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Celebrating Diwali in Bollywood

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October 2006
Celebrating Diwali in Bollywood

The festival of lights is celebrated by the stars who light up the silver screen with as much gusto as Indians living anywhere. The Khans – ShahRukh, Salman, Amir and Saif – are megastars with a secular outlook. And they also happen to be Muslims who celebrate Diwali. Without taking anything away from their liberal mindset, this also has much to do with the fact that they are either married to Hindu women or – like Salman, Fardeen and Saif – are the offspring of mixed marriages.

ShahRukh's children make excited plans weeks before D-day, which his wife Gauri ushers in with a pooja at home. Salman's mother, Salma, is a Hindu by birth and so are Salman's brother-in-law, one-time actor Atul Agnihotri, and his sisters-in-law, Seema and Malaika. And so is Malaika's sister, actress Amrita Arora! So, along with Salim Khan and his second wife, Helen, a yesteryear danseuse who is Catholic, Sallu's household is one huge cultural melting point! They have rocking parties whether it's Diwali, Christmas or Eid!

Actresses, by virtue of their gender, are in any case tradition-bound. Even in the same household, the generation gap is bridged by pujas, mithai and rangoli during Diwali – whether it's Hema and Esha Deol or Shilpa and Shamita Shetty.

The Bengali brigade pulls out all stops during Durga Puja. Kajol has never let a single year go by without personally ladling out dinner to hundreds of people during those nine days – a family tradition that involves all the women in the Mukherji household. Bipasha Basu, Riya Sen and Rani fly to Kolkota to be with their families during Durga Puja.

Aishwarya Rai, however, is Ms Professional personified. This year, like most years, she will be shooting on foreign shores – so Diwali will be just another day. The Gujaratis being the most extravagant during Navratri, huge amounts are paid to TV and film stars for attending garbas in Gujarat. TV icons such as Smriti Irani, Apara Mehta, Ronit Roy (Kyonki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi) as well as singers charge up to 200,000 rupees per night to grace a dandiya raas!

The rituals are not without their revelry. Yesteryear stars were overwhelmingly Punjabis, so the season began with a month of card sessions, boisterous boozing, extravagant shopping, and ended soberly with Laxmi puja. Today's stars have no time for month-long festivities but they do party on New Year's Eve. This being showbiz, with the emphasis on ‘show', Bollywood does keeps an eye on ‘business' as well. During the festivities, a spate of films hit the theatres!

SHAHRUKH KHAN

(As told by Mushtaq Sheikh, close friend and author of Being SRK)

"Gauri Khan starts the day with a puja. ShahRukh does not go out, he receives friends and visitors at home with gifts for all. The evening is a riot of noisy crackers with kids, Aryan and Suhana. ShahRukh is even more excited than his kids! Friends keep dropping in till late at night but only vegetarian fare is served. It is the only day in the year that ShahRukh, a sworn Tandoori chicken diner, abstains from it!

SUNJAY DUTT

"This is our first Diwali without our father. Diwali was always celebrated dhoom dhaamse by my mom, Nargis. It used to be open house for the entire industry. After my mother's demise, it became a quieter affair but Duttsaab continued the tradition of sending sweets to people. Laxmi puja at the office was a must. All employees were handed envelopes of money and sweets. At home, too, New Year was ushered in with a puja. By then we were too grown up to burst firecrackers. My sister Namrata and bro-in-law Gaurav always drop by in the evenings. Well-wishers from all walks of life continue to visit all through the day. This year, it will be a very quiet affair – only puja and dinner with my sisters, Priya and Namrata, their husbands and a couple of my close friends who are with me most days, anyway. My 13-year-old bomb blast case is coming to a close – court hearings are going on. I am closeted with my lawyers all day. The situation is tense. Diwali isn't going lift our spirits."

AMRITA RAO

"Diwali has always been celebrated meticulously in our house. Every single thing – right from lighting little diyas and decorating the house with flowers to making our own sweets like Mysore pak, besan laddoos, khaddis (barfi) and shakar padas. And yes, I do it myself. Even the ghee used for the puja is made at home. My mom taught me how to make Rangoli designs – that's what I will do this year as well. In the evening, we burst crackers, wear new clothes and have a blast."

SALMAN KHAN

"We have a mandir at home. My mom holds a puja and cooks only vegetarian food on Diwali. Ours is a large family consisting of Hindus, Muslims and Catholics – and all of us enjoy Diwali. We keep an open house. People keep streaming in all day to wish us. At night, we chill out with our friends."

SMRITI Z. IRANI (Tulsi of the popular serial Kyonki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi)

"My husband Zubin, despite being Zohrastrian, organizes the pandit, puja and decorations. Diwali is one day when I make it a point to take time off from my hectic shooting schedules and political work in order to be with my family. All cell phones are switched off. Diwali, for me, is a private family celebration."

RONIT ROY (TV star)

"Being a Bengali, our Diwali rituals start with Durga Puja and reach a crescendo on Diwali day. We are very traditional and observe all the rituals including lighting diyas, not candles. Diwali day is reserved for the family. Everyone congregates at my place.

We are vegetarians during the pujas – after midnight, the whiskey is brought out!

Last year, I played cards at Aamir Khan's house on Diwali night?I will probably do the same this year too."

HITEN TEJWANI & GAURI (The most popular star-couple on TV – Karan and Nandini of Kyonki?)

"As both of us are busy actors, we get just one day to chill. We will begin with a traditional puja as it is our first Diwali in our new house. At night, we'll party with friends. Next day it will be back to the grind! What Diwali means to us is a spiritual renewal – it symbolizes a hope for peace, happiness and prosperity for all in the coming year."

ESHA DEOL

"Both my parents (Dharmendra and Hema Malini) are conventional, religious and family-oriented – so Diwali is obviously an important festival at home. Right from my late grandmother's time, religious rituals have been taken seriously. Mom adheres to them the more I tend to wriggle out, but Diwali is too in-your-face to ignore. Mom has never missed her daily morning pooja for even one single day of her life – not even when she was a superstar. We are superstitious about going out without praying, so you don't have to ask if we do Laxmi puja! It's too important to miss. New clothes, pocket money, fire crackers, etc. lose their charm after you grow up but the feeling remains that it's Diwali, a time to celebrate together!"


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