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March 27, 1998


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The rise, fall and rise of Juhi Chawla

V S Srinivasan

Juhi Chawla. Click for bigger pic!
Juhi is a very different girl from the gawky lass who had to be chivvied into dropping her spectacles and wearing contacts before getting her portfolio done.

"There were a few models who used to stay close to my building. I sued to admire them and tell my friends that I did. Those models told me get into modelling. But I never expected to win the (Miss India) contest. And she enjoyed the trip to the Miss Universe contest.

"That was my first trip abroad. I had never travelled far before. I felt out of place among the gorgeous, sophisticated women from across the world." She laughs.

A few months after she returned, director Mukul Anand offered her a role opposite Karan Kapoor in the multi-starrer Sultanat.

"I was very dumb in those days. I could hardly manage my own make-up and hair properly." And she went off for her first shoot -- in Jaisalmer.

"I was very nervous, Karan was no better. Dance master Kamal was teaching me the steps and I was trembling. Both of us got our steps wrong and he hollered at us." Juhi dissolved into tears and things had to be sorted out in Mukul's room.

A few schedules down the line, Nasir Hussain saw her at work and offered her Qayamat se Qayamat Tak. And when QSQT was released, Juhi dropped a role she'd agreed to do in B R Chopra's teleserial Mahabharat.

Click for bigger pic!
"I'm a little sad I dropped out (of Mahabharat). By that time I was very much into cinema... I wafted down south to do this film called Prema Loka, a bilingual in Tamil and Kannada by S Ramanathan.

"Soon I had to come back for QSQT. The whole set-up was new. But the film was a hit after a lukewarm initial. It never seemed like picking up in the first six weeks. Then it went on to break all box office records..." Juhi smiles in satisfaction.

And when the Aamir-Juhi pair became a hit, other film-makers tried to cash in with films like Tum Mere Ho and Love Love Love. But they bombed and Juhi began regretting her decisions. And, she says, it was during the making of CID, that she saw the worse side of the film world.

"I don't want to talk about certain film people. I regret doing a lot of films today and not doing more like Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander.

A cameo in Yash Chopra's hit, Chandni prompted the director to pick her up, much later, for his Aaina and Darr.

"Meanwhile Pratibandh came on and I reluctantly sighed on. The money was good and I had all the dates with me. Besides, Chiranjeevi was a great dancer and I wanted to work with him. It was a great experience doing the film. But I never dreamt of it doing well. But it did. It became the second hit after QSQT.

Click for bigger pic!
Films like Bhabhi and Benaam Badhshah put her back and Radha ka Sangam nearly had her out of business. She was even quoted as saying she'd never sign a film with Govinda again. But then, she did act with him in the recent Deewana Mastana...

"Let's not delve into old subjects. I know I made a lot of mistakes in my career. Davidji brought us together again. We have both done well in his films. So I decided to patch up with Govinda."

Radha ka Sangam was followed by another flop Bewafa se Wafa and an also-ran, Lootere with Sunny Deol. With hits Bol Radha Bol and Eena Meena Deeka in between.

She was almost ready to quit when came the big hits -- Aaina with Jackie Shroff, Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman with Shah Rukh, Darr with Sunny Deol and Shah Rukh. Saajan ka Ghar with Rishi Kapoor flopped, but Najaayaz with Ajay Devgan and Hum Hain Rahi Pyar ke with Aamir Khan assured her she was in the right business.

And now, after going through the doldrums again, she's back in the reckoning. Pretty gritty lady, wot?


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