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I'm no marriage thief: Shiney Ahuja

He's knocked out quite a few likeable performances. Yet he's distant from the media. So what's he like? Shiney Ahuja bares all as he talks to Khalid Mohamed.

entertainment Updated: Feb 22, 2008 12:45 IST

This is a fact-finding trip. He has knocked out quite a few lifelike, impressive performances and he has that gentle-cum-tough Dharmendraish presence. And yet he is as distant from the media as Andheri Lokhandwala is from Addis Ababa. So what's he like, up close and private? Zoom over to Shiney Ahuja in a coffee and cream cake inter-exchange with Khalid Mohamed

Everyone's talking movies at a hotel foyer cafe. It's inhabited by producers, directors, David-sized stars and Goliathan superstars. Inconspicuous by my presence, I've blended into a glass-window corner. The menu's taller than an oak tree.. shortly I negotiate a fork over a big butterscotch cake-chunk topped by tidal waves of sweet cream. Life's beautiful.

Half-an-hour behind the appointed time - punctuated by SMS apologies about ‘burban traffic - he's fixed with a fruit cocktail. I detect that he has a smile that surely belongs to dental hygiene ads. It's a killer. He's in a blingy T-shirt, hang-loose trousers and a sliver of apprehension - is this guy (me) a meethi chhuri or what?

I attempt my expressionless wonder look, not difficult. Vibes, for me, are positive. Shiney Ahuja's a regular guy, he could well have been a whirlpool-eyed kid who grew up in front of me, and still doesn't comb his mop of hair. Running a finger-comb through my own locks, I wonder out aloud:

Shiney, if I were to ever write your biography, where could I start?
You mean we're doing an interview? (Smiles helplessly.. awww) I wasn't prepared for that. Where do we start? (Diligently) My father, a colonel retired in '93. We lived in Lucknow, Ranchi, Delhi.. at Dhaula Kuan, then Noida. Dad's ancestry goes back to the Afghans, he's from Saiwal which is now in Pakistan. My mum's from Shimla, her family originated from Sargoda, also in Pakistan now.

<b1>There were two of us kids, Shweta and I. Dad challenged me to get 70 per cent at my school exams, promising to buy me a bike if I did. I got 76 per cent. But 85 per cent was the cut-off point for Delhi's Hansraj College.

I tried for admission via the dramatics quota. I did a monologue,

Ashwathama

from the

Mahabharata

, I was taken in. I completed my B.Com from the college.



You a B.Com graduate?


(Flashes that smile paradiso) I haven't had to show my degree in the film industry so far.



What were you like as a kid?

Hyperactive, my

taai

would call me

khabula

keeda

, an insect that never stops moving. I drove a car even before I was a teenager.



You never minded your name.. Sh..ii..ney?

No, I'd be asked about it by the school kids. I was in my own world.

Mr Natwarlal

was the first film I ever saw. And then I read

On Acting

by Sanford Meiser. I worked with Barry John whose most important lesson was that an actor must evolve on his own.



Then?

I modelled for Pepsi, Cadbury's Dairy Milk.. I came down to Bombay, stayed at Kemp's Corner for a while with a family friend. My only struggle was that it took three years for my first film (

Hazaaron Khwaishen Aisi

) to be released. It was as if I was dying of thirst, hunger..



You were to do

Dil Chahta Hai

... right?


I auditioned for the role.. which Akshaye Khanna did.



And I heard that you were quite a lady killer.. with three girls fawning over you at the same time during the shooting of

Hazaaron

.. at the Delhi University.


(MAJOR pause) I don't remember this at all.



So who was the first love of your life?


Fortunately.. (smiley).. my wife.

I don't even know her maiden name

.


Anupam Pande.



What is this mystery-to-the-media woman like?


Beautiful. She's five feet six inches tall. She was a garment designer, she had a store in Delhi's Hauz Khas village.



Where did you first meet her?


At a place where people who get married don't usually meet. At the opening of the Fireball disco at Mehrauli. Ha, she dances better than I do, though I'm better at Punjabi numbers.

It started out as who's-this-cutechick-she-looks-intelligent. Let's see where this goes.

So, who's more intelligent?
Sectionally.. in some matters, I am. I go by vibes, no one can trick me. But overall, Anu's far more analytical than I am.

How long did you woo her?
Two to three years. We knew we were in love.

Define love, chum.
Love is about being with her all the time. She was my support system. Though I'd won all the Sensational Newcomer Awards, after Hazaaron.. there was no curiosity about me.

That happened only after Gangster. Meanwhile, her work kept her commuting between Bombay and New York, ours was a long-distance marriage. The phone bills were huge.. (bashfully) thankfully, her company paid.

<b3>Why did you keep your marriage a secret?
I didn't. It was assumed I was single. Was I expected to wear sindoor? I wore my wedding ring but no one noticed. Then a journalist asked me about the ring and I said yes, "I'm married." Should I have worn a T-shirt saying, "Hi, I'm Shiney.. and I'm married"? But I was made out to be some sort of a marriage thief.

When I said my wife was on work in America, it was presumed that we had divorced! I couldn't contradict that because I was in Korea shooting. When all this secret marriage and divorce stuff came out, I was fuming. Anu was chilled out though. She has also worked as a corporate executive, she knows about marketing and PR. She said, "These stories don't matter."

What's she doing now?
Anu isn't working right now. Our daughter.. Arshiya.. is just four-and-a-half-months-old.

What about the reports linking you with your Kal director Ruchi Narain?
Imagine, that so-called report came out on our wedding anniversary day. Anu didn't react, she never has.. whenever I've been connected with girls, guys.. Kangana (Ranaut), every heroine I've worked with.

Believe me, love isn't for sharing. (Eyeing the cake before me) Unfaithfulness would be like that pastry, I wouldn't eat it because I know it's for just two minutes. I'd regret it later.



Now tell me, what was all that about your car race with Akshay Kumar?

Your BMW ended up being smashed. I was driving from the location, the Chomu Palace, back to Jaipur.. when a Honda Accord kept trying to overtake me. Akshay was having fun.. I didn't know it was him.. I backed up and let the Honda speed ahead. There was no smash.



Your role in

Bhool Bhulaiyya

wasn't cut?


Haaaaa, haaaa, just because of that race? No, it wasn't.



How come you ended up doing a micro-mini role in

Fanaa

?


Because my character's name was Suraj Ahuja.. which is my dad's name. The film didn't do me any harm.

Have any of your performances been underrated?

Gangster

. There is a certain strength and searching in that performance. The scene where I beat up Emraan Hashmi has a raw power, it has a mix of emotions.



I'd beat up Mr Hashmi for his kissing scenes.


(Neutral smile)



What's your take on kissing scenes?

I only act, I don't kiss.. yeah but there was

Sins

.. it was a terrific script but then..



Go ahead.. finish the sentence..


(Shrugs)



Aren't you much too politically correct?

Aaaam I? I'd like to think that I'm honest, professionally and personally. Mine is a perfectly normal marriage, I'm a perfectly normal dad.. Right now I'd love to get back to my baby.. on one condition.



Which is?

(Male Dixit smile's back) That I can pay the bill for the cake you haven't eaten.



(Looking around) Bill please! Bill, bill!



Story so far..

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi

(2003),

Sins

(2005),

Karam

(2005),

Kal

: Yesterday and Tomorrow (2005),

Fanaa

(2006),

Gangster

(2006),

Woh

Lamhe

(2006),

Zindaggi Rocks

(2006),

Life in a... Metro

(2007),

Bhool Bhulaiyaa

(2007),

Khoya

Khoya

Chand

(2007)



Coming up


Har Pal

(2008),

Hijack

(2008),

Aur Devdas

(2008), Untitled film on biking (2008)