The door opens and a shaft of almost divine light fills up the physiotherapy clinic of Dr. Indu Tandon, who is incidentally the elder daughter of the well – known sound recordist Madan Prakash who has retired now and takes great delight in managing Indu’s clinic. An elderly woman walks in with a younger woman who seems to be her caretaker. Mr. Prakash walks up to her to receive her very warmly and the feelings are mutual. He leads her to his cabin where I am seated. She calls him “bhai” as she has accepted him as her only brother because she only has six sisters. He seems to have given her a background about me. She keeps smiling and waving out to all the other patients going through various forms of exercises, some of them very painful, but they all keep waving back to her calling out “Leela Aunty Leela Aunty” and she keeps smiling at them and I see that she has hardly any wrinkles on her face even though her hair has gone completely grey. I wonder how attractive she must have been when she was young. She tells me that she was a choreographer and dancer in her youth.
She asks me to guess her age and I mischievously say “may be 14 or 16”. She gently slaps me and says “mazak karte ho, I’m 85 years old and I’m recovering from a bad fall in the bathroom, but I have the will power and have fought greater battles than this”. It is only when she is about to go for her treatment that I realise that she is the mother of Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
But before her treatments starts, she makes sure that everyone in the clinic gets a cup of hot tea which she has specially made for all of them and they have all got addicted to her tea. A young lady doctor goes about treating her shoulder and neck, but even in the midst of it all, she keeps encouraging a young man who has fractured almost his entire body neck downwards and tells him, “it is possible, it is possible, don’t give up my son” and the handsome young man feels alive all over again.
She comes back to the cabin and the first thing she tells me is about the happiest day in her life. Sanjay Bhansali had finished working as an assistant to Vidhu Vinod Chopra in his film 1942– A Love Story and had even choreographed a song on Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit. Vidhu wanted to give him full credit for his work and asked him what name he should write and Sanjay instantly said “Sanjay Leela Bhansali”. Vidhu told him that Leela was his mother’s name, but Sanjay said he would always want his name to be written with his mother, Leela’s name as his middle name. It was a moment of great pride and emotions for the mother who had brought up her son all on her own.
I had the pleasure of spending some more time with “Leela Aunty” who kept telling me about the talent and the many good qualities about her son Sanjay. “Kahani bhi likhta hai film bhi banata hai, painting bhi karta hai aur aajkal music bhi deta hai mera beta”, she said and the mother’s pride was painted on her smile, like no modern painter could dare to paint that kind of a smile that had gone out of our lives.
The 85 year old, Leela Aunty was acutely aware of one the major problems Sanjay had to go through during the making and even after the release of Padmaavat. She still had that divine smile on her face when she said “Mere bete ne itani mehnat kar ke itani khoobsoorat film banai. Aur dekho kuchh logon ne uska aur uski film ka kya hal banaya. Lekin Bhagwan hamare sath hain aur film bahut khoob chali, ab aisa lagta hai ki kitna achchha hota agar film Gujrat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh aur UP me bhi release ho jati” she is however sure that her son is her son and will not lose either his courage or his confidence to make better and more challenging films.
The mother in her is relieved that Sanjay is taking it easy now, but she knows that this time is not going to last for long for a man who has always been on the move. She has visions to the happy even at this stage as Sanjay Leela Bhansali is all set to launch his new film in which he will introduce the son of Jaaved Jaffery and her own granddaughter, the daughter of Bela Segal (who is married to the son of the veteran film maker Mohan Segal who incidentally was one of the film makers who even refused to do an audition test with Amitabh Bachchan even though he had a letter of recommendation from non-other than Mrs. Indira Gandhi who had asked her friend Nargis Dutt to take care of the son of her friend, Mrs. Teji Bachchan.
I have always had the highest respect for mothers and that evening after meeting “Leela Aunty”, my respect for them almost bordered on worship and I also wished that were no women created by God who would give a bad name to his greatest creation. The next evening when I met “Leela Aunty” the smile on her face had grown much more beautiful and I wanted to keep looking at her because I had not seen my own mother or any other’s mother like her in all my life and experienced life.
What a lucky son you are, Sanjay to have a mother like your mother!