Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaay, Juhi! Her actual birthday is tomorrow, and we will of course be celebrating with a Juhi WatchAlong, but I wanted to put up this post today so you all remember why we are celebrating her.
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.
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!