It happened when I was living in the Nilgiris. I got a call from the local correspondent for a national daily.
"Ajay Devgan and Kajol are setting up camp for a shoot in Ooty," he said. I was working for Femina and my friend probably thought there was some kind of story in it.
Story there always is, for my kind. Thing is, Kajol had a reputation. Imperious and short with strangers, this was what I knew about the actress. However, I could do a snappy Q&A along unconventional lines with the hazel-eyed star.
The main hurdle was the man who ran interference for Mr and Mrs Ajay Devgan, a worthy individual who I shall call KM. He was generous with promises that I would get to interview the star, only not right now. After which, he would expound on the nobility of Ajay Devgan, Veeru Devgan and the film under production. It didn't matter to him that I was after Kajol... the Devgans were his employers and KM was nothing if not loyal.
A month later, I was nowhere near to meeting Kajol. First there was the initial period of settling down to a new shoot. Then there was her sister visiting from Oz, during which Kajol went incommunicado because "she loved her sister a lot." After which, the shoot ran into trouble with the local environmentalists and the media became unwelcome. Then came a day when I had an appointment. I drove out all the way to the lovely Ninth Mile area where a garish castle had come up, was seated and then watched Devgan and Sunjay Dutt wrap up a scene. I was stared at almost to death by the beetle-browed Devgan but I was under no illusions; 'twas not my beauty, he was wondering how a stranger had got in.
Where was Kajol, I asked? Well, Kajol had lost her beloved grandmother the day before and flown back to Mumbai. Where was KM, I asked? He hadn't come to the shoot.
The piece just wasn't worth all this aggro, I decided. Five days later, KM rang and invited me over. My daughter, a diehard Kajol fan, was visiting from her boarding school, so she came along. KM welcomed us, plied us with tea and cake and assured us Kajol would be along soon. And she was. Just as we got up to go meet Kajol, KM took me aside. "One thing, madam," he hissed. "No requests for interviews, please. She's off the media."
I now look at film journalists with a lot more respect. An intrepid breed, indeed.