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‘I Was His Last Priority’ Says Jaya In A Video Clip That Resurfaced On Social Media

When Jaya Bachchan speaks her mind in public she is often accused of being brusque and even abrasive. Can we think of her prodigious talent and all the bitter pills she has had to swallow over the years?

A couple of days ago, a short clip of a 1998 interview of Jaya and Amitabh Bachchan resurfaced on social media. In this episode of the Simi Grewal chat show, at about the 23-minute mark, Jaya lists her husband’s priorities: one, parents, two kids, then wife. Then she corrects herself: his profession – and perhaps someone else – ranks above her as a wife.

Amitabh looks visibly uncomfortable at this unstated but unambiguous reference to his rather well-publicised affair with co-star Rekha back in the day.

‘More talented than her husband’

Watching the classic film Abhimaan some years ago, one scene really stayed with me. It was something Brajeshwarlal (David’s character) says in troubled tones during the song tere mere milan ki yeh raina. He says something to the effect that Uma (Jaya Bhaduri’s character) is more talented than Subir (Amitabh Bachchan’s character) and that this was a problem since society teaches us that men are superior to women.

IRL the story unfolded somewhat similarly. We also saw similarities with real life in Silsila. Now Jaya Bachchan is dropping some feminist truth bombs along with her daughter Shweta and granddaughter Navya Naveli on the What the Hell Navya podcast.

Brajeshwarlal’s words in Abhimaan were not inaccurate. Jaya was arguably a bigger star at the time she met Amitabh but she gave it all up for domesticity – societal expectations and the male ego being what they are. Silsila also reflected what, IRL was a humiliatingly public extramarital affair her husband seemed to be conducting. Clearly, Jaya Bachchan did not shy away from speaking her mind then – or now in her fourth term as Member of Parliament – or on her granddaughter’s podcast.

Three generations of the Bachchan Khaandaan on the podcast

What the Hell Navya is a podcast featuring Navya Naveli, Shweta Nanda and Jaya Bachchan discussing various different things. The podcasts have interesting titles such as Girl Besties: Almost Therapy, Desi Parenting: Slaps and Kisses, Modern Love: Romance and Regrets, Girls Just Want to Have Funds and more.

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It is easy, breeze, conversational and the listener gets the feeling that these are three different women but with a lot of warmth in common. Each appears to have the kind of feminist bent of mind that perhaps a product of their respective generations. In this episode they discuss the difficulty of women navigating a world created for men, by men and mostly of men (given the overwhelming preponderance of men in our public spaces).

Of kinship and supporting the women in our lives

Here the three women are speaking about increased personal bonding between them during the COVID lockdown. However, this touches on a larger issue of female support systems. It is so important for any woman to have her own support system – of women that have her back. These are the women who build her up when she is down, who with defend her when she feels threatened and very importantly, who are there to have fun with as well.

Limelight and Lemons

Jaya Bachchan speaks about her life as an actor and one detects a certain wistfulness in her tone. Imagine being at the height of your professional career after Guddi, Chupke Chupke, Mili, massive hits like Zanjeer and Sholay, to simply give it up – because that is what society – and perhaps a husband – tell you to do.

Interestingly, she stepped in to work on Zanjeer to bolster the floundering career of Amitabh Bachchan at a time when other leading women had refused to work with him. This is then followed up with marriage to a man who is famously uncommunicative, whose first priority is his parents (which is basically every Indian man ever) and who goes on to have a brazenly public affair.

When Jaya Bachchan speaks her mind in public she is often accused of being brusque and even abrasive. When I think back to this prodigious talent and all the bitter pills she has had to swallow over the years, I would think that she has been fairly restrained. I may have been a lot less ‘tolerant’ and a whole lot angrier.

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About the Author

Reena Daruwalla

A former lawyer, now freelance writer, fauji wife, mother, singer, knitter and lover of my own cooking, I have altogether too many opinions and too few convictions. The more I learn the more I am read more...

23 Posts | 5,231 Views

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