Off and on, I’ve fallen in and out of love. After all, I’m a human being, not a god or a sanyasi. But when you’re seriously in love,you propose to the girl and tell her, `I can’t live without you.’ That happened only once in my life — with Suraiya.
It was my first and only serious love affair. I was very young and callow at the time. As a teenager, I had been infatuated by a girl at the Government College, Lahore. She was our history professor’s daughter. But it was only from a distance, I barely spoke to her, and our so-called romance went nowhere. I suppose it happens to everybody at that age.
But Suraiya was another story. She was one of my early co-stars. I was thoroughly smitten by her. So much so that I wanted desperately to marry her. I even bought her a ring. And she was responding in equal measure.
There wouldn’t have been a love affair otherwise. I’m too much of an egoist to chase an unresponsive woman and nurse an unrequited love. The girl doesn’t like me, I don’t like her, forget it. That’s me.
Anyway, Suraiya and I decided to get married. But her conservative family and her self-seeking friends came in the way. They brought up this whole Hindu-Muslim communal bogey, and made a big deal of it.
There was this matriarchal grandmother of hers who was totally dead- set against our marriage, and so was an entire gang of her suitors and ex-suitors. Only her mother sympathised with us, but she couldn’t sway the others who managed to dissuade Suraiya.
Suraiya never married, but several men were keen to tie the knot with her. After all, she was a big star in the 1940s. And I was a nobody — just a budding newcomer — when we first met. Looking back, I feel it was her star-image that made her all the more desirable.
Her popularity as a singing star in those days was simply amazing — her songs were playing on the air all the time, and frenzied crowds mobbed her car wherever she went, clamouring for her attention. `Suraiya! Suraiya! Suraiya!’ It was as if the whole world was in love with her. So her physical beauty had this added aura of
When a woman as pretty and famous as that feeds your ego saying `I love you, too’ there was no escape for me — I got emotionally cornered.
After we broke up, there were several stories doing the rounds. One said I send her a rose on her birthday every year. I never did that. Once I was through with Suraiya, I immersed myself completely in my production company Navketan and began filming Baazi.
That’s when I also met a newcomer called Mona Singh whose screen name was Kalpana Kartik and who later became my wife. But if you ask me if I married on the rebound, I won’t deny it.
Even though I was busy working long hours after Suraiya and I went our separate ways, I realized I was still carrying the psychological baggage of that relationship. The more it was clear that I’d lost her, the more I wanted to make her mine. And for an egoist like me, those were hellish days.
I remember it got to a point where I once went across to my elder brother Chetan Anand (he was my only confidant then), and wept on his shoulder like a child.
You find yourself in a vacuum, you begin to wonder `mujhe ladki kyon nahi mil rahi, mujh mein kya problem hai?’ and in walked this young educated girl with a college degree, who spoke fantastic English, and was part of the new crowd.
We had a secret marriage on the sets during a lunch break because I hate elaborate wedding tamashas. At the time, I felt like this is better than what I had left behind. But somewhere deep down, I always knew Suraiya was the love and the passion of my life and I will always cherish her memory – Shekhar Hattangadi