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His own roti, his own sabzi, his own fame...

Sawan Kumar enjoys his fruit of labour at New Delhi's InterContinental The Grand.

MANY HAVE risen from rags to riches but few have been able to retain the vulnerability, first as a forced companion and then as a chosen mate. The man in frame is Sawan, recognised more for shooting from the other woman's side and his dalliance with the Muslim socials than his effusive susceptibility towards food and verve. "I eat and drink films. So, I usually don't have time to talk about food, and other angles in life," says Sawan tasting biscuits at New Delhi's InterContinental The Grand in the midst of a hectic schedule to promote his new tale of love in the shadow of Indo-Pakistan tension, "Dil Pardesi Ho Gaya".

Poignant about the past, Sawan pours, "Actually I ran away from my home in Jaipur at the age of 16 to become a hero not realising the struggle involved and since then fight is ceaselessly on. When nobody took me seriously I decided to start my own film. `Naunihal' was my first effort, and Sanjeev Kumar's debut vehicle. I somehow managed to put it together. The film won rave reviews and a national award but nothing to keep me in business. A few years' fight emboldened me to start `Gomti Ke Kinare' with Meena Kumari and Mumtaz. Again the result was same. Distinction on creativity side and zero in cash column. Finally, I hit big time with `Hawas', where I introduced Neetu Singh to fame and myself as a commercially viable director and yes, as a lyricist as well."

After scripting the past, Sawan reveals that his passion for food is self earned during the days of fight against failure. "I learnt to cook myself with money and love for experimentation kept on adding the item numbers to my culinary repertoire. Pehle khane ko roti seekhi, phir paise aane par subzi."

Limiting the past, he relates, "I love okra, spinach, cauliflower and tinda. I also try chicken and fish but prawns are prohibited in my home, as I am allergic to them. Basically, I am a fan of vegetarian stuff only," says he cherishing a cherry. "Fruits are always my favourite companion especially papaya, when I am shooting as they keep you fresh. I also relish fresh juices and salads."

"I prefer eating at home and during shooting my cooks accompany me to keep the home feel going but in this profession one has to adjust and I do it happily."

Chat enters the pause mode, as Sawan turns hot for a while when one enquires about his fluency with failures. Yes, it's true but I am fluent with surprises as well. Every time media has written my obituary, I have come up with a `Souten' or a `Sanam Bewafa' and nobody can predict box-office results even those who only work with mega stars have faced doom."

Is this the only reason for working with newcomers or it has something to do with his early experiences?

"A bit of both as I believe that stars can't create Sawan but Sawan could. Also, I cast according to the script. I have worked with Rekha, Rajendra Kumar and Jeetendra at the peak of their careers and gave a new lease of life to Rajesh Khanna when everybody was advising me against casting him in `Souten'," for once one could see a tinge of pride in the eyes of a self-made man trying to hide the rages of time by keeping himself trendy in jeans and T-Shirt.

Shifting focus to the latest, Sawan is passionate about "Dil Pardesi... ". "I was inspired by Indian Army's respect for the Pakistani soldiers killed during the Kargil war. When Pakistan Government refused to accept their bodies our jawans arranged a proper funeral for them. This incident supplemented my faith in Indian tolerance. I am not making a film based on Pakistan bashing but for a world devoid of borders."

But after the deluge of dismissals as "Mother" and "Salma Pe Dil Aa Gaya" and in the winds of change flowing across Bollywood, is "Dil Pardesi... " a safe proposition? For once, Sawan comes across as a man tired of waiting with a baited breath for a new release. "I will stop making films if `Dil Pardesi... ' doesn't succeed." But seasoned Sawan recollects himself from yet another momentary bout of emotion. With apple juice to jazz him up, he grins, "How can I stop making films? They are part of my breath. Success or failure, I will keep on creating movies till my last breath." His assertion demands trust as the man refused to tie the knot because 24 hours were less for his profession and so personal life could not be accommodated.


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