" Bollywood's most ostentatious star ... "

Jeetendra, Bollywood Heartthrob from the Seventies

India's film industry, "Bollywood," is the largest in the world, churning out over 900 films a year. The lavish life-styles of top film stars are the subject of endless tabloid gossip columns. I wanted to photograph Bollywood's most ostentatious star.

Jeetendra had risen to fame in the seventies, with his Travolta-like dance moves. Bollywood stars are easy to find; their numbers are in the book, and they don't mind if a perfect stranger calls at eleven at night. Jeetendra was happy to meet me. I went to his villa in one of Bombay's more prestigious neighborhoods. Rather than looking like Beverly Hills, though, the area was drab and characterless. Hospitals lined the traffic-choked avenues. His address did not sound terribly chic either: "Greater Bombay Co-op Housing Society, Plot No. 26...J.V.P.D. Scheme." Turned out his house was huge. A servant showed me all four floors of living rooms: panther paintings, faux columns, gold cupids, malachite tables and paintings of Montmartre. The top floor salon was still being finished An artist was painting the domed ceiling to look like the Sistine Chapel.

Jeetendra greeted me in his office, which had leopard-skin wallpaper, a gold-flecked ceiling, an enormous screen T.V. turned to the movie channel, and a phone that rang constantly. After an iced coffee, he showed me he still knew how to dance. I photographed him in the downstairs living room, dancing amidst thousands of dollars of Lalique sculptures. He gyrated his hips and strummed an imaginary guitar, and was wiped out after three motor-driven rolls. Though he looked about fifty years old, I later found out he was over seventy.


Further chapters of Bombay Bazaar:
images 1 - 11
images 23 - 30