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A film that bagged an award at Cannes this year tells of a love story aided unwittingly by the noted 'dabbawallas' of Mumbai.
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Bob Christo: The real hero
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon last November, when the phone rang, "I'm Bob Christo, Bollywood's bad guy. " I wondered why the villain would call me. I remembered him: he was the bad guy who got beaten by all the heroes in filmi style.
Now in his seventies, he had read one of my articles on How to be a Writer and started writing his life story. The book was almost over and he had decided to track me down. "I've had a blessed life. I've seen it all. My life has been sensational. I've been with beautiful women, had my share of highs and lows. But I have a regret - I wanted to be a hero. I never got the chance, even though I was good-looking, I could sing and dance too. I can bet nobody can sing Nat King Cole's songs better than me. To look the part of the bad guy in Bollywood, I shaved my head. Even Zeenat Aman told me, 'Now, you really look like a villain!' But deep down, I always wanted to be the hero, the one who gets the girl. " That was not meant to be.
I asked him what made him come to India? "Praveen Babi. I saw her picture in Time magazine when I was in Zimbabwe, " he joked. As luck would have it, his acting success got him close to Praveen Babi. "I was her relentless admirer. We became friends, we spent happy times cooking together. During a bad phase, she helped me keep my mind balanced. "
I didn't hear from him for next few months. He'd probably forgotten me. But Bob called again in February. His book was done and he wanted me to be there for its release. I could sense a childlike excitement. "We go through highs and lows in life. This will be a high, putting my life story in a book. I've been ashamed of some things I've had to do for my survival;this is my redemption, as I confess it all. Looking back, there are certain parts of my life that almost shock me. There was a challenge of telling it all, just like it was. " In March, the newspapers reported Bob Christo had passed away.
A couple of days back, I got his book. As I flipped through the pages, I realised he wasn't the bad guy in real life, even though he had his share of infidelities, tragedies and conflicts. Be it his first acting stint in Apocalypse Now directed by Francis Ford Coppola with Marlon Brando, or the time he two-timed two girlfriends, abandoning the one with his child. Or the time, when he slept with his maid Reena in Mumbai much before he became an actor, Bob tells it all, candidly. He had his glamourous moments too. He taught Adi Godrej water-skiing, went with Raj Kapoor for shikaar. "I have nothing to hide, I've even written about a threesome I had in London. I lived a full life but I had to battle my demons. After I quit films, I've been teaching yoga. It's helped pacify me. I had realized you need strength not only of the body but mind too. Life came full circle. I became a yoga guru, " he'd told me.
What really made Bob Christo a real life hero was that he lived for his friends. In fact, he talked about his friendship with Sanjay Khan which ended after two decades. Bob writes, "I feel that a friendship like ours cannot simply be undone by a stroke of a pen. It was good till it lasted. " Then I remembered what he said, "Heroism is in the now and it's in the ordinary. It's in forgiveness and gratitude, especially forgiving the ones who hurt us. To be a hero in life, you've got to be a fighter and overcome inner demons, outer rascals and physical difficulties. " Well said Bob. You really were a hero!
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