Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A Cross-Cultural Love

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn

Pony Verma talks about life with the actor Prakash Raj

By Shevlin Sebastian 

Telugu film director Puri Jagannadh gave a CD of his film, ‘Amma Nanna O Tamila Ammayi’, to Bollywood choreographer Pony Verma, so that she could have an idea of the films he had directed before. While watching it, Pony was much taken up by the acting of a 70-year-old man.  

When Pony asked Puri, who was having a chat with superstar Nagarjuna, about the old man, both of them started laughing.

Then Puri said, “He is not that old, but he plays old characters. He is the Shaan of South India. His name is Prakash Raj.”

Sometime later, for the Tamil film, 'Ponniyin Selvam', Pony was asked to do a song with Prakash. The producer told Pony that with great difficulty he had got the dates from Prakash, and that too for one night only.

But Pony did not take an entire night. Instead, she took only four hours and told Prakash, “Sir, it is pack-up time.”

Prakash said, “Are you sure?”

Pony said, “Yes, I have finished all your work.”

Prakash was obviously impressed because when the legendary director K. Balachander was looking for a new choreographer for his Tamil film, ‘Poi’, in which Prakash was the producer, he recommended Pony’s name.

Pony flew to Kandy in Sri Lanka to shoot the song's sequence with Uday Kiran the hero, and that was where Prakash and she grew close. They remained in touch after the shoot was over. “After a while the friendship turned to love,” says Pony.

During this time Prakash was going through his divorce from his wife Lalitha.

Soon, Prakash proposed to Pony. Thereafter, he flew to Mumbai and met Pony’s parents. “He said, ‘I have two daughters [Pooja, 18, and Meghana, 8] and can never leave them. They are my priority’,” says Pony. “My family liked his honesty. They knew our friendship had been going on for a while.”

The wedding, according to Arya Samaj rites, took place on August 24, 2010, at Mumbai. While Prakash is a Kannadiga from Bangalore, Pony is a Punjabi Hindu. At the reception in Mumbai, Pony’s high point was when Bollywood actress Sreedevi walked in with her husband, Boney Kapoor.

I am a big fan of Sreedevi,” says Pony. “So I was star-struck at my own wedding. I could never imagine that a star like Sreedevi would come. She shook my hand and said, ‘Congrats, and have a happy life’.”

Indeed, Pony has had a happy life. When asked about Prakash’s plus points, she says, “The most beautiful thing about Prakash is that he is a family man. When my father was admitted to the hospital, in Chennai, he made sure he was present, even though he is an extremely busy man.”

Prakash also likes to take holidays with the entire family. On July, 2013, he took his mother, daughters, Pony’s dad, brother, wife and two children, apart from Pony, to Pattaya in Thailand. There he hired an entire ship and the family went to the middle of the ocean. “The journey was so peaceful, with the family, listening to music, having good food and enjoying the scenery,” says Pony. “We were speechless by the wonder of it.”

Sometimes, Prakash will give holidays to his friends, also. “He will say, ‘Oh, you have not been to Bangkok, then you must go,’ and will pay for the ticket and accommodation,” says Pony.

He is also a romantic at heart. Once during the Valentine season, he whisked Pony off to Agatti, in the Lakshadweep Islands. “We did underwater snorkeling, and enjoyed going for cycle rides,” says Pony. “The beaches are beautiful. It was [actor] Prithviraj who had suggested the place.”

At home, like most artists, Prakash is moody by nature. “He has a short temper,” says Pony. “If he is with somebody with whom he is not comfortable, he will make it obvious and would want that person to leave. This straightforwardness can be a drawback.”

But Pony has adjusted quickly. “Since I am in the same profession, I understand the pressures he is going through,” she says. “So when he returns from a shoot, I always give him the time and the space to be alone, so that he can unwind. And when I feel that he has become relaxed, only then will I start a conversation with him.” 

Sometimes, to unwind, they will go for long drives. In fact, when Pooja was studying at the Kodaikanal International School, Prakash and Pony would drive from Hyderabad or Chennai to meet her. It was a smooth and enjoyable ride because Prakash has an Audi. 

Asked whether the 12 year age-gap is a hindrance, Pony says, “In every relationship, whether there is an age gap or not, there are positives as well as negatives. You cannot escape it. So even if I had married a man of my age, I am sure there would have been minor issues. But you learn to compromise. Love is the emotion that will bind a marriage. Nothing else matters.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 

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