In a Filmfare exclusive, Boney Kapoor, for the first time, reveals his love for and and life with wife Sridevi. Farhana Farook listens to the romance that beat all odds.
Theirs was a marriage solemnized not exactly under 'normal' circumstances. A marriage viewed by much trepidation and skepticism. A marriage that raked in its own share of dust. Yet, it's a marriage that has survived 17 solid years, courtesy the dignity and grace that Sridevi and Boney Kapoor lent to it. "We trust each other; we're supportive of each other though most of the time the support is from her. Our love is too immense for ego to overpower," shares Boney.
A queen of a superstar, who perhaps gave tougher competition to her male counter parts between the '80s-'90s, Sridevi walked away from the razzmatazz to discover romance in being Boney's wife. Almost two decades of a widely scrutinized journey, Sridevi has emerged unscathed as a devoted homemaker. "Her priority remains our children - Arjun (Kapoor), Anshula, Jhanvi and Khushi. She's seen that the family remains together. She goes an extra mile for that," says Boney. For Sridevi, it was not only about walking several red carpets with her filmmaker husband, it was also about walking barefoot to temples for easing his afflictions.
It was not only about lining her home with priceless decor but nurturing love within its high walls. Post English Vinglish, she may have found a legion of fans in Gen-X but her oldest fan remains her husband. Someone who preserved the prints of her South film, long before she became the pride of Hindi cinema. And while she may have played several larger-than-life characters on reel, playing Sridevi Kapoor in real can be counted as her most textured take…
ON MY MIND…
Years before we did Mr India (1987), and [Sri did] Solva Saawan (1979), Sri was already a top star in Telugu and Tamil cinema, around 1979. I had seen her in a South film with Kamal Haasan. She had caught my eye and I was keen to cast her. I had even preserved the print of the film. But it was only in 1984 that I actually signed her for a film then titled Govinda (much before actor Govinda debuted in films), opposite my brother Anil [Kapoor]. It was to be directed by Bapu. We even had a mahurat [launch]. But the project fell through. Around that time, Javed Akhtar had the script of Mr India ready [perhaps the last script of Salim-Javed before they split]. Since I already had Sri's dates, we began working on Mr India. Her mother (the late Rajeshwari) managed her affairs and as per the norm, allotted me the dates. Those days, when most addressed her as 'Madam', a few as 'Sri', I simply addressed her as Sridevi so as to not sound familiar. Basically, Sri's an introvert. Her job done, she'd keep to herself. But what impressed me was her innocence. She was not corrupted by artifice. Mere dil ko who gherti chali gayee (I was drawn towards her).
IN MY HEART…
My obsession for her only grew each time I met her. She was so simple despite being a superstar. After pack-up, she'd slip into an ordinary salwar kameez, most of the time without dupatta, and move around. Those days, I admired the dressing sense of Shobhaa De, who was the editor of a film magazine. Shobhaa wore basic white khadi salwar-kurtas with silver buttons and threw around bright dupattas to break the monotone. I asked one of the costume designers of Mr India to make similar salwaar suits with silver buttons, matched with colored dupattas for Sri's personal wear. I told Sri, 'You're a top star. When in public, you have to make a statement. You've got to carry a dupatta!" She wore it a few times. I feld good.
Since Mr India was a difficult film, we needed around 120-125 days of shooting as against her mother's practice of allotting 40 days. For that I had several interactions with her mother and at times a few arguments too. But in the process, I also got close to her. I became friendly with Sri's father (the late Ayyapan) and the family too. Sri's home in Chennai was a tourist attraction. While not many had access to her home, I did. The family developed tremendous confidence in me. On one occasion, her mother even left behind a huge sum of money with me which she received in Mumbai, as they had to travel abroad. Also, Sri's Toyota car was brought down from Chennai for her convenience and would be parked at my house when she was not in Mubmai. Her mother grew so fond of me that when she first visited my house with Sri, she told my mom, "Why don't you find someone like Boney for my daughter."
Soon after Mr India was over, we went on to do another film Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja (the shooting was held between 1989-1993), which brought us together for another 150-175 days of shooting. Gradually, Sri grew comfortable with my unit and interacted a tad bit more than she did with others. During this period, her father passed away. I had been to the airport to receive her as she had arrived from abroad. We flew down together to Chennai. The then CM, Karunanidhi, had come to pay his respects. Her mother asked me to receive him. Such was the nature of trust I shared with the family.
IN MY WORDS…
While I had already fallen in love with Sri, initially, it remained one-sided. Once, in Chennai, my friend and his wife, Sri and her mother and I were to meet for lunch. But her mom unexpectedly fell unwell and dropped out. This was the first time Sri had stepped out without a family member. After lunch, when I was dropping her back home, I confessed my love to her. She got rattled, angry and hurt. For almost six-eight months after that, she stopped talking to me. Even on the set, she remained aloof.
Then, the serial bomb blasts happened in Mumbai in March 1993. Those days, Sri would be put up at the Hotel Sea Rock. When I came to know about the blasts, I immediately called up her mother and insisted that Sri would no longer be staying there. I sent my staff to get her home. Then on, till the release of Roop Ki Rani in May 1993, Sri stayed in my house.
Sometime around March 1994, her mother fell ill for which I made frequent trips to Chennai. My relationship with Sri grew normal again. We also began connecting on the phone. Around March 1995, her mother grew seriously ill after she developed a tumor in the brain. The doctors advised that she be taken to Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York for treatment. I made all the necessary arrangements and also accompanied the family there. Years later, Sri shared that in the aircraft, her mother had told her not to accept remuneration from me, if we did another film together. The treatment went on for two months. Gradually, Sri had begun drawing towards me.
IN MY LIFE…
Sri and I had got married on June 2, 1996 but it became public in January 1997. We went through our own turmoil as we had our individual situations to face, she had her family, and I had mine (Boney was already married to Mona Kapoor, who passed away last year). But we had each other for comfort. We supported each other and dealt with it with a sense of calm. Sri conducted herself with dignity. In 1997 March, Jhanvi was born and Khushi in 2000. Gradually, things settled.
Sri had been working since the age of three. Professionally, there was nothing more to achieve. She never missed not facing the camera. We never had a chat where I said, 'You will not do film'. She just went with the flow and enjoyed being at home. Sri doesn't enjoy cooking but takes an interest in what's being cooked. At one time, we had two cooks, one to prepare my kind of food and the other to serve 'healthy' food for her. That continues for Jhanvi today while Khushi enjoys my kind of food. Initially, Sri would go to the market herself, even to buy fish. The crowd hovering around her was inconsequential. She wanted to ensure she was buying fresh stuff for the children. Even when we visit restaurants, she gives specific instructions as to what she wants to be served. She has inculcated the same awareness in Jhanvi, who on the other hand helps her with fashion trends. Khushi and I only comment on what's 'not good'.
Sri's a woman of multiple talents. The interiors of our home, both in Mumbai and Chennai, have been conceptualized by her. Our Chennai home has a distinct Oriental essence. She has a flair for music too and earlier played instruments. She even enjoyed photography. Her pictures prove that they've been shot by someone with an aesthetic eye. Giver her artistic flair, she'd even sketch her costumes. The costumes of Dushman dil (Roop Ki Rani…) were sketched by her. When she tries out an outfit in the designer showroom abroad, the staff understand that she has to be a movie star - given her poise and the way the clothes rest on her. During the schedule of our production Wanted (2009), it was Salman [Khan] who urged her to paint. She's been painting since.
This aside, her priority is our children. She constantly checks with me about Arjun and Anshula (Boney's children from his first wife Mona). Even if we've had a late night, say till 3am, she'll get up at 6.30am, she'll check whether the girls have had breakfast and will walk them up to the gate as they leave for school. She's a devoted family person, whether its with my parents or our children. When I celebrated my 50th birthday, all my children were present. And she's always seen that the family remains together. She goes an extra mile for that.
AS MY WIFE…
She's involved with me every second. She has completely surrendered herself to this role. We trust each over. We are supportive of each other, though most of the support comes from her. She's always prepared to face the consequences of my decisions. My highs are her highs and my lows are her lows. Post 2000, I ran into financial troubles. She stood by me. She even walked barefoot from our home (Lokhandwala Complex) to the Siddhi Vinayak Temple (Pabhadevi) praying for my well-being. When there was a question mark over the release of No Entry (2005), she did the same.
We even did a TV show Malini Iyer (2004) for SaharaOne. I produced it and she acted in it, to lessen my financial burdens. My cementing of ties with Sahara happened because of Malini Iyer. She shot round the clock for around a year and a half. I carry the guilt that she did it for me even though she was not cut out for this hectic schedule. Especially, because the kids were young.
Sri's a shopaholic but it's not that she buys only for herself. She fends for herself when she shops extravagantly. She understands my financial situation. She gifted me a Porsche on my birthday, something I couldn't afford. I was stuck with my old car for around nine years.
We are a normal couple and have our fights. Sometimes she makes up, sometimes I. The love is too immense for ego to overpower. It finally melts down to agreeing to agree. Like I enjoy watching sports and the news on TV, which she doesn't. But the minute I walk into our room and even though she happens to be watching her favorite show, she'll hand over the remote to me.
I began smoking last year and naturally she was upset. She tried forcing me to give it up. She even tried emotional blackmail. But I maintained that the desire to quit has to come from within. So, now she's taken a vow not to touch non-vegetarian food till I give up coming. That's clear Gandhigiri!
When I heard the script of English Vinglish, i could only imagine Sri doing the role. Playing the role of a simple housewife that does not require histrionics is far more difficult. But she enacted it effortlessly. At the film's premiere in Toronto she received a standing ovation for 10 to 12 minutes. People were clamoring for her. Though she's never played the superstar card, I know she's still got it in her.
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