My most prized autograph is that of my wife. It has her lipstick marks."
It's not just random kids. Random grownups, too, pull Deven Bhojani's dimpled cheeks without permission saying: "Kya Gattu, kaisa hai...?" The seasoned actor hates it but accepts such things as the side-effects of playing adorable characters such as Gattu in 'Baa, Bahoo aur Baby' and Karima from 'Dekh Bhai Dekh', at the beginning of his TV career in the 1990s. Known for his comedic ability, the Gujarati theatre actor is also a serious director and producer of various TV shows who does not like it when people put their arm around him while taking selfies. In an interview, Bhojani talks about the autograph he could never get
Do you remember the first autograph you ever sought?
Once, after giving my autograph to a fan, I asked him whisperingly for a blank page from his autograph book. Reason? I wanted Sridevi's autograph. She was shooting on the next floor in the same studio. During my break, I rushed to get her autograph. I waited in a corner for her to come out from her vanity van. When she did, I was totally mesmerized almost literally and before I gathered myself and some courage to approach her, she sat in the car and was gone. That wish remains unfulfilled.
What's the most prized autograph or piece of signed memorabilia that you own?
A decade ago, I was invited for a function in London. My wife Jagruti accompanied me. People actually (trust me) stood in queue for my autograph and some also took autograph of my wife (though she's not a celebrity). She felt awkward and I found it cute. To pull her leg, I too asked her for an autograph. Without blinking an eyelid, she signed on a small paper and kissed it hard, leaving her lipstick marks. Well, I still have that as my most prized autograph!
What is your earliest memory of giving an autograph?
During my TV show 'Dekh bhai Dekh' I used to travel by local bus from Andheri to RK studios, Chembur. A lady from nowhere appeared in front of me and confirmed, "Tum Karima hi ho na? Can I get your autograph please?" I was taken aback and felt "Oh God! She caught me red-handed traveling by bus and got to know that I'm middle class!", but then I felt proud of being recognized and signed my first ever autograph cautiously with nice handwriting. That's my best 'handwriting' till date!
Do you regularly answer fan mail, even now? Has the number of people writing letters to you dwindled over time?
Honestly speaking, earlier I used to get a lot of mails but these days I hardly get them. Perhaps people find social media more convenient to communicate.
Do you think an autograph can convey much more about a personality than even a photograph?
Maybe for those who are experts at reading handwriting!
Do you remember any conversations or interactions with ardent autograph seekers?
Once, a 12-13-year-old kid cutely managed to convince me to give 19 autographs one after the other in different names (relatives and friends), saying he was the only one who could sneak inside the studio in spite of the heavy security. He described all those nineteen people and why my autograph was important for them too.
How do you generally sign autographs? Did you work on your signature?
I initially used to just sign but soon I realized that I used the same signature in my bank cheque book and that there was no point perhaps for the fan if my name was not readable in my autograph. After that I worked on a few autographs and then zeroed on one which was clear enough to be read my full name. For kids, I write my the name of a character that I played that she/he loves the most below my autograph. If the kid is small, I draw a small cartoon too.
Are you particular about what to say in the autograph?
Nothing in particular, But I write something like 'Lots of love, ' 'Keep smiling', 'God bless you' or popular catchphrases ('takiya kalaam') of my characters. For senior citizens, I write something very personal to them which they love.
Do you recall any strange or quirky requests from fans seeking autographs?
During the shoot of the TV show "Baa, bahoo aur baby", I got a call from a friend's friend that a kid was suffering from cancer and was in the last stage and he wanted my autograph. I got goosebumps hearing it. I immediately found the kid's whereabouts, adjusted my shoot and went personally to his house. The kid came running to me, hugged me tight and then asked for my autograph. That moment of signing the autograph was one my most emotional moments with a fan.
What according to you are strict no-nos when it comes to giving autographs?
Some people ask for an autograph on currency notes or on hand but don't give them, though once I'd given an autograph on the plaster cast covering a fan's fractured hand.
Your take on selfies? Any strange/recent selfie requests?
I'm not a 'selfie' person but I don't say no when people ask for it. Well, some people become too friendly and put their hand on my shoulder without asking, which I hate. Once, an old lady gave me the phone and asked me to take a selfie with her and as I was adjusting the frame, all of a sudden she just gave me a 'Gili puchchie' (a wet peck) on my cheeks. I stared at her and she smiled, "Selfie lo na"!!
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