Ex-royal who has seen both sides of Bollywood (Cinema Feature)
Just as you leave the Mall, the hill station's main shopping street, towards the chief minister's official residence, the narrow road meanders its way to a heritage hotel owned by the erstwhile royal family of Jubbal that has an enduring link to Bollywood.
Uday Singh and his grand Woodville Palace, now a heritage hotel with typical British Raj architecture, have over the years seen no less than 25 films shot there, among them Prakash Mehra's "Muqaddar Ka Sikandar", Sanjay Leela Bhansali's "Black" and Raj Kumar Hirani's "3 Idiots".
But then, the former royal has also witnessed the ugly side of the picture projected on the silver screen.
The "real picture" that goes on behind the sets has taught Uday Singh that men from the underworld can surface any time to rescue the cast and the crew in their moments of distress; and how a silver ice-bucket can wash the synthetic smile off the King of Romance; and how antiques are not safe when the stars descend on the ground for a film shoot.
Uday Singh remembers a night in the early 1990s when he got a call from an underworld don.
"A shooting was going on for over a month in our hotel in 1992. Suddenly, the shooting stopped and the entire unit packed and left without clearing the bill. Our hotel staff informed the police and the entire film crew was detained on the outskirts of Shimla," Uday Singh told IANS in an interview.
"On the same night I got a telephone call and the man on the other side was a known underworld don. 'Raja Saab you have detained my men. You will get the payment in the morning. I know my people are wrong, but you must ensure their release in the morning'," he said.
The next morning, four people came to his office and cleared the pending bill of Rs.300,000.
Recalling another incident, Uday Singh said yesteryears superhero and King of Romance Rajesh Khanna, who was staying in his hotel, shouted at him.
"Rajesh Khanna was with us for his movie 'Kudrat'. One evening Khanna called me in his room and offered me a drink. He asked me to arrange more ice for him. I called the waiter and asked him to bring the ice. The waiter, as a mark of respect, brought the ice in a silver bucket."
Seeing the silver bucket, he said, Khanna, who was drunk, started abusing him. "You are trying to impress me. I am a superstar. Earlier you offered me ice in a plastic bucket and now you are offering a silver bucket. Oh! You are king and we are paupers. It's your palace. We have to go by your rules."
Uday Singh said Khanna had to be pacified by director Chetan Anand and actor Raaj Kumar, who too were staying in the hotel.
The royal scion has pleasant memories about Amitabh Bachchan.
"Amitabh is the most refined Bollywood personality I have ever met. He is very unassuming and has no airs. During his stay when 'Black' was being shot, I offered him a drink. He politely refused. Then, at the dinner, I asked him about some non-vegetarian dish. He said: I have done and seen it all, but now I have left everything."
Recalling an interesting incident when a yesteryears actress had stolen an antique from his hotel, Uday Singh said it happened during the shooting of Dev Anand's "Lootmar".
When the news of the theft spread, the actress returned it before the matter could reach the police.
"Even Stardust (film glossy) had reported the incident," Uday Singh added.
The Jubbal family resided in the palace till 1977 when it was converted into a hotel-cum-palace.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 15-01-2014)