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Neena Gupta: I wanted to wear tennis clothes like Martina Navratilova, Gulzar asked me to improve my game first – Times of India

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A few months ago, Neena Gupta was trolled for wearing shorts while she met the legendary lyricist and director Gulzar. Not many know that she had been schooled for her zany fashion choices in the past by Gulzar saab. Not just that, he had even taught her how to play tennis. In her book ‘Sach Kahun Toh – An Autobiography’, Neena has revealed a memorable story with Gulzar and her escapade around the sport.

While narrating her experiences with Gulzar, Neena wrote in her book, “Gulzar Sahib used to go to a place in Andheri called Practennis to play tennis every day. He was a huge sports enthusiast so when I found out, I asked if I could join. He picked me up at 6:30 am every day and we’d play together. He even gifted me my first tennis racket. I wasn’t very good, but he was a spectacular player. He would play for almost an hour, hour-and-a-half every day.”

When Neena started playing, she got influenced by players like Martina Navratilova, and by her own admission, “I wanted to wear nice tennis clothes like her. You know what I am talking about? The short skirts and fitted shorts. Perfect to run around in. In those days, these kinds of clothes were not easily available in India, so anyone going abroad was immediately tasked with bringing such clothes for me.” When Neena expressed her desire to dress like Navratrilova to Gulzar Sahib, he joked, “Neena improve your game first and then start investing in dressing the part’.”

Neena also recalls how Gulzar always took extra care of her during her pregnancy. She wrote in her book, “I was almost seven months pregnant by the time we wrapped up the shoot for ‘Mirza Ghalib’, a historical drama series that aired on DD (Doordarshan). Gulzar sahib had produced the series and had called me personally to play the role of Nawab Jaan. I was only a few months along when I received this offer but didn’t want to lose the opportunity. I really needed the money. But I couldn’t be dishonest even if I was a bit desperate. So I told Gulzar Sahib the truth. I am pregnant and due in November but please let me do this role because I really need the money.”

The gentleman that Gulzar is, he took good care of Neena. As she revealed, “Gulzar Sahib is a gem of a person and so non-judgemental. He not only gave me the part, but also took extra care of me during the filming. He would always ensure that I was comfortable and that I had eaten properly. He would even bring me food from his own house, so I would have something exciting to look forward to. I have mentioned before that I had friends who took special care of me during my pregnancy. I am so honoured to have had Gulzar Sahib among those friends.”

So much so, that Gulzar had even given strict instructions to the choreographer on the ‘Mirza Ghalib’ shoot to ensure that Neen’s steps were simple. Neena further wrote, “You know, I don’t think I have many pictures of me when I was pregnant. Om Puri took a picture once but I don’t know where that went. Most of my pictures from that time are from ‘Mirza Ghalib’. And in so many of them, my bump is hidden. Looking back today, I feel like I should have done at least one photoshoot to remember those wonderful months spent growing this beautiful child in my body.”



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