It’s often seen that controversies can lead to trouble. But, when it comes to our Hindi film industry, it has its positive as well as negative effects. On one side where controversies have worked in enhancing the stardom of actors such as Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan on the other, it has ruined the career of many talents such as Shiney Ahuja or Fardeen Khan. There are many interesting tales in our Hindi film industry and one such tale is that of actress Mamta Kulkarni.
Mamta Kulkarni was born in a middle class Marathi family. She never had a proper academic life and thus lacked good command on English. Right from her teen days she wanted to make it big in Hindi films although, she never had any connections in the industry. Mamta somehow managed to get her first break in a multi-starrer ‘Tiranga’ (1992) starring Raj Kumar, Nana Patekar, Varsha Usgaonkar and Harish. The role was very small but it did help in fetching her few relatively bigger roles in films like ‘Ashaant’, ‘Aashiq Awara’ and ‘Waqt Hamara Hai’ in the year 1993. These films starred young actors like Akshay Kumar, Saif Ali Khan and Sunil Shetty. These movies fared averagely and worked for the heroes but for Mamta, it was a rough road to travel as her forthcoming films were opposite even small actors. The only thing that worked in her favour at that time was receiving the ‘Filmfare Face of the Year’ award. This did initiate talks with big producer directors such as Rakesh Roshan, N.Chandra, Sajid Nadiadwala for films opposite big actors such as Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Govinda and others. Despite this, Mamta was not as happy as things were moving on a snail pace. She knew that if her films didn’t work, she would be out of the film industry and all the meaty roles will be lost.
Meanwhile, a leading magazine wanted its photographer Jayesh Sheth to shoot something sensuous, sensational, and something bold for their cover, which could shake up the whole industry. They wanted to shoot someone with a sexy body and an innocent face. Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla and many more were approached but they refused as they were skeptical to attempt a bold shoot like this. Finally, the management decided to go ahead with a newcomer who did not have any set image and could create sensation. Many names were suggested and finally, they decided to approach Mamta.
When Jayesh and his team approached her, she was shocked to hear about the concept which would involve revealing her upper body completely. Jayesh assured her that this would be sensuous but, would be shot in an aesthetic manner. Mamta was hesitant about it. During the days, Mamta used to follow Hollywood closely and had seen a photograph of Demi Moore in a similar style. She found it classy and thus made up her mind and went ahead with it, but on certain conditions. She said that would OK the final picture for the cover. The management agreed and so the photo-shoot began with Mamta going topless. Finally, everyone including Mamta zeroed down to a picture which became the cover shot for that film magazine.
In September 1993, the magazine was out in the market. It is said that magazine sold out like hot cakes. So much so that the magazine that cost around twenty rupees was sold for hundred rupees, in black. The people were loving it but the industry was in shock. Mamta had not even consulted her secretary Asif Merchant for the photo shoot. Nor did she speak about it with her parents. She wanted to surprise them with the cover as she was convinced that the whole thing would just be great. Unfortunately for her, very few people thought it was great of her to pose wearing only a pair of jeans, the zipper half-way down, her hands cupped coyly over her breasts.
Her mother was horrified and her secretary was scandalized. All the big producers like Salim Aftab and Rakesh Roshan who were planning to shoot a film with her along with co-stars like Aamir Khan landed up at Asif Merchant’s doorstep, blaming him for the cover. Mamta called up everyone and told them that it was her decision and took full responsibility for it. Mamta was still confident but her confidence was fading out as everyone including her mother started questioning her. She began to feel guilty and felt that what started as a cool concept had turned into a ghastly nightmare.
Some organizations led protests outside Mamta’s house and were seen chanting anti-slogans. A criminal case was filed against her and arrest warrant was issued. Though an instant bail was granted to her the case was set for its course in the court.
One day choreographer Saroj Khan spotted Mamta and yelled at her saying, “You are a fool! You were racing to the top, next only to Juhi and Madhuri. Now after this cover it will be difficult for you to get anywhere.” That’s when she realised that she had made a grave mistake. She also realised that she had offended a lot of people, something she had no right to do. Asif suggested that she publish an apology and Mamta agreed. But before that could happen, something else did.
Rikku Rakesh Nath, Madhuri Dixit’s secretary invited Mamta for the premier of one of Madhuri’s films. Mamta was rejecting every invite at that time but this was something she could not reject. She was terrified of appearing in public after this scandalous cover. She was so nervous that she slipped into the last row of the theater and that too, after all the lights had dimmed. Mamta was petrified to appear in front of her fans and the public. To make her condition worse, Riku Rakesh Nath invited her to the stage. That’s when it happened. Suddenly, the youth who were packed in the auditorium began throwing roses at her and screamed, ‘Mamta, we love you’. Mamta was stunned as she had expected brickbats not roses. The entire evening was hijacked by Mamta’s fan as they kept chanting her name and wanted to see her on the stage. Mamta realised that people were with her and that she was not alone. Mamta could not hold back her tears.
That incident changed Mamta. She started loving this new found attention and loved the idea of being the latest sex-symbol of the country. From a pretty, homely girl, she had become a sensation, a sizzler overnight. She decided to overlook all the negative comments from the film fraternity and the media. Her interviews got bolder and outrageous. She did not want to appear vulnerable any longer and did not want people to take advantage of her. Act tough, talk tough and look sexy was her new mantra. Producers who were in talk with her signed her for their films after all.
Fun Facts –
The court case went on for years and finally got convicted in the year 2000 with a fine of Rs.15,000.
Mamta Kulkarni was involved in another controversy by appearing in Court wearing an Islamic Burkha – incurring the wrath of Islamic groups.
The actress was last in the news in November 2014, for being detained and interrogated in Kenya for her role in an alleged drug trafficking operation, in which her husband was arrested.
Photographer Jayesh Seth was approached by many new actress for such kind of photo shoot but he turned them down by saying ‘History can be made only once and cannot be repeated’.