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Despite widespread philandering, marriages in Bollywood survive for various reasons
Actress Deepti Naval sips a cup of tea at the Oceania café in Hotel Searock at Bandra on a cloudy Wednesday morning. I am meeting with her to talk about marriages in Bollywood, which has come into the spotlight, following the suicide of actor Navin Nischol’s wife Gitanjali.
Naval, who is dressed in a white T-shirt and jeans and leather heels, had been married to director Prakash Jha for six years “on paper but we lived together for just one and a half years.” After that, Jha moved off to Delhi while Naval remained behind in Mumbai. There is a daughter, Disha, (18), who flits between both parent’s homes. “When I was younger, I wanted more attention,” she says, explaining the reasons behind the break-up. “It was difficult for me to understand the things that drove him. We parted without a single scene of shouting at each other. It was traumatic, not at the time of the break-up, but afterwards. If I had married Prakash ten years later, when I was more mature, I would have made an absolute go of it.”
But she says she has no regrets and that is obvious from her easy smile and glowing face. “Today, Prakash and I are the best of friends and have a wonderful equation,” she says.
There are other couples who have a good equation: Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan; Rishi and Neetu Kapoor; Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and Sharmila Tagore; Anil and Tina Munim; Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi. “It is not that they have all had smooth marriages,” says Tabassum, former actor and television host. “There have been rough patches but that is there in every life.” But some marriages have failed to survive the rough patches: Boney and Mona Kapoor; Randhir and Babita Kapoor; Rajesh and Dimple Khanna; Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh, to name a few.
The problem in Bollywood is that men and women are thrown into close proximity because of the nature of the profession. “It is natural when you are in the company of your ‘beautiful’ co-stars, the forbidden fruit syndrome comes into play,” says director Mahesh Bhatt, by phone from Goa.
Says an effervescent Pretti Jaiin, at a Barista outlet in Versova: “If a husband and wife are working in Bollywood, both would be meeting good-looking people all the time. The possibility of getting attracted elsewhere is that much higher, and the chances of the marriage surviving is difficult.”
So what happens when a wife discovers that the husband is sleeping around? “Some wives do not want to jeopardise the sense of security, the emotional link, the children, the property, the lifestyle and the power,” says Bhatt. “So, they prefer to deal with a philandering husband rather than opt out and choose a life of oblivion and a scaled down lifestyle. Some wives hope that the erring husband will come to his senses.”
Jaiin feels most wives develop an apathy after a while. “Initially, they might have fought over the philandering but after a while, when the husband does not stop, they just get tired,” she says. “I have seen pain in the eyes of a lot of married women in Bollywood.”
Naval tells a story of the wife of a philandering star, who was intelligent and independent. If she wanted, she could have walked out but she didn’t. “For a few years I lost respect for her but later when I matured I realised she was wiser,” says Naval. “Because, to destroy a family, to let the children let their lives go haywire, was too much of a price to pay. Wives stick around because they feel they are the fulcrum of a marriage. To shake the institution just because her husband is having an affair is not worth it.”
So, it is clear marriages in Bollywood are under different types of pressures, as compared to other marriages. “In normal marriages, there is so much of sharing with each other,” says Hema Malini. “Right from the time you get up and have tea or coffee together, then you send your husband for work, wait for him to return and then go out in the evenings. My brothers and their wives have such good marriages. I don’t think this happens in Bollywood.”
So what is Hema Malini’s advice to a young woman who is planning to get married to somebody from Bollywood? “Wives should try to be better looking than the heroines the husband is meeting all the time,” she says. “When he comes home, she has to be nice to him, no fighting or nagging, so he is no longer interested in going out anywhere. There should also be unconditional love, which young women don’t seem to have these days.”