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December 1, 2001

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Subhash K Jha

I cannot recall when and how I got to know JP Dutta and his wife Bindiya. Perhaps it was when I saw his first film Ghulami, 17 years ago.

It was a momentous film about a reformist Rajput (played by Dharmendra) in Rajasthan. The filmís passionate radicalism created a bawandar (sandstorm) beyond Jagmohan Mundhraís film. Thereafter Rajasthan and the Deols -- Dharmendra and Sunny -- became an integral part of JPís films.

"I donít know. Maybe I was born in Rajasthan in my last life," a faint smile would crack JPís grim visage at the mention of his Rajasthan fixation. After Yateem(1988), Hathyar(1989), Batwara(1989), Kshatriya(1992) and Border(1998) JP has now moved on, leaving both Rajasthan and the Deols behind.

JP Dutta Neither of the Deols featured in JPís last film Refugee. No Deol in JPís new Kargil epic LoC which he is shooting at present in Simla.

Was this separation a natural progression in the lives of these personalities? The industry has seen many fruitful creative collaborations of the past which broke up when at full bloom.

Didnít Nargis abandon the RK banner after Barsaat, Aah, Awara and Jagte Raho? Ironically she had to break free from the RK cocoon to blossom into the legendary actress of Mehboob Khanís Mother India.

Over the years weíve had such creatively rewarding cinematic sangam as filmmaker Chetan Anand and actress Priya Rajvansh (who came down to India from London to be part of his cinema and stayed on till the end), Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman, Urmila Matondkar and Ram Gopal Verma. More recently thereís Karan Johar who designed both his opuses with Kajol at the epicentre.

Male bonding in films is a separate matter altogether. Freed of the gender complexities, directors and stars often team up repeatedly without either party in the collaboration feeling threatened -- till they outgrow each other or move to greener pastures.

Director Suneel Darshanís bonding with Akshay Kumar is undoubtedly special. Akshay came into Suneelís picture after the director parted ways acrimoniously with Sunny Deol who starred in Suneelís first film Ajay(which incidentally, is Sunnyís real name). The flashpoint occurred when Sunny got his director-friend financially, creatively and emotionally involved in his pet project, the doomed London.

Letís not go into details. But Suneel and Sunny grew cold as London killed their friendship. Soon the director discovered a new collaborative spirit in Akshay Kumar, who came to him in the starís darkest phase. On a hunch Suneel took him on for Jaanwar which turned out to be the surprise success of 1999. Now Akshay recurs not just in Suneelís but also his brother Dharmeshís projects.

Sunny Deol "As of now, Akshay is like family. But who knows about tomorrow?" Suneel shrugs philosophically. He is wary, his fingers have been burnt once.

What then went wrong between Sunny and JP?

Apparently, Sunnyís company Vijayta Films wanted a financial statement about the foreign exchange earnings they earned from the equipment they had used for JPís production company. Since JP himself owned an export company he naturally wanted to use the FERA benefits for his own company and declined to give the required letter to the Deols.

Five years after the incident, Sunny still cannot forgive nor forget.

Hurt by Sunnyís unwarranted outburst, JP shrugs off the incident. "Calling someone a liar isnít the best way to keep a friendship going. Whatís Sunny talking about? Thank God I wasnít the one who withdrew the hand of friendship first. Now, Sunny has taken me on headlong. I guess he feels that everyone is expendable now."

Sunny says JP didnít approach Sunny for LoC because he didnít "dare" to. JP replies, "Sunny was never considered for any role in LoC. Iíve done three films with him. Thatís more than enough. When I was shooting for Refugee, Sunny called me up thrice to invite me for the premiere of Dillagi. Had he forgotten about his grievances then?"

Another showbiz friendship goes kaput. That the duo will probably never work together again is tragic enough. More tragic is the fact that the industry has not seen any lasting relationship.

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