ASJAD NAZIR MARKS 1,500 ISSUES OF EASTERN EYE BY REVEALING HIDDEN CELEBRITY STORIES
While all the star-studded interviews have been read, there have also been interesting encounters and incidents that remained behind-the-scenes. Here some of those celebrity stories from my time with Eastern Eye in no particular order…
The almost revelation: I was interviewing Katrina Kaif and a large entourage was present in the room. She was dating Ranbir Kapoor at the time and things were perhaps not going well. The clearly emotional actress was just about to confess an explosive revelation, but the PR quickly stepped in to steer the conversation in another direction. (The couple would later split up).
Hair-raising story: I was due to interview Govinda in Mumbai back in 2003. He turned up to the five-star hotel with a machine gun-wielding bodyguard and was due to give an interview to a TV crew that had been waiting for hours before me, but cancelled when he saw there was a ceiling fan in the room. This was before his hair transplant, so he was worried someone would turn on the fan to expose the forward comb. He cancelled the TV interview and spoke to me instead. Just as I started, he pulled out his own tape recorder and recorded me, recording him (I still have no idea why).
Sunglasses story: I was interviewing Hans Raj Hans in a hotel at the height of his fame. Just as I got out my dictaphone to record the conversation, the singer put on his sunglasses for the interview despite there being no cameras. He then phoned someone in India and got them to listen to him being interviewed by me (all while he had his sunglasses on).
When I nearly got fired: The first big celebrity interview I ever did was with singer Jassi Sidhu when he was in B21. I felt he was the unsung hero of the bhangra group so led
with that. This didn’t go down too well with his fellow band members and they demanded that I be removed from my newly-acquired position. Thankfully Eastern Eye didn’t fire me and I went onto interview over 1,000 different celebrities. Years later the band member
who tried to get me sacked apologised, which I thought was a great gesture.
Mistaken identity: I was at a function and a few photographers asked me if any celebrities were present. I pointed to Sunrise Radio host Raj Ghai and told them he was famous comedian Omid Djalili. They believed me and started photographing him.
Fan’s favourite: I was at an awards ceremony after party when Shahid Kapoor was dating Kareena Kapoor. When they were leaving, Shahid ignored Kareena’s very fiery demands to make a hasty exit and decided instead to interact with fans outside, who had waited several hours to see him, even though it seriously outraged his then-girlfriend.
Step up: When it was time to take a photograph with Salman Khan after I interviewed him, he insisted on standing on a step. Perhaps it was because I was so much taller than him.
Language overlaps: My Punjabi is nowhere near good enough to match up to the great Gurdas Maan. So whenever I have interviewed him, I have spoken in Hindi, he has replied in Punjabi, and then the interview has been translated into English for the newspaper.
Aunty fight: When Adnan Sami lost all his weight and returned to the UK stage, his dramatic new appearance wasn’t the most memorable aspect. I was sitting in the VIP area in the front few rows and will never forget seeing two middle-aged Indian women having a public punch-up. Stewards threw them out of the venue.
Height of embarrassment: I was covering a Bollywood concert where Aamir Khan was performing on stage. For a part of his act, he selected a girl to come on stage so he could romance her for a song performance. When the girl reached the stage, the actor to his horror realised she was about a foot taller than him, which had the audience in hysterics. But he carried on like a trooper.
Phone failure: Singer Sukhbir was performing live at a big arena when I noticed he took to the stage with his large mobile phone, which was visible in his pocket. I decided to call the number and surprisingly it was on, so rang during the performance. I mischievously gave him missed calls during the performance and at one point he answered. Sorry, Sukhbir!
Money demand: Back in 2007, the distributors of Khuda Kay Liye asked me if I could interview lead star Shaan Shahid to promote the movie. When I contacted the actor’s representative, he said Shaan wanted money to be interviewed. This is the only time a celebrity made such a ridiculous demand. I refused and interviewed much bigger star Shah Rukh Khan instead, who had a movie releasing on the same day.
Rubina saves the day: I wanted to get a friend a special gift and needed to get across Mumbai before the store closed. Even though she had met me for the first time, big-hearted actress Rubina Dilaik loaned me her car and driver, so I could get there in time and not get lost. I never forgot her kindness.
Weighty mistake: I once mistakenly congratulated a famous actress friend on being
pregnant and wanted the ground to eat me up when I realised she had just put on
weight. I never commented on a woman’s weight again.
Sexy demand: My annual lists of the 50 sexiest Asian men and women have become so
popular that those featured in them get massive global publicity. It has become so big that
management of stars regularly get in touch with me asking if I can fix their client to be
high in the list, which I won’t do. In 2018 a major star’s agent begged for the client to be
number one, but unfortunately, they were not even in the top 10.
Humility: I have seen humility from a number of stars, but what Jackie Shroff did will always remain with me. I met him at his penthouse in Mumbai to do the interview, but he said let me take you for lunch to the five-star hotel nearby. Instead of driving there, we walked and the actor stopped for everyone who wanted a photo or autograph and treated
them with the kind of love no celebrity has.
Quick escape: In the early days when I was unknown, I was critical of a big star and
made fun of them. At a party, I saw the star come charging over to me in a rage and knew what it was about. They asked if I was Asjad Nazir, I said no and pointed to my photographer across the room. I made a quick exit and my colleague received the abuse. Sorry, Sohail!
Helping hand: At the height of her fame shortly after the film Murder released, Mallika
Sherawat was seen as brave, outspoken and super-confident. Mallika and I were invited
by Sky News to be interviewed live on air. The actress was so nervous that she held my hand under the table for the entire interview. It is sad that bad choices saw her spiral downwards because she had so much potential.
Inspirational actor: I am one of the few people in media who has spent extensive time with award-winning actor Irrfan Khan in the past year while he has been battling cancer. The way he has tackled the life-threatening illness so bravely will inspire me for life and I am proud to call him a friend.