The year was 1997 and Subhash Ghai was on the lookout for a new face for his next film, Pardes. He found his dream girl in model Ritu Chaudhary who he noticed in a cola ad with Aishwarya Rai and Aamir Khan. He was so impressed with her that he signed her on for Pardes, even rechristening her Mahima for the big screen. Everything went according to plan until one day all hell broke loose. Amidst allegations, mudslinging, accusations and a court case, we saw the end of one of the most promising mentor-actor jodis in Bollywood!
A PROMISING COLLABORATION
Ghai-Mahima A Hit Pair
In Bollywood, everything comes at a price. Actors usually enter the industry with a lot of enthusiasm while top directors who launch them prefer to keep them on a tight leash. Among the filmmakers of the 90s, Subhash Ghai enjoyed the reputation of being very money-minded and strict. Pardes, his 1997 romantic saga featuring Mahima, turned out to be one of the biggest hits of the year. The young actress held her own against big stars such as Shah Rukh Khan and Amrish Puri and soon became the toast of Bollywood. Ghai introduced her to a whole new world of possibilities and they attended several functions and events together. However, sources said that despite his fondness for his protégé, Ghai maintained a strong hold over her socialising. He made sure she met only those people he approved of from the industry.
THE DREADED CONTRACT
A Paper Prison
Ghai used to make his young actors sign a five-year contract. Apparently, they had to give 30 per cent of their income, even for work done outside the banner, to Ghai’s production house’s (Mukta Arts) ‘staff welfare fund’. This money was allegedly used to take care of their medical funds and so on. The contract was stringent to say the least. Ghai could do whatever he wanted including promising to make a film with the newcomers and eventually not signing them on, but the actors weren’t allowed to take any professional decisions on their own! The director’s consultation on every matter was a must and they would have to seek his permission if they were planning to do films with other production houses. The actors would also have to continue to pay Mukta Arts 30 per cent of their earnings. After Pardes, Mahima was inundated with offers for films, ads and shows. The spunky girl decided not to be bound by her contract with Mukta Arts and allegedly took up offers without Ghai’s consent. That’s when the problems started.