Rakhi Sawant has used the arc lights to her advantage. What makes Indian television's super phenomenon tick?
It takes a while before a PR person can connect us to Chittiz Jain. “He’s been very busy,” she apologises. Till some time ago he was an unknown entity, running the family business of garment exports with his brother in Noida. He was a star to his family; a topper from a Delhi-based public school and an all-rounder with interests in both academics as well as sports.
A few months ago, however, Jain decided that it was time to play another game. He decided to try his luck on television and, like most aspiring youngsters, become part of a reality show. Only this time, as the promoters of the show would have him believe, it was a “serious” show, one which could end in a real marriage. And no, it wouldn’t be any ordinary woman that he would marry. Jain, if he was selected and lucky, would marry none other than Rakhi Sawant, an item girl who has always been in the news, even if for all the wrong reasons such as the alleged kiss that singer Mika planted on her, for the brazen outfits she has worn at live shows, and her audacious moves in so many of her music videos.
Why, then, did Jain want to marry Sawant, the “natak queen” as she’s often called? “I took it as an opportunity to get to know Rakhi Sawant. As an ordinary person, it wouldn’t have been possible. Today, I’m happy that I can call her my friend,” he says, admitting that life has changed for the better after the show. He’s busy signing autographs, being photographed by strangers who recognise him everywhere he goes.
So, it’s largely thanks to Sawant that businessman Jain is popular on the streets of Delhi today. It’s also thanks to Sawant that NDTV Imagine pulled off a fantastic 6.3 TVR when the grand finale was aired. Call her brazen and bold, Sawant clearly knows how to use the arc lights and camera to her advantage. If she was looked down upon by a majority of actors in the industry, she minced no words to proclaim that what they were doing on the big screen was no different from what she was doing in her music videos and item numbers. Then, if others were cagey talking about going under the knife, she admitted to it unabashedly on filmmaker Karan Johar’s popular chat show Koffee with Karan. Despite having just an item number in Yash Raj Film’s Dil Bole Hadippa, Sawant is busy promoting the film on her own. She also has hip hop music videos coming out with artiste Ishq Bector. “A lot of endorsement offers are pouring in already,” she says, adding that she has endorsed ITC’s Minto Fresh as well.
With Rakhi Ka Swayamvar, Sawant was smart enough to project herself as Sooraj Barjatiya’s ideal heroine; coy, shy and completely clad in Indian attire, she spoke of her struggle as a youngster, her strained relationship with her family and her desire to be accepted by her sasural so she could be part of the Great Indian Joint Family. Not once did she shy away from demurely pulling the pallav over her head, folding her hands in a modest namaste, cooking even suji halwa for one of the families while speaking about her culinary skills. Why? “Because that’s the way I am,” says Sawant. Adds Jain: “She is a very nice person. When she came to our residence, my parents — who were reluctant initially — sincerely hoped that things would work out between us.”
Jain, however, didn’t get lucky. Elesh Parujanwala, better known as Mr Rakhi Sawant today, says in an unmistakable clipped accent, “When I met her in Fatehgarh, she kept surprising me. She’s a wonderful, wonderful person.” He’s right. Sawant does have the ability to keep springing back with something new for television audiences. “I was upset when a lot of celebrities got married and the media wasn’t invited. I am media’s baby and back then, when the idea of a swayamvar on reality TV hadn’t even struck me, I had decided that my marriage would be in front of the media. I am, after all, media’s daughter,” reasons Sawant. But will she seriously marry Parujanwala and wouldn’t his success, somehow, pale in comparison to her success much like in the film Abhimaan? “Dekhiye, Amitabhji and Jayaji had many rifts in their life but as a couple they are perfect. Besides Amitabhji was linked to many actresses but did this cause a rift in their marriage? No. They are both still happily married. Elesh and I are both mature individuals. It’s a matter of our lives,” she reiterates. That’s the reason why, she adds, “we are spending a lot of time with each other. I make it a point to meet him when I’m not shooting. Hopefully, we might work with each other in the future.”
The last sentence could be a pointer towards why Parujanwala and Sawant might, in all seriousness, culminate their “reel” engagement into a “real” marriage. His business interests, after all, came closest to that of Sawant’s. NRI Parujanwala, whose business in Toronto includes distribution of wholesale paper and plastic products, came to India 10 months ago to branch out on his own. “I lead a fabulous life back home in Toronto… I have my family, friends, my cars, my toys there. Initially it was difficult to adjust and I did struggle quite a lot in India,” says the 30-year-old who loves reading Deepak Chopra. Parujanwala came to India to set-up a production house and a film academy (Keon International Film Academy). He admits that he never followed Sawant’s career but once he heard of the swayamvar, he realised he was “at the right place, at the right time”. “I knew Rakhi was known to be very blunt and straightforward. I knew she had a soft side to her and I wanted to know that.” For now, like any other responsible husband-to-be, he’s “getting all the documents in order to get her visa expedited so that Rakhi can attend my sister Vrinda’s wedding.” On her part, Sawant admits she is very excited about going to Toronto to meet her to-be-in-laws and family.
She’s yet to bury the hatchet with her own family and reports suggest her mother might not attend the wedding when — and if — it happens. If it does, we’ll know Sawant will ensure that the cameras would turn — like they always have — in her direction. once again.
|“I love the camera”
Congratulations Rakhi. How do you feel now that you have found your life partner?
It feels great! I am thrilled and I’m looking forward to getting to know Elesh off-screen even better.
Why was it important for you to find someone through the medium of television?
The main reason was to invite the media. When big celebrities from the film industry get married, the media isn’t called. I don’t like that. I am media’s daughter. Whatever I have done in my life has always been in front of the whole world.
Have you and Elesh fixed a wedding date?
It all depends on Elesh. Right now we are spending time and getting to know each other better. There has to be trust and understanding between us before we decide to tie the knot.
Do you think that being a celebrity can cause a rift in your marital life in the future?
Elesh understands who I am as a person and he also understands the fact that controversy is part of my life as a celebrity. It will not cause any strain in our relationship as he is very understanding and mature. Besides, he will know me inside out. We won’t hide anything from each other.
Did you speak to Manas Katyal and Chittiz Jain after the show got over?
Yes, I did. Though they were disappointed initially, they took my decision very sportingly. They both wished me good luck.
Tell us about your role in the forthcoming film Dil Bole Haddipa?
I’m doing an item song with Rani Mukherji who plays a boy. I play nautanki queen Shanno in it. You have to watch it.