Archive for July, 2012

Since everyone is busy telling us about their experiences with Rajesh Khanna, here are my two cents worth. No harm in blowing one’s trumpet a little, is there? After all, isn’t that what journalists are supposed to be doing when they aren’t making people’s lives miserable?

I too had a brush with the actor in the 1980s when I was working at the Front Office in Pune’s Hotel Blue Diamond, then owned by the Kirloskar’s.

I was on the night shift. Incidentally, I worked permanently on the night shift for a straight 18 months when I worked at the hotel, till my friend Manoj, who was in the Union stepped in after I was confirmed and pulled me off to work day shifts. Which probably explains why I am so comfortable working late hours in a newspaper!

So there I was on the usual night shift when I got a call from someone in Hotel Fariyas Lonavala, who told me to stay on the line. Soon a nice sounding voice said “This is Rajesh Khanna. I want two double rooms, we’ll be there by midnight.”

I told him we had just one suite vacant, and as a matter of fact that was the only room vacant. “Anyway we are coming there,” he replied.

Actually I did have a room, which had been booked by a guest who had called from Mumbai to say they were driving down to Shirdi and wanted a room for the night and that he was with his wife and two small children. And there was no way I was going to turn away a man with a wife and two kids if I could help it, to some other hotel in the middle of the night.

So after midnight Khanna walked in accompanied by this very sexy actress, who was surely half his age and another couple. He turned on the charm right away. Middle-aged and paunchy, he might have been, but that did not stop him from being charming. “Yaar, you have to give us two suites, we’ve come all this way!”

I told him very politely that the situation remained unchanged. There was still just one suite and if he wanted he could use the bedroom, and I would put two beds in the living room for the other couple.

Then came the usual line: “You know who I am? Let me speak to Arvind Pandit.”

Pandit was then CEO of the hotel and since Blue Diamond was the only five-star hotel in Pune then, everyone and his driver knew Pandit. Even people who didn’t know Pandit would claim to know him, when they came to the hotel and found it tough to get a room!

They thought doing that would scare the shit out of us and we would bend. What they didn’t know was that Pandit had told us NEVER to give a room to anyone who dropped names. He would usually call us himself and tell us if any of the stars were arriving, so we knew. We also were aware of the usual VIPs who were known to him who might land up suddenly, so we always kept some rooms for the ‘walk-ins. – which is the practice in all hotels.

We once had a guest who we refused a room to, because something about the guy didn’t seem right. He threw the line, “Is Arvind here? I am a good friend of his.”

With a straight face I told him ‘Arvind’ Pandit wasn’t in. Straight-faced, because ‘Arvind’ was standing right next to him and the guy didn’t have a clue!

When Khanna found that dropping Pandit’s name wasn’t going to cut ice with me he changed tack. “What’s your name?”

I told him, and he said “arrey yaar, I have so many Sinhas who are my friends!”

Then I told him I was genuinely sorry that I could not give an extra room to the great Rajesh Khanna, but I really really didn’t have one and even offered to show him the room chart. I think It was the actress, who was hanging on to his arm, who probably realised that I was telling the truth and told him “Let’s take it.” Intelligent woman.