From The Times of India
13 Jul 2008, 0242 hrs IST, Bella Jaisinghani,TNN
Imtiaz Ali, the long-haired, dreamy-eyed director who rocked audiences with his Jab We Met last year, has something in common with Madhavan, Simone Singh, Priyanka Chopra and Tanushree Dutta. Yeah, they're all serious eye-candy. But that apart, they all come from a city where Bollywood is considered more than a little infra dig.
Jamshedpur, a gleaming engineering oasis in the jungle of Bihar (now Jharkand), is a place where youngsters are traditionally bred to be managers and engineers courtesy leading institutes like NIT and XLRI.
This is the town that Jamshetji Tata built, whose spotless roads denizens claim you can eat off (we'd take that with a pinch of salt).
Most people here work for Tata affiliates TISCO and TELCO, and everyone knows everyone else. Jamshedpur has the highest per capita income in the country and is the only town whose municipality is governed by a corporate house. And then with all this, it has a serious flaw: it nurtures excellence and creativity and then presses the eject button.
The strange imbalance between an excellent school education and the absence of good colleges forces Jamshedpur's denizens to sever the umbilical cord with their birthplace in their late teens. Imtiaz Ali's passion for theatre drove him to Delhi; Madhavan walked the beaten path by taking a degree in engineering but veered to cinema. Simone Singh flew the nest early because her parents moved.
"It was an idyllic existence that allowed you the leisure to look out the window and dream a lot," she smiles. "My husband laughs because I still recall the flavour of the meatballs and hamburgers I ate at Beldih Club in my childhood."
Imtiaz points out that Jamshedpur is a small place that offers an enriched lifestyle (three golf courses, six swimming pools, billiards centres) and spawns talent but is walled in by a culture that does not allow for much interaction with the outside world. Summer Of 2007's screenwriter Bijesh Jayarajan, the newest Bollywoodian to emerge from Jamshedpur, feels the Tatas have taken care of everything except perhaps ambition. "There are few opportunities for progress," he says.
Madhavan explains the indifference to films here: though the "imperial culture" of the city is "in a class of its own", this translates into few cinema halls "so a career in films is not a highly rated option".
Simone recalls that Beldih screened only English films; Tanushree remembers watching just four films during her growing years—Henna, Hum Aapke Hain Koun,Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Virasat. "Seeing films was not encouraged at all," she says. "Only when my parents were away was I able to watch English films on TV. Later, once we moved to Pune, I mustered the courage to tell them that I wanted to join the glamour industry." Having bred their parenting skills in a place like Jamshedpur, they were "shell-shocked". Little wonder then that Tanushree is a rare Miss India contestant to emerge from this town. Imtiaz believes he is the first Hindi film director from Jamshedpur.
In Mumbai, the tribe comprising former schoolmates and basketball rivals meet occasionally, carrying forward a childhood bond forged over inter-school basketball games and "bird-watching". They appreciate one another's achievements whole-heartedly—the pitched rivalry between the highbrow Loyola students and the down-to-earth DBMS (Dabba Bartan Manjhnewala School, as the uncharitable joke goes) has evidently blurred in the struggle to make it outside Jamshedpur.
For a town that has no natives, for they all migrate after retirement, its once-denizens harbour a fierce loyalty, talking of ‘Jampot' with much warmth and affection. Interestingly, Imtiaz, Madhavan, Tanushree, Simone and Bijesh are all polite to a fault, even in their phone messages. Tanushree laughs and describes it as an effect of the "hellishly strict" schools in the town.
This upbringing has inspired confidence in Imtiaz who says he holds no prejudice in life save one. "If two equally qualified people came to work for me and one was from Jamshedpur, I would choose him over the other," he says. "Simply because I know he will be hard-working and will know how to talk to people."