Quirks are human. And so are celebrities. Here are a few I gathered on some of the glitterati I met over the years.
Aishwarya Rai: I ask for her email id, and she asks for mine in reply. You ask the Fuji people how much money have they set aside for their advertising campaign, and Rai interjects smilingly, ‘I don’t get all the money’.
Cyrus Broacha: You never know when he’s serious and when he’s funny. So the way to go? Believe him. I did, and realised that what he said about his mother checking the emails for him was indeed true.
Rahul Dravid: He is a shy guy. I ask him for his phone number. He shyly obliges, but hastens to add that I shouldn’t give this number to anyone else. When I get someone close to him to oblige for an interview before his impending marriage, he says he will but only after tying the knot.
Raveena Tandon: Whenever I SMS her, she thinks I am back on the trail of ‘who is the new man in her life’. And sometimes, when a topic catches our fancy, we are SMS-ing each other and before we know it, it’s over an hour of furious texting. SMS is highly addictive.
Tanuja Chandra: She is the fastest to reply to your SMS. Till date, no one has beaten her. Even if she’s in the middle of directing Juhi Chawla and Priyanshu Chatterjee, she will pause, send a quick SMS, and continue with her ‘lights, camera, action’ routine.
Jackie Shroff: You meet him for the first time, but that doesn’t stop him from hugging you like he’s met a long lost friend. And his hug seems very warm, very genuine.
Nafisa Joseph: Once she meets you, she remembers you for life. What’s more, she will remind you whenever she’s in town that she once worked for the company I represent much before she became Miss India.
Rahul Bose: You text him at 5 pm and the ‘better late than never’ dude does respond – at 3 am.
Priyanshu Chatterjee: You SMS him and he will call you, no matter even if he’s in the middle of shooting for a film in Rajasthan or it’s the dead of night. That’s him, very direct, very personal.
Pooja Bhat: She is never reachable on her cell. It’s always someone else’s. Call her when she is in the middle of shooting her film, and her father Mahesh Bhat picks up the phone, directing you to call a certain number where she is reachable. When you call that number, you realise it’s the director of the film, answering the phone. Pooja, of course, is not far from him, and you get to speak to her finally.
Prabuddha Das Gupta: He believes in pushing the envelope, even if it’s giving his next press interview he makes sure the story has a fresh way of presenting him. So when this reporter says it’s to know what’s inside the mind of Prabuddha that he readily agrees and gives you a free-wheeling interview for over two hours.
Preity Zinta: She is as sprightly as they come. If she is on the phone to you, she is not sitting on a sofa; she is hopping all over her home and office. Tell her about one particular scene you liked in a film of hers, and she will go into the details with relish.
Nandan Nilekani: He walks into a party wearing tracksuits, and is the least bothered by the unsolicited attention. Another reason why he doesn’t mingle in the crowd? He’s happy with his wife Rohini at his elbow and a drink in his hand.
Javagal Srinath: He is the humblest cricketer I have met. Before you stand up to greet him, he is already giving you a handshake. His honest eyes and sincere warmth break the ice faster than the first syllable uttered by him.
Suman Ranganath: She makes a great pretence at guarding her privacy, but when you peel it open a bit, she gives in and tells you all.
Annu Kapur: He knows more about Islam than the average Muslim and he’s more energetic than the average 25-year-old. And his passion for music is no holds barred, and his dimples show for it.
Prema Cariappa: Whether she’s the mayor or a parliamentarian (which she is right now), she is still the same old Prema: responsive, courteous, cooperative and a humble being.
Devi Prasad Shetty: This man sure knows how to keep himself busy all of 24 hours. And despite his busy schedule, he does oblige you with a hurriedly written edit of 400 words for City Info. And he is indeed one of the most disarmingly charming persons I have ever met. Exudes warmth from a mile away.
Laxmi Menon: She might lose all her inhibitions when it comes to photo shoots with Prabuddha Das Gupta, but ask her if you could do a pub hop interview with her, and she gives you a shy smile and says no.
Isha Koppikar: Ask for her email id, and she blinks. Ask again, and she gives her brother’s instead. You mail her brother, and it bounces.
Lucky Ali: He always seems to carry a mighty burden on his shoulder. But his warmth only de-stresses you.
(Published in City Reporter, 2003)