I’m sure a lot many kiddos must feel the same way about their "cool" daddies. Unless he is a Bollywood baddie. I remember Pran saab admitting to me once that at a time when he was basking in the glory of being Hindi cinema’s Khalnayak No 1, his children, Arvind, Sunil and Pinky, had plaintively asked him one day why he couldn’t turn good for a change. His image as one of India’s most-hated men, didn’t go down well with their school friends.
Soon after, Manoj Kumar approached him with Upkar, and the one-legged patriot, Malang Chacha, helped Pran saab redeem his reputation and become a hero. Not only in the eyes of his children, but those across the country too.
Kids have grown wiser since. Arjun Rampal recently told me that his daughters, Mahikaa and Myra, had asked mummy Mehr Jessia if he was a good or bad man in Raajneeti. “Bad,” Mehr quipped, taking the easy way out. “Why bad?” the kids prodded. “Because he has many girlfriends in the film,” she retorted. “That’s just acting,” they reassured her.
It is amusing to see tough guys turn into jelly where their little darlings are concerned. Before leaving for the Raavan premiere in London, Shah Rukh Khan had posted pictures with daughter Suhana on Twitter: “Daughter has dressed me up for the premier… the lip balm is her favourite make-up for me...i look like a handsome dad now”.
I remember Shah Rukh telling me once that he wished for a daughter who he could dress up in frilly socks and short skirts. She was dressed just like that at the Raavan premiere. He added, “And when she grows up, I’ll chauffeur her around so I can keep an eye on her boyfriend and her.” I can see him doing just that.
I’ve seen him strolling down the street in London, with Aryan and Suhana, on the way to Hyde Park. From my seat on top of the Big Bus, he looked like just another father, out to enjoy a boisterous game of ball with his kids, rather than the Baadshah of Bollywood.
During our last interview, I had stayed by the phone all day, willing it to ring. It was post 7 pm, when I got the message that I could call SRK. He was apologetic about the long wait: “Gauri left town this morning and I have been baby-sitting the kids all day.”
Jackie Shroff took a four-month sabbatical when his son Tiger was born so he could be a hands-on daddy. Soon after, he walked into Hotel Juhu Centuar for an award nite, Tiger cradled in his arms. A stand-offish security guard told him that children under 10 were not welcome. Jaggu dada almost stalked out. We assured him Tiger was very welcome. The baby slept through his dad’s prize moment!
Sanjay Dutt hates interviews. But doing them are my job. So I chased after him for two days and finally tracked him down to Film City. Sanju was sitting under a tree, looking cool. After a long and dusty ride on a hot summer day, I looked anything but cool.
“Can we start?” I almost snapped. “You mean you came all this way to get some quotes from me?” he asked, looking genuinely shocked. “Why? Write what you want, I won’t disagree. Why do you bother chasing after us actors? Have a baby, stay at home and enjoy your life.”
I had my baby, but I continued chasing stars. He remained a star, found his soul mate in Maanyata and by the end of the year, will be a father again. And will probably be telling more journos to stay at home. Papa mia!
PS: I’m happiest for Azaan, Adnan Sami’s 15-year-old son. One Father’s Day, years ago, he was sitting in class, staring at a blank sheet of paper, wondering what to draw for a dad he had never known. When he came home crying, his mom, Zeba Bakhtiar, picked up the phone and traced Adnan to a recording studio and arranged for him to meet his son. Today, he too probably says, “My daddy bestest!”