My husband, Muzaffar Ali: an honest look at a celebrity marriage
We've all read those interviews with celebrity wives, gushing about their perfect husband, marriage and life. Well, this isn't one of them. Meera Muzaffar Ali offers a rare peek into a Bollywood marriage that looks astonishingly like ours.
Editor's Note: No one knows a man better than the women in his life. Be it his mother, wife, daughter or friend, they offer a unique and intimate perspective on men with larger-than-life media personalities. In this new series titled 'In Her Eyes,' we ask these women to offer their frank, unedited, and always affectionate view of the men they love dearly. Their responses are honest, revealing, and unexpectedly familiar.
She was twenty years younger. He'd been married twice before, a famous filmmaker, known best for lyrical masterpieces such as Awadh, Gaman and Umrao Jaan. Fate brought them together when he picked her for a role in a small film on Sufism. "It was my first tryst with cinema, and I thought why not", Meera says.
And thus began the story of a happy union that has spanned two decades, career ups and downs — most notably Ali's inability to complete his Kashmir-set dream project, Zoonie. But life has brought other compensations, including children, a designer label, several music albums, and extensive charity work in Ali's ancestral town in Uttar Pradesh.
Meera Ali reveals her hard-won secrets of marital happiness to a mercurial man of immense talent who – as it turns out – shares the weaknesses of all husbands, everywhere. It's a real, human love story all of us can relate to. Celebrities, they are indeed like us!
What was your first impression of him?
I think it was that he was an extremely passionate man, especially about his work. And that I know is true now. Whether it is painting or designing, or direction, he is entirely steeped in it; he becomes a different person. I find it fascinating that a man can get so involved in being creative.
Does his work push you to the background in his life?
Well, when he is involved, he is involved. He lives in a world of his own. But I have found ways to counter that by entering his world. I have worked towards making him more of a family man, getting him back in touch with his friends. It does add more stability to life when a man can relate to family and friends. And it gives me an important role in his life.
What do you think is the secret of your successful marriage? After all your relationship has worked for him, unlike his earlier ones.
I think the fact that we share so many interests is one reason. And the fact that I have moulded my life to match his. Togetherness means doing things together and having space too. When we are in Kotwara, in the palace of his ancestors, he assumes a different role. When we are in the village, neither of us can be private persons, but luckily he does not let the role he assumes get overpowering.
Do you have a working partnership? Or is he possessive of what he creates...
Actually, he consults me on most things. He is basically a people's person.When he is painting he will come to me and say, “What do you think?” Even when he is sketching designs for clothes, we work together. After all I have to take the design to its logical translation as a garment, so I value that.
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Yet there must be something that you wish you could change in him?
Yes. The fact that he is too soft. Almost gullible sometimes. Any of us can get anything out of him. And when I say anyone, I mean not just me or the kids, but even the cook, the carpenter...
So have there been no bad moments? Nothing that gets your goat about him?
He consistently forgets birthdays and anniversaries. It bugs me. But over the years I realised I could either continue to get bugged, or remind him a day before. Now I don't have to do that anymore. There are so many systems in place to remind him: computers, smart phones, the children...
I find his lack of attention irritating. I don't like it when he looks at his emails even as he is talking to me, or forgets things I tell him to do. I will tell him to buy something on his way back from somewhere, and he will clean forget it. Sometimes I don't even know if he hears me! I have to repeat myself and that is frustrating. I know these are small, mundane irritations, but they can add up!
You are so much younger, and so beautiful, does it make him insecure sometimes, you think? And what about you? He does have an aura of romance around him.
Possessive men can be a pain. I am lucky he is not possessive. The age difference could have been one cause for being possessive, but he is not that one bit. I on my part also am confident of him. I know he has been there and done that. And though women still throw themselves at him, thanks to his romantic looks and his charm, it only makes me feel amused. Of course, he enjoys the attention hugely, but I know it means nothing. Though if in earlier years something had indeed happened, it would have hurt me tremendously.
Have there been bad patches in your marriage? When his career was on the rocks?
When Zoonie was shelved it was a bad time for him. It was very tough for me that for years he brooded over Zoonie, and the fact that he could not make the movie. Friends told him to forget it, a lot of people tried to work it out of his system, but he held on. It was at the top of his mind and affected everything he did.
But as our children grew up, they became friends and when they told him to move on, I think he heard. I know he is flying with the new film idea he has in mind, and I am glad for the change.
What would you change in your life with him, if given a chance to do so?
The 22 years with Muzaffar are years I will not trade for anything in this world. I have lived two lives: one before I met him, and one after. I would never have seen the world in the way I have if I had not lived with him.
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He is one of India's top designers. He is driven, ambitious, focused. He sold his books to get into NIFT. But in the eyes of his sister, Sabyasachi Mukherjee is awfully naive in his relationships, professional or personal.