Happy Birthday Juhi Chawla! This is Why You Are Awesome

It’s Juhi’s birthday today! Well, in India. November 13, and it is already after midnight there.

Juhi was born to an IRS office (I just assume he was as sexy as Ajay in Raid) in Ambala (modest urban area in Punjab). And then when she was 17, she won the Miss India contest. And then “best costume” at Miss Universe. This started her modeling career, and then her film career. As is usual for the model-type actresses, she started with a few regional roles and then migrated to Hindi film for her first big launch film, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak at age 21 in 1988.

Aamir gets all the buzz and excitement about QSQT, like he was the amazing new talent that made the film work. But really, Juhi was just as important. Her youth, her charm, her confidence mixed with naivety, even her light hand with comedy, it all made this film feel special. Even if the critics didn’t pick her out, the industry did. After QSQT, Juhi’s career took off. By 1992, when she first co-starred with her future business partner Shahrukh Khan, she was the top actress in Hindi film. The hits came one after the other, in every genre, until 1996 when she hit a sudden down turn (this was also the peak of the Madhuri versus Juhi debate). She came back with another hit, Yes Boss. In 2000, she and her frequent co-star and friend Shahrukh Khan, along with the director who first brought them together Aziz Mirza, founded a studio Dreamz Unlimited. Juhi had her first child in 2001 and took a step back from the studio, which was going through a bad period. Eventually Shahrukh dissolved the partnership to save the friendship, and refounded the company as Red Chillies with Juhi still owning a large stake in it.

Juhi after the birth of her children and the dissolution of the studio has created one of the most interesting post-fame careers in Hindi cinema. She mixes small interesting roles in mainstream hits (like Salaam-E-Ishq as the betrayed wife), with larger parts in out there art films like I Am and My Brother Nikhil.

Juhi onscreen is a happy presence, she excels at comedy, or light romance. In a drama, she becomes even more powerful, this happy presence surrounded by darkness. Which makes it hard to remember that her personal life is filled with tragedy. In 1997, Juhi’s mother came with her to the shoot of Duplicate in Prague. And was randomly hit by a car and killed. Juhi was in shock, her co-star and friend Shahrukh supported her, and somehow she survived this random tragedy. Then in 2010, her brother Bobby (the CEO of Red Chillies, her and Shahrukh’s company) suffered a stroke in the middle of the night and slipped into a coma. For four years, he survived without waking up, until he finally died. And during those 4 years, Juhi lost her sister to cancer.

Of course, the tragedies of her personal life are never discussed, just as her personal life in general is never discussed. Juhi is a very private person, for a major movie star, studio co-owner, and former Miss India. She quietly married in 1995 an industrialist from an old Indian business family, Jay Mehta. In one interview I read about their marriage, Juhi mentioned in passing that part of what makes their partnership special is a similar history of tragedy, Jay having lost his first wife in a plane crash 5 years before he and Juhi married. Juhi has two children, who are almost never photographed and kept out of the limelight. Jay is her faithful companion to all events, but rarely steps forward, and never gives interviews. Even her friendship with Mega Famous Shahrukh is rarely discussed. They are loving and close in the few public appearances they make together, and their business relationship is still in place, and of course as co-stars they have a special warmth. But there are no joint interviews looking back on their mutual careers, no promotion of their friendship as something unusual, none of that. For Juhi, what burns brightest is her face onscreen, in films. The other Juhi, the real Juhi, lives her life in the shadows.

With that in mind, HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUHI! Here are my favorite songs of yours, and over the course of the next day, I will be reposting some lovely film reviews.

Who can resist “Mr. Lova Lova”?

Gotta include “Jaadu Teri Nazar”

Just for my friend who has an unhealthy obsession, and also because it is a great example of her comedy, “Ladna Jhagadna”

For her charming naivety that made her a star, “Gazab Ka Hai Din”

And for my favorite example of her later artistic phase, being the smiling pregnant member of the audience for “Tu Aashiqui Hai”

And finally, to prove she is just as charming as ever, “Good Morning” from her latest movie.

Now, tell me, what are your favorite Juhi songs? Movies? Moments? If I haven’t reviewed them already, this might be the week when you have your chance!


32 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Juhi Chawla! This is Why You Are Awesome

  1. This was a lovely piece of writing, Margaret. I feel like I got to understand Juhi better – I think I’m going to spend more time on her filmography. She seems like a lovely, private person with a big heart and knowing the great tragedy she has overcome makes me want to know her (via her films – they was she likes) even more. I’m always fascinated by the stories of people who have overcome adversity and have gone on to live happy lives. I think it something we should talk more about with children for example so that they understand the magnitude of different problems and how to mitigate their reactions. It’s something that they do at my son school really well. So level five problem is you fall out of a helicopter. A level one problem is you can’t find your pencil. Losing your mother in a freak accident, also your brother and sister is like a level 15 problem, yet she seems to move through the world with so much grace. I just like her as a person because of it. We all might learn from example to handle the difficulties of our lives with equanimity.


    • Yes! You look at her calm smiling face, and it glows with true happiness. She has somehow learned to move past what she has gone through and appreciate the good. And isn’t it interesting how close she and Jay and Shahrukh all are? Three people who survived strange horrible sadness and moved on to find a way to be happy.

      One thing I forgot to mention is that, based on her films, Juhi has a lot of love for the forgotten folks of society. Since her children were born, she has chosen to make groundbreaking films on the HIV crisis, on Queerness, or even just a sweet loving film for children like Bhootnath.

      On Tue, Nov 12, 2019 at 4:29 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • Yes yes! Happiness is a choice. So important. And I loved her part in Ek Ladki – so happy that conversation is happening out in the world in India. I appreciate her choices so much. Yep definitely going to be watching some more Juhi films this week!


      • It must be crazy to be born with this expressive face and amazing smile and huge sparkling eyes that bring joy to other people, even when you are going through something devastatingly sad.


        • Yes! I suppose it might also be a blessing, at least for Juhi. No matter what was going on in her life, people would see her face and assume she was okay and not ask questions.

          On Tue, Nov 12, 2019 at 10:45 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  2. I loveeeeee Juhi Chawla.Such an underrated actress.Didn’t know about her mother and sister. I didn’t even know when she got married until Jay Mehta started appearing alongside , maybe after the first child was born. She is such a private person. Even now when QSQT comes on TV,i can’t miss it. Though Aamir is the star,Juhi is such a refreshing,bright presence.In Malaylam movie Harikrishnans which had both Mohanlal and Mammotty in lead,no other actress could have held the ground and made us believe that these two grown-ass men can play fools for a girl. And then I was gobsmacked to see her in Gulaab Ganj as the evil, scheming politician.The range of her characters is next only to Sridevi’s, noone of the other 90s actresses come close.In one of the KwK episodes that had Juhi & Madhuri,her effortless sass and easy joviality stood out against Madhuri’s practiced polish. She tows the perfect balance between Kajol’s brash and Madhuri’s bland personas. I prefer SRK-Juhi and Aamir-Juhi over SRK-Kajol. Aamir and Juhi had such different chemistries in QSQT, Ishq and Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke. Would love to see them in a 96 kinda movie. Oh also, she trained in classical singing and her singing is so good.I am sure she is having a peaceful (as peaceful as it can be),contented life with her family. Much love to her.Also Juhi in Darr is something out of the world. So lovely, yet so sexy.


  3. Juhi has such a light touch, it took me awhile to realize how effective she is, but now she’s one of my favorites.

    I thought it was interesting in the Vivek Vaswani videos, when he’s describing the casting process for Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman there’s a part where he gives a short summary of Juhi’s career. In his telling of that moment when they first worked together, she wasn’t their first choice because she’d had a couple of odd releases right before, and she had doubts about their project too, especially after meeting Shah Rukh. Here, around minute 2:30:

    Funny to think about her meeting him and thinking really? this guy? given everything that happened after.

    Watching her as the fortune teller in Kismat Konnection (such a stellar cast in such a silly movie!), free of all the heroine conventions, is delightful. She brought something special to the heroine roles, but I like her in roles like this or Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani where she gets to show other dimensions than just the romantic interest.

    I’d love to see an interview of Juhi as a film business mogul. That can be my birthday wish.


    • My impression is that Juhi’s business involvement is fairly light, it’s really her husband Jay who does the heavy lifting. But on the other hand, she has far more credentials in that area than the newer actresses (except perhaps Anushka or Sonam) who are dipping into production. She was one of the first, and Dreamz Unlimited had a few hits under her reign.

      For more Juhi interesting roles, I am going to tell you to check out Jhankaar Beats as well! She plays a mature wife in that, mother of a 5 year old with another on the way, not the dreamy young ingenue at all, and yet you can still see that fresh happy young woman inside of her performance somehow.

      On Tue, Nov 12, 2019 at 10:25 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • I don’t think Dreamz had any hits, did they? Their first film was good but it was an epic disaster. This is the film that SRK had asked Gauri’s uncle’s opinion on (he’s known to be honest) and he had disappeared because he didn’t want to tell SRK he was going to lose his shirt.

        Asoka was actually made under another name called ArcLights or something like that because Aziz didn’t want to be a part of it after suffering from PBDHH. SRK and Juhi produced this one without him. It also turned into a disaster.

        All 3 came back again for Chalte Chalte but there was already a lot of strain because everyone had taken huge losses. This movie was an attempt to recoup money but Juhi was very unhappy because she wanted to play the lead role and neither Aziz nor SRK thought it would be viable. They faced a lot of problems because of Salman and Aish too. By the end of this movie, everyone was fed up of each other and they decided to dissolve Dreamz and move on separately. SRK wanted to move into a more commercial direction and didn’t want to make the kind of movies Juhi wanted to make. Her career was also at the ending stages and she didn’t like taking a backseat to SRK who was ascending rapidly.

        They decided to let go of the business and stay friends instead of hating each other. SRK created RCE where he could have full control and Juhi got busy with her marriage and children.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I really liked 7 1/2 Phere, which I saw many years ago and I’m not sure how it would hold up. But I remember it as a charming comedy with her and Irrfan about a reality tv producer trying to film a wedding, and of course there are all sorts of goings on. Both Juhi and Irrfan are obviously really good comedic actors. It might also have Vijay Raaz or I may be making that up since everything I’ve seen recently seems to have Vijay Raaz in it. I’ve never really heard of it since then, so it may have sunk into oblivion, but I think it’s quite enjoyable.


  5. Reading this about Juhi took me to ’90s – I like her in many movies – Hum hai rahi pyar ke, Darr, QSQT, One2Ka4, Ishq, Raju Bangaya Gentleman, Yes Boss, etc.
    But, first time, I remember seeing her in a movie was in Telugu with Nagarjuna before she became a star in Hindi – Vicky Dada

    My fav Juhi song is from Yes Boss – she gives beautiful expressions in that –
    Main Koi Aisa Geet Gaoon


  6. You know I love Juhi! Random other facts about Juhi.

    She was actually launched opposite Karan Kappor (Shashi Kapoor’s son) in Sultanat before Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. It was a big deal to launch the lastest Miss India and Shashi Kapoor’s son.

    Her mother, Mona Chawla was the Executive Director of Housekeeping department at Taj Hotel and helped set up many hotels for the company, including Lake Palace at Udaipur, Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad, which Juhi traveled to with her mother. The family actually moved from Delhi to Bombay for her mother’s job.

    The “sister” who died is actually her cousin, Sonia, who Juhi was quite close to. Juhi only had one brother.

    She is a classically trained Kathak dancer but hated taking dance lessons and would often try and get out of them.

    She rejected Raja Hindustani because even though the movie came out before Ishq, the filming for Ishq had already started and she had already had her infamous fight with Aamir and did not want to work with him. So happy they have reconciled :-).

    Both her children went to the same boarding school south west of London. Her daughter now studies at Columbia University in New York, which also happens to be the alma matar of Juhi’s husband.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I love your additional facts.

      Interesting that Juhi came from a two working parent household, and has continued working after her children were born in a very smooth way.

      Huh. Now I am picturing Raja Hindustani with Juhi. Karisma brought a kind of fragility to the role, but Juhi would have brought a youthful joy that would have made the love story kind of pop out.

      And I can add one more thing for Jay Mehta! One of his (many many) companies runs the “Classic Ashoka” brand prepared foods, available all over America. So I think he has given me dinner several times over. That’s nice.

      On Wed, Nov 13, 2019 at 9:09 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • HA! Yes, I am pretty sure Jay Mehta is an Independent Director at ADF Foods which owns Askoha.

        You make an interesting point about her working. You can gather through her interviews that she was a bit reluctant to initially get married and maybe even why she sort of kept her marriage hidden because she had been asked by family members whether she would quit working when she got married. But then she also mentioned that it was quite easy to continue working after marriage and everyone in her immediate family (Jay, his mother etc.) was supportive of her. Which makes sense to me based on everything I have read.

        She then chose on her own to step back for a few years when she had kids and worried if the industry would be ready to accept her after many years of a sabbatical but was happy when she got interesting roles.


        • I think she has one of the most interesting balances of work-life. She found a way to keep working in really interesting occasional roles, and be a public presence at occasional KKR events, even model. But at the same time not to such an extreme that it affected her ability to be with her family. I’m comparing her with Dimple or Sharmila who had to send their kids to boarding school at a really young age, or Sridevi or Raveena who pretty much stopped their careers dead. Juhi somehow threaded the needle. No doubt largely because she had such a supportive partner.


  7. I know you are partial to SRK movies, but how about a review of Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke one of Juhi’s stellar performances and what crackling chemistry with Aamir!


  8. For what it’s worth, Juhi has no stake in Red Chillies. SRK bought the leftover parts of Dreamz like their back catalogue of films and office space and stuff like that. Some staff transitioned as well such as Juhi’s brother. RCE is owned only by SRK and Gauri.

    Apart from the 2 or 3 Dreamz films that SRK now owns, everything else is not relevant anymore. RCE built their own large office building that was opened in 2011. A separate new VFX office was opened a few years after that.

    This is RCE’s main office building – https://www.redarchitects.in/architecture/commercial-architecture/red-chilies.php

    Their partnership is in KKR, not in RCE. There were a lot of court cases related to the IPL so they had to make public their ownership shares. RCE owns 55% of KKR and an offshore company called Sea Islands Limited owns 45%. Sea Islands is a holding company owned by Jay Mehta.

    Juhi still seems to have some bitterness related to their production company fallout. She makes it obvious sometimes. When Dilwale released, she gave out statements to the media that she heard it’s a bad movie and she won’t watch it. She’s done stuff like that at least a few times.


    • Thanks for the info! Although I’m not sure if I believe in her bitterness. It doesn’t fit my impression of her as a person, but then what do I know? I’m just guessing about folks I will never meet in real life.


      • I’ve been following both Juhi and SRK for a long time and there’s been a lot of ups and downs in their friendship. She *regularly* gives out unhappy statements related to SRK. You will see her making negative comments about his movies, sometimes she will mention that “SRK has no time for anyone” to imply that he doesn’t keep in touch and various things like that. Then SRK gets asked about whatever new thing she has said and he always sounds totally confused like he has no idea what she’s talking about. She’s self-aware though and I remember her once even saying in an interview something like “Omg, now this will be the headline. SRK must be thinking ‘why is she always talking about me?'”

        The Chalte Chalte fallout came at a precarious time for her. Her career was ending and she was trying to hide her marriage. She wanted to play the lead but nobody wanted her to. At that time, trade experts like Taran Adarsh were writing long articles about how Juhi is over and dragging SRK down and how he needs to stop working with her. SRK also wanted to move on and make more commercial films which was not the idea that Dreamz had originally been created with. She has admitted herself that it was destroying their friendship.

        I get the sense that she always expects more from SRK than he can give and then gets upset about it and ends up making weird comments in the media. She even hit out against him regarding Bobby and how he didn’t inform her before Bobby was replaced as the CEO. At that point, Bobby had already been in a coma for 2 years. When SRK dedicated a music album to him, she again came out and said SRK should have appreciated him more when he was alive. She is always upset about something or the other.

        It’s actually SRK and Jay’s friendship that papers over the cracks with Juhi.


  9. Again, I’m very happy about what I’m learning. First of all thanks for this Juhi week whose performances (with and without ShahRukh) I really like. She has an enjoyable screen presence.

    As for ShahRukh, it may be that Juhi, indeed, wishes for a closer contact (or more frequent contact), being more part of his life…like a ‘sister’???


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