FOCUS Meet two seasoned managers, who over the years ensured rewarding Fridays for their star clients

T he adage that behind every successful man there stands a woman isn't quite right when it comes to Bollywood, primarily because every triumph of a star is built upon the blood and sweat of a tireless secretary or a public relations manager.

He is the person who paves the way for glitz, glamour, money and fame but also the one who takes all the flak and brickbats without a murmur for all the wrongdoings of a celebrity.

Largely confined to anonymity, this Man Friday endures umpteen tensions and heartaches to remove inevitable problems that come as by-products of fame.

Sacrificing personal dreams, aspirations as well as family life, he works well beyond normal hours just to ensure that the spotlights never deserts his protégé!

Milton's famous lines that “they also serve, who stand and wait” aptly sums up the life and times of Raju Kariya who has put many an artiste on the victory podium.

A self taught man, Kariya came to Mumbai to become an actor but changed gears when he realised he wasn't made for the silver screen and while he may have lacked star quality himself, the dust and grime blessed him with rare instincts to pick “horses for courses”.

It speaks volumes about Kariya's management skills that despite being an unlettered student from Amravati, he made a name for himself in a highly competitive industry and chose winners like Govinda, Akshay Kumar, Sonu Nigam, Ronit Roy and several others when they were non-entities and had no takers for their talent.

Moulding his sartorial lifestyle like Jeetendra had made Raju Kariya a rage in his home town but when he was unable to meet either his idol or get a role in Mumbai, it forced him to stay put as going back meant an enormous loss of face before friends and family.

Though he worked as an auto-rickshaw driver for survival, Kariya never lost his zest for life nor his zeal to provide bread, butter and advice to other strugglers!

Kariya's knack of befriending everyone from a journalist to a studio gatekeeper made such a lasting impression on veteran film publicist S. Khan that he took him under his wings as a fulltime assistant.

The hard work paid off handsomely and till date Kariya has handled PR work for over 650 films and several dozen stars, which probably might be an all time record in film history.

Despite being adored as a friend, philosopher and guide by many, Kariya has no qualms in admitting that liaison only helps in creating contacts and opening doors but stardom is ordained by destiny.

It's a viewpoint with which Rakesh Nath agrees wholeheartedly. Having groomed superstars like Madhuri Dixit and Anil Kapoor, Nath is not only regarded as amongst the top star secretaries in Bollywood but also an astute observer of film fraternity.

Many ascribe the million dollar success of Madhuri Dixit and Anil Kapoor to his painstaking planning and coordination but Nath humbly submits that “we ensure a respectable platform for the performer but fame and success are intertwined with several unfathomable factors like script, presentation and luck.”

However, he does concede that inept management of star affairs, dates or media briefings can play havoc with anyone's career and an efficient manager is an essential aide to climb “ladders of success”.

Unlike many of his ilk who wanted to act, Nath came from Punjab to produce a film.

Hailing from a well-to-do landlord family of Hoshiarpur, he had adequate money as well as educational competence and felt confident that he could give shape to his cinematic vision. However, after several years brought nothing except a dwindling purse and loads of experience, Nath changed tracks when the then reigning star Ranjeeta sought his assistance to sort out her date problems.

Despite launching several prominent achievers like Ranjeeta, Madhuri Dixit, Anil Kapoor, Shilpa Shirodkar, Namrata Shirodkar, Adnan Sami, Kangana Ranaut and Sukhwinder Singh into the stellar orbit, Nath downplays his own contribution as a star maker.

He hates being dubbed as a mentor since “my relationship is like a family member who is concerned about a dear one's growth”. Kariya too opines that “networking may be important for obtaining work, yet destiny alone ensures an artiste's popularity and success.”

Both Nath and Kariya assert that a long association between an artiste and the manager leads to strong bonds of faith and understanding.

Shared confidences as well as vicissitudes of struggle bring not just greater appreciation of efforts but also mutual dependence that goes beyond words.

Both managers confess that their star clients are now “dear relatives” and their interactions are well beyond the scope of price tags.

Just as Govinda and Akshay still credit Kariya for inspiring them during their lean phases, Kariya acknowledges Ronit Roy's benevolence in issuing a blank cheque to doctors for best possible treatment of Kariya's brain haemorrhage in the past.

And though Madhuri certainly holds a special place in Nath's family, Shilpa and Anil Kapoor too have been his pillars of strength in adversity.

It is precisely for this reason that the two veterans feel that modern PR firms can never replace the care and attention of an evolved secretary as they are insensitive to personal traits and preferences of an artiste.

While Nath feels modern stars are over estimating the reach and competence of corporate PR firms, Kariya is horrified that “most stars pay for media inserts or page three stories, without realising that PR firms are making them lose their exclusivity.”

Nath believes lack of an emotional bond does not augur well for future since “corporate PR firms keep people in news but do not add to their intrinsic value”. Perhaps these are pointers of the changing times we live in but with sensitive people like Raju Kariya and Rakesh Nath gradually fading in number, is it any wonder that Bollywood ‘stars' are losing their sheen faster than ever before ?