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Happy Birthday My Dear Friend, Kamal Haasan



Kamal Haasan

Everytime  he asked me how  ‘Lataji’ is, I would always think he  meant the legendary singer. 

But it was my daughter Lata he would  inquire about. That’s one  of  Kamal Haasan’s genteel  traits. He refers  to everyone with a respectful  ‘ji’ even his own daughters are  ‘Shrutiji’ and ‘Aksharaji’ to him. And his very lovely wife was always Sarikaji .

Sarikaji never  liked me  much.And I don’t blame  her at all. During  the time when  their marriage came to a messy end,  I held  Kamalji’s hand, saw him through bouts of  anger, rage and alcoholism . I  stood by him because that was the  need of the hour.Sarikaji was understandably  piqued by  my favouritism, so much so that one day she very clearly told  me over the phone, ‘We can never be friends.So let’s not talk to one another.’

I respected that. In life , one has  to  have one’s priorities sorted, even if  it means hurting some at  the  cost of  others. I believed everything Kamalji  told me about his marriage. Those confidential conversations will  go to  the pyre with me.

I can write  a book about Kamal Haasan , the man the friend  the  actor …No, make that three  books. We once were very close.So close that  he shared  every detail of his  life  with me. I knew the women  Kamalji was seeing and I also know about  the  men  in the life of  the  women Kamalji was seeing. I don’t know  makes sense. But what I am  trying to say is our bond ran deep. We shared much more than  a star-journalist relationship. It won’t be  an exaggeration to say we were family.

Some of  the most fun-times we had was when Kamalji was shooting with my raakhee-sister Raveena Tandon for Abhay. The  first premiere that I ever attended was  Abhay  in Mumbai. Kamalji landed in Mumbai with his  pretty little  daughter Shruti.I picked them  up from the Taj Lands End on  my friend Hansal Mehta’s car. At the premiere, I slipped  away to join Hansal and  writer-director Suparn Verma as the  shutterbugs monopolized  the star  of Abhay. Just before the  film started Kamalji’s assistant came  and whispered to me, ‘Kamal Sir has asked that you join him and Raveena M’aam. The show will only start when  you join them.’

In  2003 when  my  best friend needed medical attention for his eyes, we flew down to Chennai. Kamalji  not only made all the arrangements at  the best eye hospital in Chennai, he also insisted on accompanying us to the  hospital(where the nurses and staff nearly fainted on seeing him). He also insisted that we stay at his  beautiful  home on Eldams Road. But  I firmly declined the  generous offer.

This is  the  only favour that I’ve ever taken from  an actor. But then, Kamalji was not an actor to me. Don’t even let me start on that!

Our telephonic conversations were marathons. I know of  no other actor as erudite and articulate as Kamalji. He talked for  a minimum of   an hour on  every topic under the sun  from Mahatma  Gandhi to   Rajesh Khanna , much  longer if it was one  of his favourites Sivaji Ganesan, K Balachander, Dilip Kumar, Nathuram Godse  or Alfred Hitchock.He spoke freely and  fearlessly to me, and I can  say with authority  and pride that no one  knows Kamal Haasan, the man , better than I do.

We  don’t speak  any more.  The  end came  suddenly. There was  no  provocation for  his  unannounced withdrawal from  our  friendship. It just happened  in a flash, as though he had woken up one morning and decided he  didn’t want me  as a friend. I had seen how he had looked  after his  partner Gautami when she  was  seriously ill.I had seen his bonding with Gautamiji’s  daughter Subbalaxmi. I never  knew they would not be  a part of his  life one day.

I never expected my friendship with  Kamalji would  end. He will always remain a very special part  of my life that  no on can take away. Not even Kamal Haasan.

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