira went to it with open arms and a clear conscience that she had lived her life as clearly, as honestly as her God had asked her to live.

The writer is the daughter of well-known comedian, Mukri. She is a freelance journalist, writer, scriptwriter and television and radio presenter.

Murder or suicide?

Rinky Chaudhary (28), the model who reportedly hanged herself in her Goregaon apartment on 28 October, was supposedly murdered.

The postmortem reports confirmed several head injuries. Also, the ligature marks on her neck did not confirm her death due to hanging.

Chaudhary's boyfriend, Sahil Malik has been remanded to police custody till November 4.

Sahil's ex-girlfriend Shyamli Jain from Delhi, who allegedly harassed Chaudhary, has been called for questioning.  Police are on the lookout for Shivam, suspected accomplice in Chaudhary's murder.

Chaudhary's family had stated that Malik had been harassing the model as she had refused to marry him.

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