Joined: 25 January 2008
There are two categories of film celebrities. The heavyweights- who always get mobbed no matter how hard they try to disguise themselves, and the lightweights– who wear obvious disguises (read sunglasses) so that they do get mobbed.
On board our flights, the heavy-weight category receive the lion's share of adulation from all and sundry, starting with the 'special- handling' ground staff (who come to see them off) to the fellow passengers (pax) who literally thank their 'stars' that they are sharing space with a celebrity in a sealed flying capsule. The lightweights keep their sunglasses on, throw some attitude around, and if they still fail to receive attention, they are prone to make a scene in order to get it.
Salman Khan-Sleeper Hit!
A few years ago, actors Salman Khan, Pooja Bhatt and Dia Mirza were traveling in the Executive Class to attend one of those infamous star studded shows in Dubai. Bhatt was seated right next to Salman and the two were in a jovial mood. They were both laughing most of the time, presumably at each other's jokes.
Many of the economy pax were aware of the presence of Salman Khan on the aircraft, courtesy the 'sighting' at the airport-waiting lounge. Some were trying their best to approach the thick curtain separating both classes, however as it was time for the flight to take-off, the ever- efficient crew made sure that those passengers were firmly belted into their seats.
One plump, child-like Gujju pax in his early 40's pleaded that he be allowed to see Salman before take-off. He refused to sit and added with stubbornness 'I will tie my belt only after you let me have look at my Salmanbhai's face. He is my favorite!'
The distraught airhostess walked hurriedly to Salman's seat, not knowing that the gujju pax had followed her like a child who was about to get his 'favorite' candy. While she apprised Salman of her predicament, the child-man stood inside the exec.class, just in front of the dividing curtain and within earshot. Salman grinned at Pooja and told the hostess "Just tell him that I am asleep!" Hearing this Pooja Bhatt burst out laughing loudly. When the hostess turned back, the crestfallen pax had returned to his seat and appeared quite disappointed by his 'favorite' hero!
Hrithik Roshan-'Thumbs' Down to Gas!
Hrithik Roshan was flying abroad along with his pretty wife Suzzane. They sat in 1A & 1B in the first row of the First Class. Their first and most explicit instruction to the crew was that they would not like to be disturbed by any fan whatsoever at any time during the flight. We duly respected their need for privacy and took all necessary steps to keep other pax from coming anywhere close to the First class cabin.
I may add here that the crew has various other duties to perform, besides the apparent ones like serving food and drink. These include matters relating to the health and the well -being of our pax, especially somebody needing first aid or medical assistance. Now, one lady in the club class suddenly complained of pain in the chest. Not wanting to take any chances, we ran helter– skelter, some paged for a doctor, others rushed to gather oxygen bottles and a few cleared away other pax around the sick lady so that she could breath freely. In the process, one star struck fan managed to sneak up to seats 1A &B, hoping to chat with the Roshans. 'Can I see your lucky thumb?' the man asked in excitement.
This infuriated Mrs. Roshan so much that she not only told the pax to 'Go away!' but also fired us crewmembers for allowing the incident to occur. No amount of explaining about the unwell pax could calm Suzzane down, who even threatened to report the crew to the authorities.
Of course it was discovered that the ailing lady's chest pain was just a case of gas, but the Roshan's received a 'thumbs' down from the crew for their attitude!
Anil Kapoor-Last Star Standing
The older stars though, deal with the adulation differently. Anil Kapoor, who was a big star at the time, was flying London-Bombay in the first class. One lady pax from club class was literally pleading with us to let her go and meet him. We passed on this lady's request to Anil Kapoor, who was engrossed in the in flight movie. Kapoor took his head set off, buttoned his shirt and asked us to send her in. We led her up front towards his seat. No sooner had she approached him, Kapoor, a thorough gentleman, got up from his seat, and paying due respect to the lady, he folded his hands in a cheerful Namaste.
They exchanged a few pleasantries and chatted a while about which movies of Anil Kapoor she liked best. But as long as the lady stood there, Anil Kapoor did not sit down in his seat!
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On one flight from Bombay to Dubai via Trivandrum (since renamedThiruvananthapuram ) the beautiful and vivacious Sridevi was flying with us. She was the star of a large number of Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and of course Hindi films like Chaalbaaz, Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja & Mr.India to name a few.
She seemed a little tired but had a gracious smile for those who managed to strike up a conversation with her. One pax tried to flatter her with "Your 'Hawa Hawaii' dance inMR.INDIA was absolutely great " she said a polite 'thank you'. The man went on " You and Anil Kapoor together were such a romantic pair that we all expected something else, you know" , giving her a very knowing glance. The actress who was married to Anil Kapoor's brother, Boney, just stared at her lime juice in embarrassment.
The Sleeping Sridevi
She seemed to be dying to shut her eyes and grab a nap but people around just wouldn't let her do it peacefully. To her credit, not once did she ask the crew to act as security guards for her and she dealt with her fans herself. When the actress finally grabbed a shut-eye, an infant in the back row started crying inconsolably. Sridevi sprang awake with the baby's first howl.
We halted at Trivandrum for one hour, where the actress slept like a baby; a baby whose otherwise cute face had been marred by an extremely slender and pointed nose most probably remodeled by some Cosmetic Surgeon who was an ardent Michael Jackson fan.
Lost in Translation
Then it was boarding time, almost all the incoming pax were going to join or rejoin their jobs as laborers in Dubai or thereabouts and they mostly spoke no language other than Malayalam. It was terribly difficult to communicate with them as none of the crew knew the language!
The first bus-load of pax started rushing up the ladder. They nudged and pushed at each other as if it were some sort of a race that had a prize waiting for the first one into the aircraft.
All of a sudden, one pax wearing a red bush-shirt with the top three buttons open, a long gold chain around his neck and sporting disheveled hair, hurriedly entered the aircraft shouting something in his native lingo. "Tatti-Vane-Dee!" he said desperately. The crew was stunned!
I went towards the door to assist the hostess who was attempting in vain to direct the man toward his seat. "Tatti-Vane-Dee!" he said again, looking really panicky. I asked him politely what it was that he wanted. Without a flinch, the man said piercingly "Tatti-Vane-Dee!!" This term seemed totally Greek and Latin to me and my crew. We looked for an interpreter among the boarding passengers, but it was futile as none of them spoke English or Hindi. I even tried sign-language but to no avail "Tatti-Vane-Dee!" he hollered again.
Then, after I painstakingly broke up his words phonetically, I thought I had solved the puzzle.
I was almost convinced that he needed to visit the toilet. Holding the man by his hand, I led him to the nearest lavatory, pushed open the collapsible door and pointing towards the potty I asked "Tatti-Ven-Dee???"
The desperate man did not budge and looked at me suspiciously. He howled again "Tatti-Vane-Dee!!"
I was totally nonplussed. Thinking he may be dying of thirst; I offered him water, fruit-juice and even a beer. But he just shook his head, refusing it all and looked at me pleadingly; "Tatti-Vane-Dee!" was all he said; now almost giving up the fight.
With all this commotion Sridevi's beauty sleep was rudely disturbed and she looked questionably in our direction. A hostess went to the actress to explain what was going on.
To our good luck, Sridevi offered to help us with her knowledge of Malayalam. She put on her dark glasses and walked purposefully into the economy.
Sridevi's Multi-lingual Skills
First, there was a stunned silence when the passengers registered that Sridevi had walked in. Then, all hell broke loose, passengers clamored to get closer to her, some pulled out their pens and boarding passes for an autograph. As bags fell from overhead bins and crew members become security barriers, they were all screaming 'SRIDEVI, SRIDEVI' Sridevi hardly flinched.
She approached the harrowed passenger who was looking around frenetically, searching like a headless chicken. When he noticed the actress beads of sweat trickled down his face. He managed a half smile and said desperately to her, "Madam, Tatti-Vane-Dee"
Sridevi burst out laughing. The crew couldn't make sense of it. She asked the passenger something in Malayalam and he took out his boarding pass to show it to her, but not without one last utterance of "Tatti-Vane-Dee". Amidst peals of laughter, Sridevi passed the boarding card to me and read out the gentleman's seat number. It read seat number 31-D !!
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On an evening flight out of London, about a quarter of a century back, the gorgeous Dimple Kapadia sauntered into the first-class of the aircraft. She was followed by more than the regular entourage of London's airport ground personnel from our esteemed (in those glorious days) airline!
Dimple Boards the Aircraft
It is extremely difficult to recount how stunning she looked in her large, red furry overcoat, dutifully taken off her slender shoulders by one of our crew. As she settled in her seat (4-J), pulling off her long black woolen gloves, she could very well sense the flattering glances from each and every one around. Dimple's famous flowing tresses enhanced her beauty even more, and each time she moved her face in one direction or the other, the tresses curled into different sensational angles.
I was an out and out Dimple fan ever since her Bobby(1973) days, but after her return to films following her break-up with the colossal 'super-star' Rajesh Khanna, I had actually fallen in love, like a million others, with this breathtakingly marvelous beauty. Just the fragrance that was emanating from the presence of the heroine of films like Manzil Manzil (1984), Zakhmi Sher (1984) andSaagar (1985) was enough to drive me up the hill.
A 'Frootie' Affair!
After take-off from London, a dedicated fan from economy class kept standing just behind Dimple's seat, staring at her, hoping she would turn. No amount of requests would get him to budge and even Dimple had started to ignore him. One air-hostess who was carrying a tray full of mango drinks absent-mindedly offered this devoted fan a Frootie. "No thanks, madam" he replied, "I already had one from the backside!"
Dimple turned around and with a mischievous glint in her eye said to the hostess "Ask him if he used a straw!" This moment broke the ice with the crew who began laughing uncontrollably. We discovered that the friendly Dimple was always game for a tete-a tete with us.
Tongue-tied by her Beauty
Unable to find intelligent words to strike up a conversation, I asked her the obvious question "What were you doing in London in this dreadful winter?" Dimple smiled, flicked her hair and said to me, "I made a stop-over in London to shop on the way from Moscow where I was shooting for Shashi Kapoor's Ajooba (1991). And do you know who I was shooting with?" I tried to reply, but mesmerized as I was, I couldn't hazard an answer, 'Who?' I asked. Dimple replied with an enthusiastic grin "The long and the short of Hindi cinema!–Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor ! One double my height and the other half it, ha ha ha."
I too laughed in agreement with her,wondering how someone so beautiful could be blessed with sense of humor so wicked. Still talking about the weather, I unimaginatively asked her, "But Moscow must be freezing, no?" Her answer was "Yes, it was terribly cold, in fact I feel feverish!". Then suddenly, without warning, Dimple grasped my right wrist, dragged the back of my palm onto the nape of her neck and asked me "Do I have fever?" I was in a state of shock. I let my hand linger on a moment or two longer than necessary, moving my eyes and eyebrows upwards in a seemingly thoughtful concentration. I had trouble getting words out of my mouth, but I managed to mumble the following, "Not much fever! But I'll get you a paracetamol tablet and we can check again after half an hour."
A gift from Dimple
Back in the galley I was somewhat a star myself. My envious male colleagues claimed to feel faint from the aroma coming out of the back of my hand, one of them even said to me, 'Manu, don't ever wash it!'
We had to stop our conversation as Dimple suddenly walked up to the galley "Are you married?" she asked me. My colleague dropped a tray of muffins onto the floor. I replied to Dimple in the affirmative, much as I didn't want to, glaring at my colleague to quickly exit.
"Any kids?" she asked. I said "Yes, my nine year old son Apu is a bigger fan of yours than I am". I dint tell her that Apu's favorite film of hers was Bees Saal Baad (1988), her only horror movie. "That's nice. Please bring your son to one of my shoots in Bombay (it was not Mumbai yet), I would like to see him." Saying this Dimple Kapadia picked up a tissue from the galley top and wrote the following words on it 'With lots of love to my dearest Apu, from Dimple.' She added her telephone number and autograph at the bottom!
International Flight to Domestic Fight!
I saved the tissue from a barrage of jealous crew members and brought it safely to the confines of my home. Back in Bombay I couldn't stop bragging about this story to friends and family. The simpleton that I am, I even narrated the story to my wife!
My son was overjoyed, jumping all over the place, holding the piece of tissue paper from Dimple aunty to her "dearest Apu". But unknown to either of us, my better half was seething, as only a woman can. She suddenly got up, pulled the tissue from my son's hand, tore it to bits and discarded it into the nearest trash can.
But I had my revenge: I didn't wash my right hand for weeks to come!
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THE WINNERS of Biggest Bwood Fans Member Awards!!
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