By Subhash K. Jha, IndiaFM
when Rani Mukherjee turns a year older I think of all the birthdays
that come and go in Bollywood every year.
As every producer and his favourite financier know, the number of
bouquets that you see in a star's house on the day after a birthday
determines his or her popularity.
A few years ago I had been to my friend Urmila Matondkar's house on
the day after her birthday. The entire space outside her apartment was
strewn with bouquets.
"What do you do with them?" an exasperated Raakhee Gulzar had
wondered aloud after her birthday. She firmly believes flowers look
nice on trees. "I give the bouquets away to friends and neighbours as
far as possible. But a lot of stars just dump them anywhere," Raakhee
was genuinely perturbed.
I remember she had cooked this sumptuous meal on her birthday. The
menu at her place remained unchanged whenever I've been treated to her
Coincidentally I've been in Mumbai for two of Urmila's birthdays.
Last year the number of bouquets remained undiminished. Urmila and I,
just the two of us, had a blast. After I imperiously informed her that
I won't have any of the cake that I had gotten for her I dug into the
sumptuous cake she brought out.
Oh by the way, Urmila is one of the best hostesses in Mumbai. And
one of the few film persons actually enjoys the meal with you. Most of
the others just smile and pretend to eat. It's known as the weight-
and- watch formula.
Even Shilpa Shetty is a hearty eater. Looking at her or Urmila, no
one can tell they enjoy their food.
Incidentally Urmila and Abhishek Bachchan were born a day apart. And
he often jokes they could've a joint birthday party. Last year I was in
Mumbai for Abhishek's birthday. He was shooting with his dad and
Aishwarya Rai for the soon to be hysterically-historical item song
Kajra re. Abhishek was in his element, fooling around, attending the
endless stream of calls from strangers and acquaintances who wanted to
How many calls does an average star get on his or her birthday? It
all depends on how 'un-average' you are. For Shah Rukh Khan or Amitabh
Bachchan it would be impossible to attend to all the calls and messages
on their birthdays. However after the event Mr B sends out personally
-signed letters to all his well-wishers.
When it comes to remembering friends' birthdays the Bachchans are
the uncrowned royal-family of Bollywood. On my birthday I look forward
to their individual calls, and they never disappoint. In fact there's
not a single person in their list of friends whose birthday they ever
I wish my other star-friends would be just as particular about
birthdays. A lot of them forget your existence on the most important
day of the year. "Oh forget it yaar!" my colleagues in Mumbai console
me. "They're stars. They aren't expected to remember ordinary mortals'
But I refuse to be cowed down. Last year when the stunning Ash sent
me an SMS on my birthday (our birthdays are separated by a day) I
immediately demanded she call me to do the needful. Lovely obliging
girl that she is, she did.
I now understand not too many people have the privilege of Ms Rai
calling them to wish them a happy birthday. That feels good.
Shilpa—God bless her buoyant soul—doesn't sulk when you forget her
birthday. Instead she pulls you up with her trademark scream. "You
forgot my birthday, you dog you."
And then we move on. A lot of stars love to get lost on their
birthdays. Even Urmila until a few years ago used to vanish to
destinations-unknown. And even the closest of friends won't find the
reticent Gulzar Saab at home on his birthday. He's just too shy to take
the barrage of good wishes on his birthday.
The hermetic Lata Mangeshkar generally checks into a hotel on her
birthday to avoid the unending stream of guests and greetings at home.
Kareena can be either all over the place or nowhere to be found, on her
birthday. Raveena starts her birthday with a visit to the temple, while
Preity and Karan spend the entire day glued to the phone talking to the
well-wishers. Shabana Azmi is eminently accessible while Rekha's
birthday messages have to be left on her answering machine. She'll
respond later if she so wishes. But there's only one person in
Bollywood who hates to be wished on his birthday. And that's Ram Gopal
Varma. So any aspirant to hopes to get a role by sucking up to Ramu on
his birthday better get wise quick.
Birthdays are often a time when celebrities wish they were never
born. At least they'd be spared the unwanted attention.