He was one debutante who did not have to plead for a cover. After all, he was the son of the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Vilasrao Deshmukh.
That’s how I came to be at Varsha, the CM’s bungalow, passing through a metal detector, then, being escorted to where Ritesh (now Riteish for numerological reasons) waited.
A trained architect, he had taken friends, family and the film fraternity by surprise when he switched lanes with the Hindi remake of a Telugu hit, Nuvve Kaavali.
What surprised me was that the hero-to-be admitted that Tujhe Meri Kasam was a “faithful remake”.
He acknowledged that 20 minutes into the original, he had switched off because he didn’t understand a word of what was being said.
When he told the director, Vijaya Bhaskar, this, he was invited down to Hyderabad for a script narration.. “I was moved by the simplicity of the characters and knew that I had play Rishi. “It was a chance to relive my college days.. do all that I had always wanted to do without the fear of being caught and punished,” Riteish smiled, saying that he had been a rather shy collegian who had never played pranks on his professors or eyed his neighbour’s beautiful friend.
He still seemed like a quiet, well-behaved boy, I told him. With a flash of wry humour he quipped, “I’m well aware that I’m the Chief Minister’s son.. I had better behave myself.”
Soon after I left, passing through the same metal detector, back to my car where my chauffeur waited, excited after spending an hour at the CM’s bungalow.
He had even caught a glimpse of the mukhya mantri as he returned home for lunch. I noticed a new-found respect in his eyes. And all because of an interview with the CM’s son!
Tujhe Meri Kasam released along with the star-studded Kaante. The hype surrounding the latter waned after the first week. Riteish’s little big film completed a jubilee run. The CM’s son was suddenly as popular as him.
Over the years, I’ve bumped into him occasionally. And noted that success didn’t make Riteish starry.
He never came to functions with his father. Knowing that the flashbulbs would be turned on him, he preferred to make a quiet entry, before or after, slipping into a back seat instead of taking the front row.
In time, he moved from the audience to the stage. First, it was to pick up awards, then to entertain the gathering with specially written acts.
He had a flair for comedy, everyone agreed on that. His couple caper with Boman Irani at a film function was a riot.
But the memory that makes me smile is of Riteish, standing in the wings, nervously chewing on his nails, as he
prepared to match steps to a patriotic song for an Independence Day special. A song he must have heard many times as the CM’s son.
A month ago, one of my younger colleagues returned from an interview with him. She told me that when she tried to prod him for details of a film whose shoot was in progress, he politely excused himself, strolled over to the director, took his permission to speak on the subject and returned to continue with the interview.
It’s been six years. Riteish today is no longer the CM’s son. But he still believes that he had better behave himself.
Email author: roshmila.bhattacharya@ hindustantimes.com