There’s still time for Friendship Day (August 1), but two buddies raised a toast to their bonding that goes back by over a decade, well in advance. Juhi Chawla has been on bedside watch ever since her brother, Bobby, went into a coma. After several anxious weeks, she was persuaded to take a break and join her husband, Jai Mehta, and children, Jhanvi and Arjun, in London. And guess who was in the Queen’s City too? Shah Rukh Khan, who along with wife Gauri, ensured that Juhi returned home to her brother, who’s also the CEO of SRK’s Red Chillies Entertainment, rejuvenated.
The heartwarming snippet took me back to my first encounter with SRK at a Mumbai studio. We were discussing everything under the sun that was high up in the sky, when Juhi sailed out. Flashing me a cheeky smile, she said, “He must have spoken enough to fill a book, let him do some work now.”Shah Rukh quipped, "I was just waiting for you to finish your make-up." Smiling indulgently, Yash Chopra herded his ‘bachchas’ (kids) inside. And as the Darr chartbuster, Jaadu teri nazar... echoed through the studio, I saw laughing camaraderie transform into a dark obsession.
When dreamz turn real
Seven years later, along with Aziz Mirza, the twosome launched Dreamz Unlimited. Juhi loved the name. “Shah Rukh must have been inspired by Steven Speilberg’s Dreamworks Production, even the ‘z’ in Dreamz was his idea,” she admitted. “I love Unlimited too but we’ll have to register it as Dreamz Limited because you can’t have a private unlimited company.”
They were just weeks away from the release of their first production, Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani. We were trying to get them together to talk about their old friendship and new partnership. SRK tried to wriggle out, pleading that he had to report for a shoot of Mohabbatein at Mehboob studio. Juhi refused to let him play truant.
“We’ll hire a studio in Bandra for the photo shoot so you can hop, skip and jump to your shoot,” she told him. Renting out a studio at short notice was impossible. So then she suggested we camp out at Shah Rukh’s bungalow."Don’t be late?"
Fortunately, we didn’t need to barge into Mannat. We went to Daboo Ratnani’s studio. "Be there at 10 am," Juhi warned SRK. "My hairdresser has to leave by 1.30 pm."
He strolled in just as her hairdresser was packing up. Juhi’s stony silence to her cheery, “Hi, how’s it going?” had Shah Rukh scurrying out of his tee and cargo in record time. They looked perfectly matched. But Juhi was frigid rather than friendly. Her plastic smiles turned Shah Rukh into a sheepish schoolboy who wailed plaintively, “Tell me what to do?’
We despaired: Had our ‘dosts’ turned into ‘dushmans’ for good? “No way,” Shah Rukh reassured us. “Ever since we started Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, such fights have been commonplace.”
Juhi’s anger slowly melted. After a while her smiles were for real: “We like and respect each other too much to not be able to rise above such petty disagreements.”
A decade has passed since. And their ‘dosti’ continues.