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Known as the Betty of Bollywood, she became the nation's sweetheart with her sweet-and-simple performance in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. Since then, she has found it difficult since to break from that ingenue mold.
A former Miss India (1984) and model, Juhi Chawla has seen her career slow in recent years. But Juhi may face a challenge even greater than trying to find roles while a wife (to businessman Jai Mehta) and mother (to infant daughter Jhanavi). Dreamz Unlimited, the production company which she co-founded with close friend and fellow actor Shahrukh Khan, has failed to hit gold with its three fledgling films -- Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, One 2 Ka 4, and Asoka. In typical Juhi / Shahrukh style, the founders haven't lost faith, but the trick is convincing the rest of the industry to follow suit.
On the domestic front, Juhi surprised the entire industry by concealing her marriage to old friend Jai for as long as humanly possible. Filmfare Online gently ribbed her for it in a December 1999 interview:
Juhi, with all due compliments, you have handled the news
of your marriage to Jay really smartly. First you totally skirted
the issue and denied the topic completely. Then you simply let
it sink in casually, lightly mentioning it to the press, that
you're Mrs. Mehta. Without much ado. Comment?
Of course, in an industry where married actresses are considered box office poison, can one blame her?
In 1999, Juhi
had a falling out with director Mahesh Majrekar. Displeased at
her refusal of a role in one of his films, he took his grievances
to journalists, who were delighted by the novelty of printing
something negative about the "girl next door." As usual,
Juhi responded with gentle gravity: "I
couldn't do this particular film because I felt I wouldn't suit
the character, that's all. And such a hue and cry was made. Like
I said, [rejecting roles] is not taken in the right spirit most
of the time. Though I try to be as straight as possible. At least
I don't say yes and keep people hanging." (Filmfare
Online, Dec. 1999)
Though Juhi's most famous friend is undeniably Shahrukh Khan, there was a time in the early nineties when she was better known as being inseparable from QSQT co-star Aamir Khan. They were supposedly so close that no matter how late Aamir and his wife were running, Juhi would delay the start of any party or function until they arrived. Apparently the friendship ended over a very trivial matter -- Aamir made a joke when Juhi wasn't in the mood, and sharp words were exchanged. Both of them being notoriously sensitive, that was it for the relationship, and they no longer speak except in business situations. It makes one wonder how she gets along so well with Shahrukh, who, as Karan Johar has noted, "is a hyper-sensitive man" who "needs to be dealt with very sensitively." (Cineblitz, Feb. 2002) One must wonder, then, if there isn't more to the Aamir-Juhi fall-out than the public knows!