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For a meal... that's now his

"Whenever I come to Delhi, I eat my fill of chilla, matar aaloo ke paranthe, raj kachoudi, chat, etc."



Vashu Bhagnani enjoying a drink at Aloha Bar in New Delhi's Le Meridien hotel. Photo: S. Arneja.

HIS FARMHOUSES are many, so are the houses he builds and sells. He travels quite often for film shootings abroad. He can never make a small budget film. He is restless when it comes to making films, so every alternate year sees one made by him. All this goes to say that Vashu Bhagnani is one man who spends his time making money. Yes, he does. But one thing he is particular about is not to eat everything that is labelled as special food at big, special places. He is a great foodie though; his bulging belly and non-stop eating habits would vouch for it.

"I just can't stop eating once I see anything put in front of me," he reveals his weakness as he tries some fresh juice at Le Meridien's Aloha Bar. But there is nothing more satisfying than `desi khaana' that Vashu would sacrifice anything for.

"I don't like food that is made in five-star hotels. I find it insipid mostly, for it is made to cater to the Western taste, lightly spiced, boiled and so on." Hence, you may see him at any food joint, "be it a dhaba, chat-pakora outlet or a thelewallah. Whenever I come to Delhi, I park my car at Haldiram's outlet and eat my fill of chilla, matar aaloo ke paranthe, raj kachoudi, chat etc.," he says. Whenever he goes to Punjab, he stops at any roadside dhaba and eats typical Punjabi khaana. And so much is his love for desi food that he takes his kitchen along abroad if he stays there for long.

"When I go abroad, I make sure that I shop for everything that comprises a well-maintained desi kitchen as foreign food does not interest me." He, however, likes Italian food to some extent.

But there were times when Vashu didn't have time to eat or even study. This student of St. Anthony School in Kolkata, failed in class IX, not because he was a bad student but because he never had time to study as he would go to sell saris heaped on his bicycle, door to door after his father, who was in the sari business, fell on bad days.

"Due to monetary problems I could not study beyond class IX. Most of my time would be spent selling saris all over Asansol. I would reach home late at night, too tired to take a bite or study." He was 14 then.

Initially, Vashu had a very bad opinion about the film world: "I thought it to be a dirty world inhabited by ruthless people of lesser virtues, but I finally landed up here only." And here, he started making money.

"I still remember my second-hand bike Yezdi that I proudly bought for Rs.25,000 and four second-hand bikes of Rs.15,000 each that we four brothers bought as we started making money," he recalls as he sips his lime soda, seemingly lost in a Bryan Adams number that a Bizzy B band singer is singing, followed by Lucky Ali's "O' Sanam" in the calm ambience supported by dim lights and a courteous staff.

Since Vashu had enough know-how on the business front, backed by his father and his first hand experience, he chose to be a producer. "It was not easy to become one without a personal rapport and I had established it with many in the film line once a friend of mine introduced me to a friend in business." And he vouches that he never had fund problems, as he never tried to cheat anyone. "I knew the value of money and so I did only what my conscience allowed," says Vashu who very feebly adds that he takes "very good care of non-film staff" on his sets.

"In my first film I incurred a loss of Rs.70 lakh but after that I never lost any money in Bollywood," he says. This maker of films like "Biwi No. 1", "Rehna Hai Tere Dil Main", "Om Jai Jagadish" and now "Out of Control" and "Bisaat," owes much to his wife.

"My life took a positive turn when I got married at the age of 21. She also came from a middle class family. We took no dowry. The entire marriage took place in Rs.50,000," he recalls. He never forgets to take her and his children along when he goes abroad on long shoots. "They have shared bad days with me, they must share good days too."

And he has not forgotten how to make "chai and omelette too" that he sometimes ends up preparing for himself when away from home or has to please his wife. "Food is a weapon," he believes in what Maxim Litivinov said once.

RANA SIDDIQUI

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