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Supporting cast

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 11:44 IST
Ayesha Banerjee
Ayesha Banerjee
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

She met him after making her debut in Hindi movies with Abodh and they have remained together for 25 years. One of the most well known secretaries (producer, director and writer too) in the film world, Rikku Rakesh Nath, has been an integral part of her life, admits actor Madhuri Dixit. “It is great to have someone take care of all the dates, fix appointments with the directors and producers and other people who want to meet you. It is difficult for an actor to keep track of everything going on,” says the film star.

Rikku has also had a good run with actors Ranjeeta Kaur, Pakistani actor Salma Agha, Anil Kapoor, the Shirodkar sisters – Namrata and Shilpa – Ameesha Patel and Kangana Ranaut, fixing dates for shoots and appointments, networking for them… the works.

No, it was not a ‘filmi’ background that got him here. “I belong to a semi-army family, which was also into farming and based in Hoshiarpur, Punjab,” is how Rikku puts it. A big fan of Dharmendra, he had rushed to meet the actor when the star visited his town, “and he told me I should come to Bombay.”

A national basketball player, Rikku was in a sports college in Jalandhar and completed his studies before making a move to entertainment city. That was in 1970 and he had dreams of making a movie. “I had brought about R3lakh from home and in nine months I had spent all of it – mind you, it was big money in those days. My struggle started then and at times I was really tempted to give it all up and go back home,” he says.

Then there was a small break in 1975 when a colleague recommended his name to Ranjeeta Kaur. He worked with her till she got married, and then had successful stints with Kapoor for 18 years, actor Salma Agha, singer Adnan Sami, and a number of other stars. The connections helped too. He wrote for the movie Dil Tera Ashiq in 1993, directed Mohabbat in 1997 and produced Gaja Gamini in 2000. “Today I am also doing events. I organise all the events for the singer Sukhwinder.”

So does he have any regrets? None whatsoever. “Madhuri, Namrata, Shilpa… they call and they are still family to me,” says Rikku. On the responsibilities of a secretary, he says they have to basically do field work to get their employers good roles. “However, we have to remember that we deal with people who are artistes, very creative people. They come with their own karma and shape their own careers. A secretary can only guide the star if he feels a wrong decision is being made or try and correct his and her plan of action. Nobody can make anybody successful, nobody can influence someone else’s destiny. It’s like a relationship between a child and parents. You can guide your children… but nothing more than that?”

Given a choice, he says, “I will always be there for Madhuri… For 25 years I have been taking care of her, doing her promos, deciding on the costumes, telling her if her make-up is right or wrong, deciding and getting the best for her,” he says.

The man says he believes in destiny. “I do not have a godfather, but I have my god. I have never been without work.”

And the changes? “In my time artists were more sincere, now I think people are opportunistic and focused only on money. I remember how we used to celebrate when Madhuri’s films, Saajan, Mrityudand, Sangeet were successful. It makes me very happy today that I had suggested that she do the movies,” he says.

Where Dixit is concerned, Rikku has been indispensable. “One needs a support system,” she says, adding “and I have always had my family’s and Rikku’s support. He used to handle my dates, talk to producers, and keep all pressures off my back.”

What's it about?
Film actors’ secretaries are responsible for making their employers’ lives easy and building up their star image. From handling all communications to vetting calls to lining up producers or directors to giving an opinion on the roles offered to the actor – secretaries do a lot for their employers, depending on their efficiency levels. Secretarial skills, PR skills, event management skills – everything works in this business

Clock Work
7am: Wake up, rush to sets where the actor is shooting
8am: Reach sets, ensure everything is in place and that the actor has had her breakfast. Have a brief discussion with make-up person. Call up the designer to find out when the costumes are arriving
11am: Shooting begins. Wait
2pm: Break for lunch, ensure actor is taken care of and then leave sets to go to actor’s office to meet journalist enquiring about reports related to the actor’s health circulating in the media
3pm: Journalist’s briefing ends, meet movie producer X to discuss a film offering
5pm: Visit sets again to see how the shoot is progressing
6pm: Call designer to convey actor’s displeasure over the colour of the sari she has to wear for a scene
7pm: Take advantage of the break to discuss new project with star. Explain why she should not take it up as it is not something that will impact her image positively
9pm: Leave for auditorium where the actor is to perform for a show next month. Fix up rehearsal timings

The Payoff
That depends on who you work for. Some people have fixed monthly salaries and others have a fixed percentage every month. It depends on an actor’s income capacity and on his success. So, it is about 10 per cent of what the star earns (some give a reduced amount). “Some actors can be extremely large hearted. A few of them have not changed over the years and realise that god has been kind to them. It’s a known fact. If someone is loyal to you you be loyal to him,” says Bhaskar Shetty

Skills
. Good communication skills
. Good networking and PR skills
. Good knowledge of films
. Strong on ethics
. Good listener, with ability to calm temper tantrums and handle a crisis like a scandal, etc

How do i get there?
You can take up arts or science in Class 10 or 11. A secretarial course helps. Graduate and postgraduate degrees add to your capacity to earn but a PR degree or diploma should be mandatory. An interest in films, ability to understand and empathise with people, brand building and management will help you perform do your job efficiently

Institutes & urls
. Postgraduate diploma in public relations and marketing, New Delhi YMCA
Institute for Media Studies and Information Technology www.newdelhiymca.org/institute-media-information-technology.htm
. PG Diploma in public relations, Indira Gandhi National Open University, (IGNOU), Delhi
www.ignou.ac.in/ignou/aboutignou/school
. Social communications media course, Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai
www.sophiacampus.com/
. Diploma course in public relations and corporate communication,
. Xavier Institute of Communication, St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai
www.xaviercomm.org/diploma-courses/courses-pr.htm

Pros & cons


.

You are part of a star’s success story. That can be a great feeling


.

Association with the rich and the famous helps. Your contacts can help you move to bigger things like directing and producing films. Some secretaries have also gone on to manage events and celebrities


.

The film world is full of insecure people and successes too are short-lived. Often, that can be very disillusioning

Stars get fatigued, stressed out too

You have to be the soothing balm, says Bhaskar Shetty

How did you join the film world?
I come from a very middle-class family and worked in the hospitality industry abroad before I came to India for a holiday and got an offer from a friend to work as production executive in the movie Vishnu Deva. More movies followed and along the way I started looking after Urmila Matondkar, followed by Anupam Kher - we have been together for 19 years - Mahima Chaudhary, Celina Jaitley, Suniel Shetty, Manoj Bajpai, Rajpal Yadav, Lara Dutta, John Abraham, Rituparna Sengupta

How was it managing someone like, say, John Abraham? How do you take care of star tantrums and nakhras?
Very easy. He is a very normal person. During our association he came across as a very good soul and very human, someone who loved his family a lot. I have been very lucky to work with people who do not throw tantrums. They were good with me and good with others too. When I feel someone is not doing something right I have spoken to them and they have listened.

Please tell us something about the work you do?
It’s more of PR work and I was lucky because I had a background in hospitality as it teaches you the language you need to learn in this industry for communicating with the producers and directors. A secretary has to ensure that the actor gets along amicably with the producer and director and they get along in tandem with each other. He has to ensure the actor’s work gets over on time and does not get held up or delayed by the actor. Do not give any scope to your employer to be misunderstood or misunderstand you. One has to ensure the actor is treated in a nice, human way. At times, they are pressured by the work overload, timings, the environment, the climate. When they are hurt you apply the balm, soothe their feelings. One should be like a father figure or like a big brother to an actor.

Bhaskar Shetty, who has been secretary to Anupam Kher, John Abraham interviewed by Ayesha Banerjee

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