"Mr Ghai always has problems with his heroines. Madhuri and he are not on speaking terms, I am told. Manisha and he are in court. Mr Ghai is a very fine film-maker but he cannot sustain relationships. He expects too much of his heroines.
"
(Rediff, Apr. 1998)

Every fledgling actress dreams of a debut like Mahima's. And every successful actress fears the predicament in which she now finds herself.

Mahima Choudhary    From a career in modeling, her role as the quintessential "good Indian girl" opposite Shahrukh Khan in 1997's Pardes shot her straight to fame. But Mahima's relationship with her "industry sponsor," director Subhash Ghai, was too good to be true. In April 1998, Ghai took her to court to restrain her from traveling abroad, where she planned to participate in a stage show. The judge denied Ghai's request, but the ensuing furor was Mahima's first taste of her new role in Bollywood: queen of scandal.

    In an April 1998 interview with Rediff, Mahima admits confusion to how the Ghai matter got so out of hand. "He suddenly took off on me and sent me this legal notice. When I called back and tried to get in touch with him, he switched off his cellphone and refused to come on line. So I spoke to his wife. She said she will talk to him and asked me to call him back after ten minutes. That's exactly what I did. By this time, I presume on her persuasion, he had switched on his cellphone. So when I called, he picked it up and said: I will meet you in court! Then he went off the line. I tried to connect with him to understand what he meant by that short, cryptic comment, but (by that time) he had switched the cellphone off again. So, if you ask me, I still have no clue as to what went wrong."

    In the same interview, the journalist explored the matter in further detail:

    Q: I presume you are talking about the terms of his contract with you when you describe his expectations as overmuch. Or are you insinuating something more?
    M:
Well, even he knows that such contracts are not worth the paper they are written on. He himself violated the contract with me even before the ink had dried on it. He signed on Aishwarya for his next film even though it was clearly understood that he would sign me on for his three next ventures. Even when we were shooting for Pardes, he would tell me that discussions with her was on.
    
    We all knew that he was planning to sign her on but I did not make an issue out of it. It is his decision to sign who he wants for his next film. I don't know why he's making such a song and dance about it now. Why he is protesting against contractual obligations being violated. That, too, a few hours before I am supposed to go off for these stage shows.

   Q:But why didn't you make an issue of it then? Matters may not reached a head that way.
   M:
Why should I? I am not used to begging. He decided he wanted someone else for his new film. I said: Fine, do what you want. I will also do what I want. I have enough people ready to sign me on.

   Q: Don't you feel bad that such a special rishta [relationship] has soured for no reason at all?
    M: What can I do? If he does not want to talk to me and resolve the issues, how can I sort the matter out? In any case, his expectations are unrealistic. I am not slave labour. I have a mind of my own. I know what is good for me, my career.
         
I cannot depend exclusively on the man who gave me my first break to continue giving me important roles so that I can make it to the next orbit. I have to now go out and work with others. He is too possessive. There's a world outside Mukta Arts that I must deal with, now that I am free.

   Q: Why did you sign a contract where you gave away everything -- your freedom to sign other films, a substantial share of your earnings from advertising, stage shows and future movies, and your right to choose your own future in the industry? What did you expect to get from this slavish contract?
   M: A break in showbiz, Pritish! Mind you, I never asked for it. I was offered it. But once the offer came, I was keen to make it happen. Everyone knows how one-sided such contracts are. Everyone also knows that they cannot be enforced because they are so one-sided. That's why they are always revised once the initial purpose is over. In this case, the completion of Pardes.
        
In any case, instead of filing a case against me or threatening to see me in court, all he had to do was ask me nicely if we could sort the matter out. I was always ready for that. But he went suddenly short on patience.
        
I hear he was angry that I did not mention him by name when I got the Zee Cine Award. It's true I did not but, at the same time, I acknowledged him while going on the stage, I smiled and waved out at him. I thanked the makers of Pardes. Which means Mukta Arts. So what is all this bitching about?

    Mahima's troubles do not end with Subhash Ghai. Her ongoing romance with tennis star Leander Paes, who recently bought her an expensive bungalow and allegedly opposes the idea of a working wife, has made marriage-wary producers nervous to sign her. Worse, Mahima has made an abrupt exit from four different films, and several other projects have been stalled due to date conflicts. To be fair, in an industry where a star usually works on several films at once, the allotment of shooting dates is very tricky and often leads to such problems. But some people claim Mahima is selectively reneging on committments to filmmakers based on their recent track record at the box office. The possibility does not endear her to the industry, particularly since Mahima herself has not had a runaway hit since her debut. (Cineblitz, Mar. 2002)

    The negative talk circulating about her grew louder recently, when Mahima reportedly skipped out on shooting dates for several productions, including those of Nitin Raj and Vashu Bhagnani, in order to do a concert abroad with Popcorn Entertainment (run by Sunil Shetty). Rajoo Karia, one of Mahima's former secretaries (currently she's on her seventh), has quit over such doings. In the March 2002 issue of Cineblitz, he explains his decision: "She accepted the signing amount from [Nitin Raj] and later denied ever having taken it! I took Nitin and Zahid (her ex-secretary, a witness to said transaction) to her house. To our shock, Mahima's sister refused to let us enter, claiming that Mahima was not at home. I am a producer's man, I could not tolerate the anguish she was causing them and I resigned."

     Some trade magazines have been prompted to speculate on whether she will be banned by producers altogether. Pahlaj Nihalani, president of the Cine Artistes' Association and member of the IMPPA (the governing authority over the film industry), admits, "Mahima has been troubling producers, which is very bad. She seems to forget that it's the films that make her a star, not the stage shows. Now she has been ordered to cooperate and she will have to. She has hurt herself by her bad behavior, more than anyone else. Now producers will think twice before signing her." (Cineblitz, Mar. 2002) For an actress renowned for her friendly nature and acting prowess, such news must be startling indeed.

 

Mahima Choudhary
real name: Ritu Choudhary
born: September 13, 19??
( on her passport, she's...23!?!)
height: 5' 5"

FILMS

1997 Pardes*
1999 Daag
1999 Dil Kya Kare*
1999 Pyar Koi Khel Nahin
2000 Deewane
2000 Dhadkan*
2000 Khiladi 420
2000 Kurukshetra
2001 Lajja*
2001 Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar
2002 Dil Hai Tumhaara
2002 Om Jai Jagdish
2003 Baghbaan
2004 Dobara
2004 Filmstar
2004 Zameer

* acclaimed performance


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