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Monday, December 22, 2008

A Glimpse Into The Lives of Gulshan Kumar's Son Bhushan Kumar and Daughter Tulsi

Bhushan Kumar with wife Divya Khosla Kumar and Sister Tulsi

IT'S been difficult to pin Bhushan Kumar down. One week he's holidaying in London, then soon after he's back, he's under an avalanche of work. You have to take his word for it when he says that Sunday works best to meet the T-Series managing director with his family. But things turn a little wonky the Saturday before the final meet. "He has to meet Shah Rukh Khan in the afternoon, so could you come by for dinner?" asks his office. Anxious moments. Shah Rukh's always running late, will Bhushan as well?

But when you're respectfully ushered up via a private lift straight into his home at the plush Oberoi Sky Garden in Lokhandwala complex (Bhushan owns the top-most three floors), the man is in, wrapping up another interview. You're mildly surprised, as you pad across the wooden floors barefoot. Does Bhushan reserve meeting journalists on Sundays? Yet the atmosphere is decidedly relaxed and he's a sea change from the man who barely lifted his eyes from his laptop at his office. When it's our turn, he says, "I'm sorry about today. Shah Rukh wanted me to have a look at Billo Barber's songs." This, I later learn, is one of the young managing director's strongest philosophies — build on your personal equations. He could just as easily have sent his marketing senior executives, but going over to Shah Rukh himself shows that T-Series will treat the superstar's film as their own when they start on a musical marketing blitzkrieg.

No wonder that T-Series has grown into the most formidable music company in India today. It owns the rights to about 35,000 audio titles, film and non-film, as well as more than 2,000 videos.

In the 25 years since its founder Gulshan Kumar started the company, it has monopolised the music business and since Kumar's abrupt death and son Bhushan taking over at 18, the Rs 5,000 crore company has only somersaulted, with a turnover of Rs 400 crore.

T-Series also produces their own films like Himesh Reshammiya's Aap Ka Suroor and Karzzzz and bankrolls other movies in co-productions.

Since T-Series factories are based in Delhi's Noida region, the family also lives apart. Bhushan's mother Sudesh and married sister Khushali (who is a fashion designer) are based in Delhi, while Bhushan and wife Divya live here, with his youngest sister Tulsi (a singer). While the women are yet to make an entrance, I can hear unobtrusive noises emanating from the corridor.

When Bhushan excuses himself to do his evening pujas at the marble-laid mandir, I'm immediately reminded of the videos I'd seen growing up in the eighties, of Gulshan Kumar piously singing bhajans and circling the aarti around the deities.

Ironically, it was while he was stepping out of a Juhu temple that he was gunned down, allegedly by the underworld, in 1997. But my reverie is broken as Bhushan's wife Divya glides in. Stunning in impossibly high pink heels, she exudes warmth and says that once Bhushan and Tulsi join us, we'll head to dinner. Divya Khosla Kumar used to be an actress — she was seen in Anil Sharma's Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyo, opposite Akshay Kumar and Bobby Deol, in a complicated love triangle, but quit the arc lights since marriage.

Now she immerses herself in directing music videos for T-Series, like that for bhangra popstar Sukhbir, Sonu Nigam's father Agam (also a singer) and her sister-in-law Tulsi. "I learnt directing on the job," she explains, "going from one department to another, but I did study film-making and editing. I've always been creative and the visuals flow out of me when I hear a song." Does Bhushan drop by her sets? "Yes, I insist he does for about 15 minutes because I'm superstitious that the album will then work. And at the end of the day, it is his money!"

By now, Bhushan is back, introducing Tulsi, petite and lovely. Her answers are coaxed out — she's just recorded her second album, collaborating with composer Monty of Saawariya fame. "My father always wanted me to sing, he encouraged me to become a singer. The album is called I'm In Love," she says demurely. "Are you?" I ask. She blinks, then giggles with Divya, "No, not

Sundays are usually spent together and started late, with a heavy 'Dilli' lunch of chana bhatura or paratha, then a drive (Bhushan loves fast cars and owns a Ferrari. His latest indulgence is a Bentley) or a movie. "English mostly because we either get to see the Hindi ones at premieres or previews," says Divya. Dinner then is usually wrapped up early. Today there's cream of mushroom soup, salad, delicious palak paneer, naans, daal, boondi raita and an excellent sabzi biryani. As the family digs in, I'm being convinced to abandon my interview several times and dig in. "Please, we won't be able to eat then ourselves," insists Bhushan.Dinner conversation, the trio confess unabashedly, is usually shoptalk. The latest music videos, albums, trailors, movies — their world is entertainment and the family is plugged in. Bhushan is said to have the keenest ear; his okay is mandatory, even for all of Tulsi's numbers.

While T-Series had the largest number of hit albums this year (Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Karzzzz, Fashion, Yuvvraaj, Ghajini, to name a few), Bhushan still lists competition Yashraj's Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi as his favourite 2008 soundtrack, while Divya roots for Yuvvraaj and Tulsi for Jaane Tu…

Do brother and sister ever fight? Tulsi and Bhushan grin as Divya answers, "Everyone is too afraid of him, he's so strict."

Comes from growing up too early — Bhushan was still in college when he had to take over the reins of T-Series, though uncle Kishen was the stablising force.

A creamy gajar ka halwa is brought in to round off the meal and conversation veers to movies. T-Series productions include several Himesh-starrers. How come Bhushan Kumar has so much resting on Himesh? "He's made me so many crores, right since Tere Naam and when he started singing with Aashiq Banaya Aapne. Why shouldn't I believe in him? You know, we used to push him and say he should start acting. He was pretty shy," remembers Bhushan. Coincidentally, Himesh is Bhushan's neighbour; also living at Oberoi Sky Gardens.

But even if Bhushan is regarded as the industry's most powerful man in the music business, the tycoon says there's little he can do to foster singing talent until radio stations don't start airing non-film music. Divya points out that T-Series works because artistes know that they will get promoted aggressively once they're signed on.

And isn't it a precarious industry with all the poaching? Bhushan laughs, "In fact, normally we're the ones taking over, be it Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan from Sony BMG, Rakesh Roshan from HMV or Sajid Nadiadwala from TIPS. I trust my marketing team so completely and producers know how involved I get."

That's evident. Bhushan begins his day at 9 am over conference calls with his CD, electronic goods factory heads in Noida, then his legal department (presumably over copyrights). He reaches office at 11:30 am and is back only by 10:30 pm.And with how father Gulshan paid for his success, doesn't Bhushan ever feel threatened? "You can't get bogged down. You just have to keep going and let work take over," shrugs Bhushan. Adds Tulsi, "We don't feel as if my father's missing. We still live so much like how he would have wanted us to. His presence is always there."

Gulshan Kumar's Daughter Tulsi Kumar with her Sister-in-Law Divya Kosla

Source: Mid-Day

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