*By Teejay Siddhu.
Teejay Sidhu is an actress, VJ, model, RJ, and compere. She spent several years RJ-ing and modeling, in 2005 she joined Channel [v] as the host of ‘V Workouts’ taking Bollywood celebs on their desired fitness expeditions – from kickboxing to rock-climbing to complex yoga. After her VJ stint, Teejay put her theater skills to use, appearing in ‘Unspoken Dialogues’ with Alyque Padamsee, ‘Mad Horses of Matheran’ with Gary Richardson, and ‘Plane Crazy About Love’ with Bollywood’s legendary, Helen. She also matched steps with her husband Karnvir Bohra in two mega-successful dance shows, ‘Kabhi Pyar Kabhi Yaar’ (Sony), and ‘Nach Baliye 4’ (Star Plus.) April 2008 saw the release of the hit Punjabi film, ‘Tera Mera Ki Rishta,’ in which Teejay featured opposite Jimmy Sheirgill.
So if you recall I had Twittered in that Teejay Siddhu was going to give us the skinny on the swayamvar since she was invited and as promised here it is in her own words!
My friend Rakhi…
So Sunday night was the big Swayamvar. I’d been following the show off and on and was, like everyone else, curious to see if Rakhi would actually go through with it. Let me give you a little background… Rakhi and I met on Ganpati last year. A TV channel wanted to shoot my hubby and I doing Ganpati darshans so they took us to her house since she goes all out for the Ganesh festival. She was a great hostess… sweet… polite and didn’t let us leave without eating and also didn’t mind that we had landed up at her house with a TV crew (not that Rakhi ever minds a little extra press.) ;)
After that, we met a month later at a Nach Baliye party and instantly connected. We’ve been friends ever since. She is, without a doubt, one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. Sometimes she says things for effect, but most of the time, that’s really just how she is – blunt. Before I knew her, I also used to wonder, ‘Where does she come up with this stuff??’ There is no ‘Rakhi Sawant Handbook’ (though it is tempting to write a book on ‘Rakhi-isms.’) ;) From spending time with her, I’ve seen that she just says what she feels. What she says comes straight from the heart.
(Here are some of our dance show photos. The ones where I’m wearing a purple dress are from our Nach Baliye promo shoot.. the one is the 70’s get-up (with the big sunglasses) is from our press shoot (for the hoardings). The other photo is from Kabhi Pyar Kabhi Yaar, the dance show we did on Sony.)
My other friends have curiously asked me what she’s like. She’s exactly how she appears – feisty, fun, dramabazi, nautanki, theatrical, ambitious, hardworking but also sensitive, loyal, and funny as hell! :) Sometimes she’ll say something that she feels is totally logical, but makes me wonder what planet she’s from! There’s a lot to learn from her. And maybe that’s why we’re friends – because we’re complete opposites. I couldn’t act like her or say the things she does.
For one, I’m the biggest chicken when it comes to speaking my mind. I remember once when I was having a money issue with show organizer. She told me I should threaten to walk off and tell the organizers, ‘Do you know who I am? I’m Rakhi Sawant’s friend!’ Hahahaha! I laughed just imagining it! If she had said it, she would’ve gotten her way, but if I had said it, I would’ve probably gotten the boot. Another time when her advance cheque for a New Year’s event hadn’t arrived she called the organizer, gave him a few choice words and the cheque arrived that same evening. You can’t mess around with her – Rakhi Sawant gets sh** done.
She’s also thoughtful. Once when my husband went out of town for a film shoot, she invited me over so I wouldn’t have to stay at home alone. I asked her why she didn’t let people know the ‘real’ her. She said she had to maintain that image because people, press, industry etc expected it from her. She told me solemnly, ‘When I go out, I have to be Madonna or Britney Spears, but at home, I am Tulsi.’ I laughed again, but you know, it’s true. She spends Saturday nights watching old Hindi movies, and her mornings always begin with prayers. She likes hanging out at the gym, she does yoga in her spare time and occasionally having quiet dinners at the local joints in Andheri. She works hard and has everything she wants. There’s just one thing missing – she wants to be loved, truly and sincerely.
They didn’t allow personal cameras at the event, but I managed to sneak a few photos . :) The one where she’s wearing a red saree is from the day after the Swayamvar. Karanvir didn’t come for the Swayamvar so she invited both of us for dinner at the Taj the next day, Monday night.
I remember when Rakhi was first toying with the Swayamvar idea back in February. I asked her if she’d really get married and she said, ‘Haan, kyon nahin? Mujhe bhi ghar basana hai.’ [why not? Even I want to get settled down.] Even though she had no idea what kind of guys she’d end up meeting on the show. Before the show even started, I wondered what kind of guys she’d meet. And how could she trust their intentions? Would they want to marry her because they honestly loved her or would they be in love with her image? Everybody wants their fifteen minutes of fame and marrying Rakhi Sawant, or even just appearing on the show, would be an easy ticket. After the Abhiskhek Awasthi fiasco, the last thing she wanted was another guy wanting to cash in on her popularity.
I caught the show off and on and have to admit I wasn’t bowled over by any of the candidates. I mean, Rakhi always makes good television viewing and some of the boys were sweet but I didn’t see anyone as ‘the one.’ Nobody was outstanding.
Anyways, she managed to go narrow it down to the final three who would present themselves Sunday evening for their final selection. Usually girls are dressed up and paraded for potential husbands, so it was funny to see a guy go through that process.
The evening itself was a full red-carpet event, well planned, well executed. I couldn’t believe all this was happening for one person! I mean, I know Rakhi’s got some power but I didn’t realize how much until that night! Security was tight at the Leela, Rakhi’s guests had their own entry, invites were checked, cameras and press were there, guests were sweetly ushered to their seats (kind of like at a real wedding!) It was really something watching it all unfold, awe-inspiring! You could tell that everybody there was impressed, more by what Rakhi Sawant had manifested than the event itself.
I met Rakhi in her hotel room before the main event. If she was nervous, it didn’t show. She was excited, confident and looking like a million bucks. (I think if you add up the promo expenses, the publicity, the costumes, the jewelry, the production costs etc, I’m sure the channel must’ve spent at least that much on her.) Neeta Lulla designed her outfit, a beautiful pink and gold piece. When I went in, she was having one of her many dupattas pinned and tucked into place, I think there were three in total. (Isn’t an outfit just supposed to have one?) Her jewelry was designed by Aqueel Ali’s wife, Farah Khan Ali. Farah made lots of it cause Rakhi was dripping in jewels! ‘You don’t think it’s too much?’ I asked her. ‘Aaj meri zindagi ka sabse bada faasla hai, I have to look my best!’ [Today I'm making the most important decision of my life] Haha! Typical Rakhi, always over the top! I smiled. If it makes sense to her, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I love that. Then she told me, ‘Kuch aur jewelry baki hai..the nose ring.’ [Some jewelry is left]
After walking her downstairs, I ran inside to get a good seat. (Didn’t want to miss anything!) Surprisingly, the event itself was quite sober. This was Rakhi’s big night so I expected fireworks, dhamaka, an evening with a ‘Rakhi Sawant’ signature on it. There wasn’t one. (There was more action at the Nach Baliye finals when she walked out.) I’m sure there must be others, too, who half expected Abhiskhek Awasthi to burst in, disrupt the proceedings, proclaim his love for Rakhi, and whisk his bride away, leaving three sad, jilted grooms on stage. If NDTV thought Swayamvar brought in fabulous TRPs before, something like this would’ve taken them way over the top! Haha! I can just imagine Sameer Nair fainting from happiness! But sadly, no, nothing of the sort happened.
Ram Kapoor welcomed all the guests and invited the three grooms (Elesh, Manas, Chitiz) and their families to the stage. Each groom and his parivaar came dancing into the room, eventually taking his place. (It was clear Elesh was the janta favourite.) Then, Rakhi was called in. After much applause, the blushing bride made her grand entry, looking coy and demure. She didn’t look up too much (but then that was probably due to too much head gear, and not from being shy.) They also could’ve done without the four junior artists that walked in behind her. (They looked like they’d been picked up from Sankriman studios.)
I felt a little sorry for Rakhi. There was no family at her engagement. Also, her guests was mostly people who had vested interests in the show – NDTV channel people, SOL production people, hotel staff, and a tiny sprinkling of TV celebs. I sat with my friend Ishq Bector (with whom she’s done a video) and his girlfriend Tripat. Besides us, I didn’t recognize any ‘friends’ in the audience. Even in her room, we were the only ones there that were not make up people, hairdressers or production people.
You couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for the grooms, too. It was like watching the NBA draft pick – all the players nervously waiting, hoping they wouldn’t be the last ones picked. Ram let each of the boys speak, giving them one last chance to impress their future wife. I can’t remember what they said – probably cause no one said anything interesting. Neither did their families. I couldn’t believe that with their future at stake, none of the boys did anything to swing the decision in their favour!
Somebody’s Mom cried, someone else couldn’t wait for Rakhi to be a part of their family, and someone said something about gaining a daughter, not a daughter-in-law. (Yawn!) Personally, I would’ve disqualified all the contenders (and families) on the basis of being too lacklustre. I would’ve loved it if one of the grooms had a younger sister who had tattoos and wild hair. Or a drunk uncle wondering where the bar was. Or maybe an obnoxious younger brother who told the audience he found his future bhabi really hot! Haha! That would’ve made Rakhi blush for sure!
Rakhi said a few words, thanked everyone and also apologized for not being able to look up, ‘Main zyada jhuk nahin sakti, meri jewelry bahut bhari hai.’ (Some giggles in the audience.) Seriously, she really, really loved the jewelry. (At this point, I, too would’ve been more interested in the jewels than the boys.) She said a prayer.. asking Jesus for blessings – for herself, the grooms, their families, and NDTV Imagine.
After a few more speeches, Rakhi finally put the garland around Elesh, who thanked Rakhi for choosing the best guy. Ram asked Elesh to say something to Rakhi, he did in English (‘I’ll always walk beside you.. not behind you or ahead of you…’) and she replied in Hindi (Main hamesha aap ke dukh-sukh mein saath doongi..’) [I'll be by your side in sadness and joy] Then came a little ring ceremony, ‘I love you’s,’ and the cake cutting. Another little, yet important speech – both Rakhi and Elesh making it a VERY clear that this was only an engagement. They wanted six more months to know each other better and would see about marriage after that.
If I know Rakhi, this is her way of saying, ‘Get your sh** together or else.’ And I think that’s fair. She’s worked hard for many years and deserves someone who can give her the financial security and lifestyle that she wants. She does want to settle down, and she will work after marriage but her husband should be able to carry his own weight in the relationship. Having said that, I think Elesh has his work cut out for him. He’s snagged himself a fiancee, but if he wants to win himself a bride, he’s got six months to make a million bucks (dollars please, not rupees.) Otherwise NDTV Imagine’s dream might just come true – with Swayamvar 2. ;)
P.S. I also took a picture with Saroj Khan. I’ve never had the pleasure of working with her… was my first time meeting her. She was so cute, so small, so endearing. I thought all choreographers had a bit of attitude but she had such a charming personality, was so warm… I love her!! :)