Telling it like it is doesn’t come easily in an industry where nothing is as it seems, and speaking the truth could mean the end of a career. And yet there have been some exceptional straight talking women in the industry. Here’s toasting the blunt brigade.
- Nargis : The legendary Nargis was known to tell it like it is, so much so that her husband the very diplomatic and restrained Sunil Dutt, didn’t know what would come next from his wife’s mouth.Nargisji was anything but diplomatic in her dealings with people and politics.When she was a member of the Rajya Sabha she once created a furore by saying Satyajit Ray peddled Indian poverty to the West. Half the time Sunil Dutt Saab was apologizing to people whom his moofphat wife offended.
- Hema Malini: Bluntspeak comes naturally to Hema Malini. If she doesn’t like you she will tell you that in your face. In the 1970s she didn’t feel comfortable working with the reigning superstar Rajesh Khanna and she avoided him. Heamji came to my home for lunch once and openly grumbled about the number of stairs she had to climb .Then she told us that something she had eaten the night before had not agreed with her because it was cooked in mustard oil. “Don’t worry everything today is cooked in olive oil,” my friend reassured her. When she sat down for the meal my friend again helpfully reminded her of the cooking medium. “How many times will you say the same thing?” she snapped. Ouch. What we love about Hemaji is that she is completely comfortable with who she is. When you praise her for her beauty she will tell you she has never thought about it.And she is right.
- Asha Bhosle: The non-controversial softspoken Nightingale’s sister is definitely not one to mince words. Asha Tai , as she’s known, is the least diplomatic member of the Mangeshkar family. On occasions I’ve been at the receiving end of her tongue-lashing for favouring her sister. Once I told Ashaji that Lataji was God. She turned around to ask, “Achcha woh bhagwan our main shaitaan?” While discussing her reclusive Didi, Asahji said, “I do drop in to her room to chat with her. But she continues to watch television even on seeing me.” Once at an event to commemorate Lataji’s contribution to the music industry ,Lataji’s immortal Ghazal Hum hain mata-e-kucha-o-bazaar ki terah was playing. Ashaji turned to a singer to ask, ‘Who’s singing this? Achha nagin gaya’. Needless to say the singer didn’t know where to look.
- Jaya Bachchan: She is the most forthright person I know in the film industry. If you’ve seen Mrs Bachchan’s squabbles with the paparazzi for crossing the line—once she berated them for calling Aishwarya by her first name—you’d know she’s unstoppable. Much to the mortification of her husband and son. Once she gave an interview to me calling a major filmmaker “dirty” and “indecent”. Abhishek (rightly) asked her how they will face the filmmaker when they run into him next. Ask Jayaji if she cares! On her birthday recently she called back to thank me for my good wishes and opened the conversation with, “Aap bahot pareshan karte hain. Itne saarey numbers hain aapke.”
- Kangana Ranaut: The outspokenness in her case has been excessive, But there is no doubt Kangana is a girl who speaks her mind. With a pronounced aversion for doublespeak Kangana tells it like it is ,regardless of how much her frankspeak offends or hurts others. I remember an incident way back for the premiere of Sanjay Bhansali’s Black when Kangana and I were close friends. I made bold to tell my friend Sanjay Bhansali that she would sit with me at the screening. When Kangana heard about the seating arrangement she was furious. “What gave you the right to decide where I sit?” She was right.Never take this woman for granted.