One moment, one decision changes an entire life…
As I sit back, with The Five Foolish Virgins in press, I look back and recognize the moment I decided to write books. I call it Madhubala moment. It had to do with Nari (Magna) Hira’s decision to start Magna Books. Having had spent over 15 years, I had got bored with freelance journalism. I wanted a challenge.
I sent a one line fax to Hira: Would you be interest in a biography of Madhubala as your first book?
I was doing a Henry Miller. Henry Miller had written a book on the life of Marilyn Monroe. Monroe had died young. She had, among her lovers, John F Kennedy the handsome President of United States. Madhubala too had died young. Among the men who wooed her was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who had become the Prime Minister of Pakistan for four years.
Hira didn’t waste time in accepting the offer. And my first book – rather the first unauthorized Bollywood biography in India – was born. All hell broke loose when the book came out. I had written extensively about her love life, her secret ailment and the beautiful person that Madhubala was. Her sister challenged my version and I could give her a fitting reply. She wrote (in Mid-day) that they were Khans and I had called them Dehlavis. I had started my research, interviews and investigation from the mazaar of Madhubala, and knowing Urdu had reproduced her complete name from the inscription in stone on her mazaar: Mumtaz Jahan Begum Dehlavi!
I wrote that, “It didn’t really matter whether she was Dehlavi or Khan…She had carved a place for herself as Madhubala…and her family should call themselves Madhubalavi with pride.”
Controversies followed ‘Simply Scandalous: Meena Kumari’ and ‘Eurekha’ too.
After ‘Eurekha’ hit the stands and Rekha started helplessly pulling her hair, distancing herself from the person I said she was, I wrote an open letter to Rekha, challenging her to sue me if I was wrong. She didn’t. Every skeleton from her life – every man in her life (from Kiran Kumar to Amitabh Bachchan and of course both her marriages (please note the plural) and her relationship with her secretary – figured in the biography.
My ‘Nehru and the Tantrik Woman’ faced censor trouble. Set in the dark days of emergency period, this was a historical-fictional play about the illegitimate child of Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru’s child was the reality, and the story about his search was fiction. Maharashtra State has a censor board for plays. You can’t stage a play without this certificate. They decline to issue a certificate. I persisted. They organized a meeting at Pune. I took a 25 kg box of notes, books and photo-copies to show my research. They admired my efforts but didn’t read any document. Their argument was simple, “Okay, it is true. We are not disputing it. We can’t allow you to stage it as it can cause law and order problem.”
Further argument was unnecessary.
I was disgusted. My disgust remains. This is why, I have written a novel. Pure fiction. Total fiction. Any resemblance to person or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.