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Bollywood: Down gambling lanes

No movie boss ever went diwaliya on Diwali.. although show town does assume a Las Vegas-neon-hue during the festive week. Khalid Mohamed on the festive card nites in show city.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2008 18:50 IST
Khalid Mohamed
Khalid Mohamed
Hindustan Times

No movie boss ever went


on Diwali.. although show town does assume a Las Vegas-neon-hue during the

festive week. Suddenly, more card packs are shuffled in Juhuwood than they are in the pokey taash-patta dives of Grant Road or Goregaon.


teen patti, patni aur

woe time as tinsel wives serve chicken lollies, paneer fries and


of mushroom. And their men smoke up cumulous clouds, down Johnnie Blacks and laugh-laugh (if luck’s percolating) or grunt-grunt (if not), all in remixed Dolby sound.

I mean, the chips could pay for a less fortunate family’s upkeep for a lifetime. But come on, ’tis not the time to see red. Enjoy, enjoy, chill, go for the gambling kill till there’s cash in the till.

Oho, I suspect that I’ve started on the wrong foot — my forte. If Diwali card parties of the season are not my trip, might as well shut up and go with the diya-lit flow. Glow soft , baby, glow soft.

Micro-confession. Always have, born under the sign of Taurus, but alas more owlish than bullish.

Must have been a wee toddler when I would hang around in a concatenation of ritzy rooms in the Darshan Apartment Enclave on Mount Pleasant Road (ahem, make that Malabar Hill, guys). Family friend Yash Johar, more supreme than life, would host these card parties at Sunder Waney’s residence.

Waney produced a Marathi movie, was the sweetest guy I can remember. His greeting. “Hi o kiddo” had the taste of Kit Kat. And of course, there was Yash Johar, when Karan wasn’t even conceived.

Matinee idol Shekhar — look up Google, he may have found a spot there — was the good guy hero who featured in bad movies which flopped. Waney, Shekhar, Johar, oomphy actress Sheila Ramani and actor Shashi Rekhi aka Kanwaljeet, who was to marry Waheeda Rehman, were there. With smoking chimney 555s, on-the-rocks Johnnie and paisley card packs on Diwali.

We kids, Gulu Waney and I, were quite cheery when the not-so-prosperous Shekhar triumphed at the rummy sessions. And a little joke has stuck. Whenever the losers assembled at Shekhar’s less showy home, in the same Darshan apartments, they would look hard at the new curtains and rile him, “Aah, that’s what you bought with last night’s winnings.”

Yashji would cover up Shekhar’s embarrassment by butting in, “So, who wants a refill?”Yash Johar was my first and best lesson in Diwali etiquette.

Maybe I just don’t have that Great Gambler look on my rather Ali-in-wonderland face, but have never been invited to the card marathons of chums Rishi Kapoor, Rakesh Roshan, Jeetendra, Prem Chopra and (late) Sujit Kumar. They are the closest parallel to the Ocean’s 11/12/13 pack, this side of the Suez.

Auspiciously, there’s never been tumult over who wins, who loses. Sujit Kumar may be no more but the pack prevails. From earsay, Jeetendra’s the sharpest of the lot, making more bucks on nights than the revenues from Ekta Kapoor’s serials. Kkool.

Amitabh Bachchan’s Diwali parties are a test for the catering service hired for the event. Penguin-like waiters, in black-and-white, stand vigilant with kababs and those ubiquitous mushrooms. No one plays seriously.. it’s a game of networking out there.

Ram Gopal Varma gatecrashes, on occasion. There was a point when the Bs weren’t wild about him, he crashed, was given the oh-well treatment, offered his vodka-soda fix.

Cut to the next Diwali, the Bs and Varma are thicker than bricks. Cards are decked, the scent of mogra and chameli garlands is in the air.. but after midnight, the PR web disintegrates.

Everyone.. except Mr B (and Mr V) take to the floor. Some are disconcerted with the choice of dance music — Shubha Mudgal, even Abida Parveen — but never you mind, it’s the venue, shake a leg, wag a win, if only to check out the catering.

Everyone, indeed, plays cards — be it movie stars, ad execs or just the families-next-door. But if you ask me, nothing compares to gaping, with the roundest eyes, at Shekhar, Yash Johar, Shashi Rekhi and Mr Bhatija at Darshan Apartments.

And riling dear, dear Shekhar — where is he, pray? — about his curtains. Sufficient reason for me to say, Diwali taash-patti is but just a game.But then,what isn’t? Happy D.

First Published: Oct 24, 2008 12:37 IST