March 30, 2011
You don’t have to remind your feet to stop when you spot a certain Ms. Kareena Kapoor sitting in the front seat of a jeep in front of you. They just freeze voluntarily.
It was one of the rare moments when the boundaries between the two different but virtually co existing cities seem to dissolve. Terribly clichéd, but a couple of months into the city, and you realize it is true- the schizophrenic nature of Mumbai. There are two faces of this city. The one which we all have images of in our minds- the most happening place of the country, with loads of filmy action, celebrities, upper class life style and all the glamour and glitz of a cosmopolitan life, and it does exist, but all behind the high and closed walls. Just a look at the newspaper every morning, and all you find are the tit bits about numerous filmy parties, exhibitions, fashion events, derby races, celebrities catching up for a movie at a multiplex or a brunch at a food joint and what not. Why could I not have been at the same multiplex where a certain Mr Khan and Ms Kapoor were watching a movie. Afterall, there are no special multiplexes for celebrities! Or why could not a certain Mr Kapoor and Ms. Kaif have been spotted at the airport at the same time as me! But no, this does not happen usually. The star studded life does exist, but it lies beyond the eyes of the people other than those who are either one of them, or filthy rich. Case in point being the recent Fashion week, wherein the media painted such a picture of the town, with all the national and international celebrities flocking up in Mumbai, visiting malls, beaches and places, but on stepping out in the city, one could rarely spot anything unusual, as all the action takes place in certain places like the big J.W. Mariott kind of hotels. With all the starry images of Mumbai in the mind, one is actually quite gullible to be disappointed to bits with the first impression of Mumbai, since it does not offer you its starriness in-your-face.
But it sure does, in some time, say a couple of months. The other day while visiting the Oberoi mall in Goregaon for the third time, spotted the yesteryear star Jackie Shroff coming out of a restaurant. And he did not earn anything more than a handful of glances from the surrounding people. (That’s okay, given the old and jaded star, that he is!) Similarly, on a Sunday afternoon, while munching on the Chinese platter in the High Street Phoenix Mall, I saw a dude who felt so familiar, that I guessed he must be an actor. And was proved right by a girl sitting next to me as she whispered to her friend, hey see that’s Dr. Armaan – Dill Mill Gaye wala! Sure. But the first one for me was Omkar Das, better known as Nattha of Peepli Live, who was my fellow traveler on a Mumbai-Delhi flight. My Uncle and Aunt, who live in a locality near Borivali, recite several instances of star-spotting, and that it is a norm for those who live there. With time, I suppose one seeps in more and more into the city and gets to see both the faces to some extent. My Aunt told me funny stories about her neighbor, a middle aged lady, who is a junior artist and had got to ‘stand’ in so many scenes which required a crowd, like death, wedding, rallies or any party sequence. The most notable being the funeral sequence of John Abraham in the movie Babul, where she proudly got to stand just next to Amitabh bachchan. Uncle also had once got an invite to attend the premier of a Bhojpuri movie, which they didn’t, but they did become a part of the studio audience in grand finale of the comedy show ‘Hans Baliye’ , which had Karisma kapoor as the guest.
But of course, Kareena, on the Aksa beach remains my luckiest sight till now. The Aksa beach is about half an hour by bus from Malad. In the early morning hours, Malad reminded me of my very own Subah-e-Banaras, with a hanuman temple at the cross road , a peepal tree and the snack joints ready with their yummy junks, labours, vendors all gearing up with their street shops, except that you won’t find a truck full of dead and bloody sea animals there in banaras. Being a KFC addict, this might be a tad hypocritical of me, but the sight (and the smell!) of crabs, prawns, fish, with some even showing some last fleeting signs of life was very unpleasant. The people were not, as I had no problem in finding the bus stand and the correct bus. True to its fame, Aksa beach is beautiful, with all the rocks and mountains and trees and crevices and holes filling and de-filling with sea water, way from the all the urban distractions situated in an almost village kind of ambience, (though a number of resorts and hotels have grown up here now) it is very unlike its counterparts in Juhu, Dadar etc, and ofcourse much cleaner. There is a navy base nearby and hence choppers are seen and heard frequently in the sky. I saw some kind of shoot going on the beach, with a long-legged beautiful girl in tiny-winy pink skirt striking poses, side, back. They’re shooting for an ad of Boro Plus, I am told. So the girl is the lead model? Naah, that would be Kareena Kapoor. Whoa! My spirits brightened up at the thought of seeing her up close, as there wasn’t a major crowd on the beach either. So I stayed there overtime, waiting. But it was 2 hours and seeing no sign of her, I decided to leave. And as I stepped on the road, I saw her. And for next hour, saw her, quite a clear view and with her smiling and swinging her hair, with a boro plus tube in her hands. Seeing as there were very few people, and to my surprise, a lot of them appeared to be not affected at all, but she didn’t stop for autograph or pic. A wave and a smile was all we got. Interestingly, a unit guy told that the back and side profiles, i.e all those which did not cover her face, that were done by an extra model wearing the same clothes and having the same body structure (the pretty lass in pink), and Ms. Kapoor just gave her face shots! Did she look as beautiful as on screen? You bet she did! I am not much of a Kareena fan, but undoubtedly, that was definitely one of the most beautiful faces I had ever seen in real!
Beauty was also what I could see all around, while sailing on the Arabian Sea, in a ship to the Elephanta caves. For 135 Rupees, it was quite a beautiful ship, and more over filled with beautiful women from all around the world. Most beautiful were the French, with their elegance and so feminine air! Sitting on the upper deck of the ship, it was a very picturesque scene, the Gateway of India, the Taj and a fleet of ships all in line with each other. the kind of scene which you would try to capture in your camera umpteen number of times but only to your dissatisfaction. The buildings began to get smaller and after about half an hour all one could see was a small line of color on the shores. And after fifteen minutes more, there was nothing all around but water. And it came to my mind, water,water all around, but not a drop to drink, which funnily was true here in more than one way!
The island was preceded by a number of settlements in the sea of an oil refinery. The huge structures, pipelines, bridges in the mighty depth of sea were astonishing to say the least, and challenging my knowledge of civil engineering! The elephanta caves were decent, with most eye catching sculptures being the live ones only! The caves were albeit at a height, which was reached by stairs, and that had sprouted a full grown market there. There was also the facility of a ‘palki’ kind of a thing, to which the foreigners were being attracted to by the likes of ‘ Go like a Maharaani madam’! Among the caves at a place of shade, many people were taking rest and meals, and dogs were hovering around. This sight of Indians and dogs together apparently appeared quite interesting to the foreigners, as many were taking pictures around them. The caves had the usual stories of Indian mythology. A case of selling ice to Eskimos, perhaps, for us!
Like the local, the BEST buses also play a pivotal role in sustaining the motion of this never stopping city. The discipline at display with them is really commendable. The bus stops fashion a perfect queue always, and if you by any chance stand interrupting the queue, be prepared to receive more than just dirty looks. At the arrival of bus, if the seats get full, unless someone has a real urgency, they actually wait for the next bus instead of clogging inside. And obviously, there is no stoppage other than the marked stops. An aberration from the previous buses I observed was a t.v. installed in the bus this time, showing songs. Though with all the traffic noise, it would actually be suitable for showing the old silent movies, but since when did sound become necessary to enjoy a bollywood number! Salman Khan was trying to woo Priyanka Chopra, with Sohail Khan interrupting at every point.
‘Tujhe Aksa beach ghuma doon, Aa chalti kya? ‘
After my experience, I think nobody should say no to that!