I’m back home after a week in New Zealand, on a Bollywood high. In Mumbai, it’s no big deal when my daughter tells me that her friends and she screamed out to Shahid Kapoor from their school bus when he was shooting on Lokhandwala’s back road. But when I saw starry-eyed teens in Auckland, some still in their school uniforms, deliriously shouting out to Abhishek Bachchan on the waterfront, it did seem like a big deal!
The surprises didn’t stop there. A local videographer on the sets of Players, Abbas-Mustan’s desi adapatation of The Italian Job, while rolling through his film, stopped at a shot of Sikander Kher and murmured, “This guy is a rockstar!”
I peered in for a closer look and suddenly, Anupam and Kirron Kher’s son’s Lochinvar locks and dark, unconventional looks took on a different aura. Sikku was delighted—“Where’s the dude?”—but somewhat disbelieving till some female fans from the NZ tourism office sent him a Kiwi hand puppet. Rock on baby!
Sonam Kapoor’s classic profile also got an approving nod from the lenser. In fitted jeans, leather jackets and checked shirts, curls cascading down her back, Sonam looked like a rockstar herself. And admitted to her share of local attention, especially among the fashion conscious lil’ misses who wanted Simran and Aisha’s wardrobes.
But she was quick to add that dad, Anil Kapoor, was the real superstar! “Earlier, when abroad, we’d avoid places frequented by NRIs but after Slumdog Millionaire and 24, dad has even the goras approaching him for autographs at Heathrow airport. It’s amazing and sometimes, a wee bit annoying,” grinned Sonam, who’s quickly learning the value of ‘family time’.
‘Family time’ is something our stars catch up on when abroad. On his 35th birthday, Aishwarya Bachchan flew in to join husband Abhishek in NZ. The couple caught a movie, King’s Speech, and enjoyed a late dinner on Valentine’s Day. Of course, AB’s Man Friday, Mayur, had to keep watch from a distance to make sure that Mr & Mrs B had their privacy.
“Isn’t the lead player’s wife a former Miss World?” I overheard the Kiwi crew whispering over lunch one afternoon. Aishwarya is as famous on the North Coast as she is on the French Riviera. No wonder the turbaned owner of a local restaurant almost swooned in ecstacy when Abhishek and she walked into the wrap party and made his Punjab Da Chaska eternally famous.
Kajra re... and ‘All hot girls put your hands up and sing, Om shanti Om... played at ear-splitting volume. Amritsari fish, samosas and chicken tangdis sizzled on platters, as one of Auckland’s sleepy suburbs took on a desi flavour.
When I was in Singapore, it was a thrill to find an orchid named after Amitabh Bachchan brushing petals with those keeping alive the memory of Princess Diana. In New Zealand, it was a thrill to hear that Wellington airport had almost shut down for 40 minutes to let Bipasha Basu speed down the runway.
This was not the first time the Kiwis were playing host to a Bollywood unit. Abhishek himself has filmed two movies there earlier, Shararat and Bas Itna Sa Khwab Hai, and Sonam one, I Hate Luv Storys. Both would love to be back, to jump off the 192-metre-high Sky Tower. Their NZ fans can’t wait to say Kia ora, nau mai... Hello, welcome!
For me, Auckland was like a pearl in paradise... pretty, pristine and pollution free. Still it’s good to be back in claustrophobic, carbon-rich, cacaphonic Mumbai. Home by the blue, and Bollywood too! Kia kite ano Auckland, until I see you again!